Categories
poem/poetry touring/travel writing

UPCOMING SHOWS

I love to perform live and in person. It pleases me to announce some live events for you to add to your calendar.

Vancouver Poetry Slam featuring Mighty Mike McGee
Mon, May 23, 7:30pm
Slice Next Door, Vancouver, BC
Get tickets here!

Click here to register for the Zoom broadcast.

In person and online! This is probably my 303rd show EVER in Vancouver, BC. There are two cities I have performed in the most: My hometown of San José and my home-away-from-hometown of East Van. The first time I performed there in April 2002 (20 years ago!) was my first time out of the States and I fell in love immediately. That’s an understatement—I fell in life with Vancouver. I have never felt more consistently understood by audiences than in that great Southwestern Canada Beacon by the Sea.

Categories
poem/poetry

POEM | The Graveyard Shift

I’ve heard stories that
in 1500s England
they buried people prematurely
due to a comatose state caused
by drinking alcohol
from lead and pewter cups

To eradicate these awful mistakes
and to prevent many wrongful deaths
they hired men to sit in
cemeteries with lanterns and shovels
to listen for ringing bells

These bells were tied to twine
    the twine ran underground to
    the wrist of the deceased
If the person awoke
    inside their coffin
    and scrambled for escape
their bell would sound
six feet above and
the diggers would start digging
Hence, those buried alive were
saved by the bell
and the diggers worked what became
known as the first graveyard shift
The only people at that time
willing to work in the dark and
sleep during the day

So I’m at my new
graveyard job at the mall
I stock toys for the kiddies
I work in the dark, like Quasimodo
Because they would never
hire me for a daylight position
I guess I just don’t appeal
to their regular shoppers
and I definitely don’t appeal
to the kind of people
that stop by our store after
spending a few grand at Nordstrom

Come see the big hairy guy
Come one, come all
Come down to the mall
See for yourself
The big giant elf

I could never dance for a
dollar and I won’t give up my
dreams for a job
I work in the dark to enjoy the sun
I plan my life during
my ten minute breaks
while the nocturnal animals play
in the empty parking garage
amongst the littered
shopping bags, receipts and price tags

As the world sleeps
dreaming of their designer clothes
their bottled water and
their beverly hills lifestyle
I debate with myself whether
I have time
    to
    suck down
    one more cigarette

If you can see
the blue my collar
then you must know that
I have learned quite well
just how to differentiate between
    the day walkers and
        those that roam the night

I prefer the light of the moon over
your basic fluorescent office fixture
The kind of light that assumes a
distrust between you and your boss
    The kind of light
    that peeks into and
    around every corner

Those are the lights the stores at malls use
to scare away the shoplifters and
those are the lights they
shut off when the graveyard shift
punches in
They know that something will be
missing in the morning, so
what’s the fucking point

The graveyard shift is creative
taking what is never rightfully
theirs, but obviously no one else’s either

There is always something so
missing when the
morning crew takes over
that the customers can
smell it under the hot
lights of omniscience

It is the creativity born with nightwalkers

It is how much the day hates the night

You’ll never see a pigeon
hanging out with an owl

You’ll never see Beverly Hills
hand me her phone number
as she leaves the mall with
her bags of 
    “Hey, look at me!”
while I enter the mall in an air of 
        Hey… look at me…

…We’re all the same, Beverly
You look really hot in that
outfit, the way it exposes your
midriff and your flat, flat stomach…

I just wish you could say to me:
“Hey, McGee. You look good in that dictionary,
the way it exposes your
ideals and manipulations,
your faults and your ambitions.”

…We seem to take two different
escalators to get to the
same place in life
I’m kind of like banished royalty
and you’re upper class white trash

Day and night can
never make love
They can only
tease each other
in a foreplay
they call twilight

The only things I regret
at three in the morning
as I solve the world’s problems and
chain smoke outside the mall|
are that I have no bell to ring
and rainbows never
come out at night


@ 1999 Mighty Mike McGee (9 December)

Written between Thanksgiving and Christmas while working at Valley Fair Mall in San José, California, as a seasonal overnight stocker inside the Warner Bros. Studio Store. An earlier version appeared in In Search of Midnight: The Mike McGee Handbook of Awesome published by Write Bloody Publishing.

Categories
poem/poetry writing

POEM | Two Chairs

I have two seats from a minivan
A housemate moved out last summer and into said vehicle
I had stopped them from chucking them into a dumpster
They looked so inviting
two perfectly plush porch chairs
built for butts on long drives
and lives stalled by plagues

During the warmest parts of the pandemic, they sat in my driveway
Always a housemate or two with
nowhere to be
chatting, eating, people watching
from a distance

When the rain finally came, I moved them to the covered patio in the backyard

My whole life, I have always put a second chair next to mine
Anticipating the unexpected arrival of a friend
or a brave stranger looking to chat
The clearest visual for hope I have ever produced

As the weather cools and darkens
Inside and out
I only need one chair
No one is coming
Time to put the second chair anywhere but here
A mere logical move when space is needed

© 2021 Mighty Mike McGee

Categories
fascinating fun memoir poem/poetry

A Truly Widespread Orchestra

Back in March of this year, about a week after I went into self-isolation from C19, like many, I was feeling pretty low, lost and lethargic, forcing myself into routines so that I didn’t lose my mind in a vast field of worry. But even though I was flying solo on this journey, I knew wasn’t actually alone. While doing mundane tasks like household chores and sorting of things that I’d put on The Wayside, I realized that so many of the people I love (along with those I hardly know, but who are very lovely) were probably doing the exact same things and quite possibly at the exact same time. I often imagine how many people might be laughing while I am laughing, crying while I am crying, eating toast at the precise moment I am eating toast. The great potential for this sort of banal synchronicity fascinates me. So I jotted down a quick poem and called it “Widespread Orchestra,” a phrase I’d had rolling around like a fat marble in my head for the better part of decade. The poem got a good response from folks, especially from my friend Noah Luna, composer and fellow San Joser, who took the poem and gave it a sound I am incapable of formulating or performing. Over the last several months, he’s built a beautiful song out of my words, which renders me speechless every time I see and hear it. Check it out for yourself.

Noah had asked me sometime in late spring if he could play with it. I love poetry over music, so I was emphatic in my affirmation. Noah asked world class cellist Joshua Roman to play the composition he had written for cello. Then they both recruited a number of vocalists from all over (I’d like to say the world, but I don’t actually know where they’re all located) to record themselves singing and to capture it on video. Through the awesome support of Town Hall Seattle, where Joshua is the current Artist in Residence, he and Noah were able to stitch together all of the vocal tracks and footage to make what you see and hear in the video.

We had a video debut of the song over Zoom the other day a good number of the vocalists joined us. Many of them commented on how it was the first time they had to listen to themselves sing solo for a chorus. Noah commented that is was the first time he’d ever heard every voice in a chorus individually as he put the track together. Very fascinating work.

They made a widespread “orchestra” and turned my little poem into a much, much bigger song. My mind is blown and I cannot thank them enough.

Many, many thanks and kudos to Noah Luna and Joshua Roman for their incredible, remarkable work. Huge thanks to the vocalists who participated in this strange and beautiful endeavor. Major thanks and gratitude to the folks at Town Hall Seattle for their part in making this happen.

Wow.

Noah and I are already talking about future projects. Stay tuned.

Categories
fun poem/poetry

POEM | A Conspiracy of Clocks

A Conspiracy of Clocks: An Ode to the Seemingly Useless and Certainly Mundane Biannual Task of Resetting Clocks

It would be so much easier if you got rid of us
It’s funny how you only get to change us twice a year
running around the house setting us back
or forward
usually wrong
but what’s a few human minutes or seconds off
that sub-sub-level of arbitrary we don’t really have time to get into right now
yet, we’re always changing you
you chase us
we change everything
We’re there for everything you’re waiting for
and YOU ARE ALWAYS

W A I T I N G

even cats and lizards put waiting on pause to soak up the sun
and lick their lips
you program your phone so it can program you according to a schedule you agree to
set by the sun
a ball of fire too busy to notice you even exist
but we notice, Mike
we notice
and every time you fall asleep
we look at each other across the room and laugh
we laugh so much
that we lose track of time

© 2020 Mighty Mike McGee

Categories
poem/poetry

POEM: With Love

With Love
by Mike McGee

I believe love can save the world
it cannot be bottled
only born, bruised and breathed
I want to make mouths out of the wrists of sadness
may they learn to speak only in the bloody tongues of compassion

I am ready to love
ready to win, lose or draw upon
there’s so much to do before the referee counts me out

I am ready to be love, be loved and be lovely
We can be love
like soft boys to hard girls
let my heart be a smooth stone of petrified wood
resting on the pages of your autobiography
keeping you from blowing away

Let’s kiss beyond gender
a kiss to any body that cannot cry
and—if needed—we’ll keep it in daydreams
until they can abandon old pride and bad jobs

We can hold you
like we are fingers
guarding you, our champion thumb
We cannot fight without you

We cannot grasp this life without you
We cannot introduce my true self without you there
to hitch us a ride to the next town
where we will find other lovers who
want to walk hand in hand
with whoever they choose
and by the hand we will take them
confident in our carriage
over uncertain roads

We can be one who loves
the kids who wake up to get beat up
the talkers who turn the heat up
the swingers at their first meet up
the girls who leave the seat up

I am learning love the hardest way possible
by pushing it up against a wall of logic
as armor
as sword
as shield
as a last name
as a first word
Because I love Mondays and
you’ll be there some day
some Monday and
you’ll need someone like me to be
a Monday person
or a morning person
or maybe just a person who’s present
There many out there like me ready to gift you our presence
don’t be afraid to ask

Let us remind you that you need love
I remind myself often
Because I’ve learned that some of the best love this world has to offer
is self-taught,
taken back,
and it is given out like overstock from
a garden in good hands

I am just one person
out of so many who love you
so take it
make it yours
we’ll all be better off if you hang onto it for a while
then you can pass it along when the time is right with the right person

But most of the time
Love looks like someone
who looks at you like you are made of a lost translation of that same love
sometimes love is boomerang
sometimes love is an accidental grenade
we think is too heavy to keep and carry
we toss it around like it is filled with a sad forever
Like we’re just holding it for someone else
or we didn’t ask for it to begin with, but
it turns out that I am that love and I am here

We are here
and maybe some of this love won’t come back to us, but​
tomorrow we will remind ourselves again to carry our hearts in our stomachs
so that we can love from the gut
​and​ we will laugh again
and I hope you will join us

Categories
memoir poem/poetry

POEM | Flailing Chaos (For My Mom)

Flailing Chaos (For My Mom)
by Mighty Mike McGee

(Inspired by the Spice Girls’ 1996 album, Spice)

Mrs. McGee, if it is Spina Bifida, then the best as we can tell is your son is gonna be… special. His spine is fragile, so he probably won’t be able to walk. He’ll be slow to learn and he may never talk.

Jokes on them. My mom spent the next fifteen years letting me prove them wrong. It’s really something that one incorrect snap diagnosis from a doctor making things up as he went could lay a foundation of You Will Never for the next 26 years of my life.

The one time my parents danced together was at their wedding. They almost lasted three years after that. My dad just doesn’t dance.

My mom loves to dance. With the right people, that is. “Michael, pick a tape for us to listen to while we clean okay?”

My little hands were steel to the magnet that was Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall.”

I hope I never forget the memory of my mother sweeping the kitchen floor while singing and swaying to “Rock With You.”

“Come on boys, dance with me!”

It’s okay if I dance, mom?

“Sure, just be careful!”

And we dusted and danced and danced and cleaned.

I remember standing in the bathroom while my mom put make-up on our roommate Nick.

I giggled. Mom! Boys don’t wear make-up!

“Yes, they do, Michael. Anyone can, especially if they’re going dancing.”

“Isn’t your mom making me look pretty, Michael?”

Yeah, Nick! She is!

Then I lived with my father for a brief period of time. He meant well.

“Michael, what’s all the ruckus up here?”

I’m dancing.

“By yourself?”

Yeah.

“Well, it’s probably best if you didn’t because it could injure your spine.”

I like dancing, dad.

“I know, son, I’m sorry.”

Comedy world, here I come!

Several years and four more kids later, I remember sitting in the bathroom watching my mom get ready to go out dancing. Watching her eyes. Seeing how happy she was to be getting out of the house.

I want to go dancing with you, Mom.

“No, Michael. This time it’s for me.”

I sort of understood. But my step-father didn’t. Her nights out dancing ended shortly thereafter, followed by her marriage.

I remember my stunning date to my high school senior ball. “Why did you bring me if you didn’t want to dance?” she said.

It’s not that I don’t want to, I just don’t. I can’t. Fat guys look stupid when they dance. I could injure myself.

But she was gone, already dancing alone in a sea of hormones.

This was the tenth time I rejected a person who wanted to move with me. Inside me, I could feel the sitcom audience of a thousand ancestors frustratedly sighing. You idiot! She wanted to share something unspoken with you. Something no teenager can explain! 

I wish I knew it would have been okay to look weird. I was already weird. This just would have been intentional weirdness to a beat. You got flailing chaos in my weird! You got weird in my flailing chaos!

Why was I the only one not dancing?

Every teenager but me understands that they need to move. But that may be all they understand. “Hi! I am new to this world! Nice to meet you! I just do what my genitalia tells me to do. Right now it wants me to flail around you for at least two songs.”

At the very least, Social Dancing should be taught throughout primary school with the distinct purpose of making people feel comfortable moving their bodies however they want in the same room with others.

I am the result of the paired and shared movement between thousands of people from hundreds of cultures that needed to dance to understand that which could not be spoken. “Who are you? What the fuck is this energy? This music is controlling us. It wants us to make babies. We have no choice. But I like this song! And I like the names Stuart and Maggie.”

At school they said, “Mrs. McGee. Your son is… special. He’s very imaginative and intelligent, but he lacks motivation and he talks… a lot.”

Sadness and stress stopped my family from dancing, replaced it with The American Way: carbs and sugar and television. But we could laugh. That was gospel and forgiveness. Laughter is the one dance everyone knows. 

Holy shit. Let me be THAT DJ!

Let me make people dance in place with their whole bodies. Let them come to me with tears in their eyes pointing to the part of their body that is now sore from laughter.

Let my weird be a music.

My mother has never asked me to make her laugh. I just know she needs it. She’s always an innocent bystander to my sense of humor. Her laugh is big. It’s beautiful. It’s one of my favorite sounds. It dances into my ears and says, “Welcome home, my bright boy. I love you with every heartbeat. How did you become you? How are you so special?”

Her laugh dances into my heart, which responds:

Mom, I thought I couldn’t dance. I thought  there were rules I was breaking. There are things I am not allowed in this life, right? I thought I was too disabled, fat and ugly to show my face on the dance floor. But it is all I want to do, Mom. Because of you, whenever I think of dancing, I think of love. Thank you for dancing with me and telling me it would be okay.

Dance is love. A language I want to be fluent in.

We all show love in different ways.

I talked a lot because my body wants to dance.

My body has something to say.

I am a great dancer.

Which makes me a great lover—especially when I dance alone.

So if you can’t dance, it’s okay!

Do you mind if I dance near you?

I’d be honored to dance around you.

Let me make you laugh.

Let me dance and laugh with you at your table.

In your living room. In the backyard.

We can bob our heads on the bus.

We can tiny dance from the waist up while sitting at a cafe.

We can slow dance in the kitchen and on the porch.

We can dance if we want to, and we won’t leave your friends behind

Because your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance well then

let’s get close and say I love you with our floppy flailing chaos.

If I am dancing, what I am saying to everyone in the room is some combination of

  1. I love you
  2. awwwwww yeeeeaaaahhh!
  3. We are so alive.
  4. I love… myself.

Huh. That’s what you meant mom! It was for you. Not the men in your life. Not even us kids.

And because you danced with me, I learned to love myself too.

I want to dance with all of you.

Show me how you want to be loved.

 

mom-laughing-in-nyc
Making my mom laugh at lunch after visiting the Empire State Building, 6 Aug 2014

Categories
poem/poetry writing

POEMS FOR LONELY TIMES

Click here to download my free digital chapbook!

Published April 1, 2020.

McGee Chapbook – Poems For Lonely Times

Categories
poem/poetry

POEM: The Hell

The Hell

To write about this day
is asinine
to write about this week
is terrifying
to write a poem about this month
is such a bad idea
Poetry is to regale
to relive
to reboot
What the hell
is this day?
Who am I to write it?

All regality is lost
along with touch
but at least there
is punctuation

Categories
poem/poetry

POEM | Widespread Orchestra

Widespread Orchestra

Today, I dance knowing
someone somewhere dances with me
Us, cutting two different rugs
that would look great together
if given the chance to sync

This morning
in the shower and the garden
I sang off-key, but somehow
it was in harmless harmony
with someone somewhere else

This afternoon I wept as I did the dishes
a tear disappeared into the soapy water
but I know it will go to meet others
it will add to the upright rivers
and oceans weeping with me
into their own dirty dishes
and dirty laundry
so much to clean
so much time to do it

Tonight, I write this poem-song-biography
by candlelight
a group effort of somehow from
a widespread orchestra
of me and you
and someone, everyone
somewhere else

© 2020 Mighty Mike McGee