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
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

Categories
poem/poetry

POEM | Ode to the Delightful Hearts of the Valley

ODE TO THE DELIGHTFUL HEARTS OF THE VALLEY
An ekphrastic poem by Mighty Mike McGee

After Julia Chang’s mural, In The Valley of Heart’s Delight, San José Museum of Art, 2017. Debuted live in front of the mural at the SJMA’s 10th Annual Poetry Invitational, April 18, 2019. See and read about the mural here.

From this basin
between these ranges of hills
made for feet and hooves
I’ve seen the sun at every angle at every moment of the day
I’ve seen moon rise up from every possible hill
This goes to impossible beauties
even when I was unprepared, with eyes closed
or overtly selfish and unblinking

In my time, here
under the newest trees
in this land of graveyard orchards
and industries that fed three generations of my people
Keeping my mom and her mom struggling to keep us from struggling
I have worked for a paycheck at every hour of the day
In all of the seconds that come in year, there are none I have yet to laugh in
This goes to those who’ve made me laugh
in every city this valley cradles
This goes to a family that taught me
to worry less about money
and to make laughter instead

I miss the folks
I have made it to 4am with
the sunrise set
Protectors of the block
guardians of bookshelves on
2nd & Empire
6th & San Salvador
5th & Julian
all the way North First Street
Maybe I was the mayor of Alviso (all nine acres)
the love child of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara
Campbell’s loitering layabout
I could write odes to my crush on Milpitas
And Los Gatos… I’ve heard of you

This goes to
the protectors of Nancy Lane and the East Side
I still worry about you
To the living history at Alum Rock and King
To the cherry blossoms in Japantown
to midnight at the midtown Safeway
To leaving and always coming back
To the children who will find love in this valley
in between falling into industry
and children
and struggle
and a balance
like our four impossible seasons:
light summer
summer
autumn
and extreme autumn

This goes to the streets in all of our cities
and to the people who use them get somewhere
but especially to those who the streets got to first
to those who push everything they own in front of them
and yet, have nothing to speak of
This too is for you

This goes to the valley I hope to die in
if only this body would generate enough ash
to cover all the streets I’ve lived on

There is no perfection in perpetuity
Even a noble, ancient industry of fruits and vegetables
will be paved over for something easier

The sun shines brighter here
to see the impossible beauties
they come in glimpses
sometimes in a breeze of mock orange blossoms
in how our motherboards
help us put together the right combination of emojis
to let the best person we know
know how much we love them
Or how we love
orange sauce
laughter
sunlight
and whatever us is

This is for the thousands of seconds
we’ve spent together
here
yesterday
and tonight
thank you all
thank you for filling this valley
with your delightful hearts

Categories
memoir poem/poetry

Poet Laureate Emeritus

Today is the first day in two years in which I woke up and was no longer Santa Clara County’s poet laureate. To have had and fulfilled the honorary title over the previous 730 days was one of my dreams come true and an adventure I could not have gone alone.

I am grateful for the poets who helped me in every poetic endeavor. I am so grateful for a county that raised me, that fueled my humor, my poetry, my love of words and my need to shout them wide and often. I am grateful for the people of Poetry Center San José whose unyielding support has kept me going in ways they could not have known I needed, a testament to their good character. I am grateful and indebted to the folks who saw to it that this opportunity would land in my name and embolden my weird, uncommon need to see to it that poetry shines and sings across this valley.

I am grateful for the guidance and friendship I have received from the poets laureate who came before me, Nils Peterson, Sally Ashton, David C. Perez and Arlene Biala. I am grateful for the incoming poet laureate, that they too wish to help hard, beautiful words resonate for our neighbors in this time and the times to come; I, too, will be here for you in poetry and in friendship. Thank you all for letting me be a part of a foundation for expression in this place I love so dearly.

ODE TO THE DELIGHTFUL HEARTS OF THE VALLEY
An ekphrasis by Mike McGee

After Julia Chang’s mural, In The Valley of Heart’s Delight, San José Museum of Art, 2017. Debuted live in front of the mural at the SJMA’s 10th Annual Poetry Invitational, April 18, 2019

From this basin
between these ranges of hills
made for feet and hooves
I’ve seen the sun at every angle at every moment of the day
I’ve seen moon rise up from every possible hill
This goes to impossible beauties
even when I was unprepared, with eyes closed
or overtly selfish and unblinking

In my time, here
under the newest trees
in this land of graveyard orchards
and industries that fed three generations of my people
Keeping my mom and her mom struggling to keep us from struggling
I have worked for a paycheck at every hour of the day
In all of the seconds that come in year, there are none I have yet to laugh in
This goes to those who’ve made me laugh
in every city this valley cradles
This goes to a family that taught me
to be better at making laughter instead of money

I miss the folks I’ve made it to 4am with
the sunrise set
Protectors of the block
guardians of bookshelves on
2nd & Empire
6th & San Salvador
5th & Julian
all the way North First Street
Maybe I was the mayor of Alviso (all nine acres)
the love child of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara
Campbell’s loitering layabout
I could write odes to my crush on Milpitas
And Los Gatos
I’ve heard of you

This goes to
the protectors of Nancy Lane and the East Side
I think about you
To the living history at Alum Rock and King
To the cherry blossoms in Japantown
to midnight at the midtown Safeway
To leaving and always coming back
To the children who will find love in this valley
in between falling into industry
and children
and struggle
and a balance
like our four impossible seasons:
light summer
summer
autumn
and extreme autumn

This goes to the streets in all of our cities
and to the people who use them get somewhere
but especially to those who the streets got to first
to those who push everything they own in front of them
and yet, have nothing to speak of
This too is for you

This goes to the valley I hope to die in
if only this body would generate enough ash
to cover all the streets I’ve lived on

There is no perfection in perpetuity
Even a noble, ancient industry of fruits and vegetables
will be paved over for something easier

The sun shines brighter here
to see the impossible beauties
they come in glimpses
sometimes in a breeze of mock orange blossoms
in how our motherboards
help us put together the right combination of emojis
to let the best person we know
know how much we love them
Or how we love
orange sauce
laughter
sunlight
and whatever us is

This is for the thousands of seconds
we’ve spent together
here
tonight and
yesterday

thank you all
thank you for filling this valley
with your delightful hearts

Categories
poem/poetry

POEM | 50 Words On The Orchestra of Human Sound

50 Words On The Orchestra of Human Sound
by Mighty Mike McGee, 2010

Listen
Someone once said

we listen to music
for the silence

In this quiet
you are all music
          a symphony
          of ears
          eyes
          and hearts

Time moves fast
Let’s take it slow
          before we
                    heartbeat it to the punch

Let’s all listen while
we all
play our song

 

Categories
poem/poetry

My Very First Performance Poem

In the summer of 1998, my friend, Geoff Trenchard, newly dear to me, got his first car. The first thing he did was probably buy something with which to get high. Then he went to an open mic in downtown San José and got hooked on poetry, written and spoken. From page to the stage. Took him a while to convince me to join him so that I could perform stand-up comedy in front of a real crowd. I was too scared; no one would understand me except for every single one of my legion of friends. While he urgently attempted to lure me downtown, our friend David Perez was convincing me that I could and should write poetry. What the hell? I hated rhyming unless it was over beats. I still held it in my heart that I would be known for rapping and acting in sitcoms, a la Fresh Prince.

In no time, I was writing ode after ode to all things beautiful and funny. Geoff, David and I immersed ourselves in the San José open mic scene, which was healthy and full of a wide variety of writers and performers. We fell in love with the community and output of the Beat poets, the delivery of Saul Williams, and the hilarious subversiveness of Bucky Sinister.

Here I am, twenty years later, heavily involved with a new version of that community Geoff and David discovered, only now it seems younger, more vibrant and incredibly robust.

It is National Poetry Month and I am in the midst of a schedule that includes of a number of poetry events here in San José and in Portland. I am exhausted and congested. Not sure if it is due to allergies or some cold, but it’s been a very annoying trying to breathe through half a nostril.

But just now, someone I do not know on Facebook messaged me asking to help them remember a poem of mine:

“Hey, I hope you are doing well. You don’t know me and I don’t know you. But I was just sitting out in my sunroom having an Ol’ talk of life with a friend when our conversation led me to an old poem of yours. I used to have it memorized and tried through the few beers and 12 years to pull it back up but just couldn’t. Now I’m searching the internet with no luck. It was your ” as an observer I sit joyously watching all that surrounds me”. If you could point me in the right direction I would be eternally grateful”

The poem they’re asking for is called “The Renaissance Revolutionist’s Plea.” This made my night. I had been thinking of this poem a lot lately. It’s not especially good or exemplary of my usual work. It’s sentimentally “frustrated” in a way I remember being in my teens and twenties. It was the very first spoken word poem I ever wrote and I was 22 when I wrote it. I hear poems like it from young people all the time. It feels good. I wrote it because I had heard Geoff and David read their poems out loud at the open mic and wanted to see if I could do it also. I remember reading it to a lovely crowd. I read it on my knees for some reason. I do not recall why. I do remember it being received warmly. I didn’t read it very often since I was always writing new poems and essays and always had to share something new each week.

Note: “Linus Phelp” was David’s poetry pen name back then.

The Renaissance Revolutionist’s Plea
Mike McGee, September 1998 (or maybe 1997?)

As an observer, I sit joyously watching all that surrounds me.
Whether or not it moves, breathes, sings, plays, kills or loves,
I enjoy its existence now.
I wake to each day as that of a newborn baby.
A newborn with debts, but nonetheless, a bright-eyed wanderer on this pretty blue ball we call home.
However, there is this lack of what we need lately.
I’ve grown tired of this garden.
The farmers and greenthumbs have become bland.
They now plant the same boring, corn year after year.
What happened to the colorful corn and asparagus and apples of yesterday?
I miss those tastes.
I miss the sound of a new guitar riff.
I miss the sight and capability of pondering new colors on a painting that I will never fully comprehend.
Money has become primary.
Add green to the status of Yellow, Red and Blue.
I am not pleased with the poets of today.
Have they forgotten the world we live in?
Has their community died?
I want a world where skies are gray when they need to be.
When autumn eats summer.
I want the sun in due time.
When spring pounces on winter and shoves it up a depressed poet’s ass.
I want my revolution.
I want my Renaissance Revolution.
I want to be one of its millions of observers.
I want to write like writing was a new thing.
I want to slash and burn the Internet.
Burn it down, it’s making us fat, unoriginal and way too dependent.
I don’t need to have my words reach you at the speed of light.
I just want them to reach you.
Slash and burn anything that kills free thought, free love and free life.
Freedom of expression is my duty to further myself.
It’s not just American, it’s human.
I will not evolve into a computer.
I will not be used by a machine.
Slash and burn the old ideas that do not work.
Make new, make love, make life.
Make a friend, make an impossible friend.
Shake hands with your beauty, my beauty and someone else’s.
Tell it to fuck off if it doesn’t work for you.
Find something else.
Talk about your testicles at the dinner table.
Bring up your clitoris at school.
Once upon a time, a friend of mine and I watched the sun go down to wherever that son of a bitch goes.
Sadly, my friend was afraid of commenting on the truths he felt.
The “uncool” truths.
And finally, he mustered the courage to say that the setting sun’s sky looked a “pastel pink.”
The beauty of smog and the terror of the ending day had indeed made the sky a “pastel pink,” and I agreed.
For him to pontificate on this type of thing is normal, for he is a great poet and everyday becomes even greater.
But for him to deny himself his “revolutionary” right to “dig” and “groove” to his own world is a crime.
It is a punishment to all the real poets of the world, to subject them to the horror of feeling ostracized, for simply holding up a mirror to the world and saying, “Take a look, this is you. It’s okay to like what you see.”
I am just an observer.
But even I could see that the sky was a “pastel pink.”
What caused him to hold back?
Could it be that art is dead?
Could all of the the true artists of the world have gone fishing?
Can anybody hear me?
So, I want to thank him.
Thank you, Linus Phelp.
Thank you for showing me the “pastel pink” sky.
Thank you for putting the Renaissance Revolution in me.
Let’s show the world what we see.
Let’s love the world for what it is and what it will be.
Let’s spread some artistic mayonaisse all over the walls and cribs and playpens of the world.
Let us march to the closest and farthest nurseries and orphanages and plead with the next generation not to give up on us.
Not to give up on their world, for they are the world and it is so very precious.
It will be hard, but so worth it.
Musicians of the world, unite and entertain us. Put our lives to a soundtrack that rivals our own heartbeat.
Artists of the world, band together and paint the murals that will stand forever as a testament to the uniqueness of what we were.
Poets and writers of the world, teach us how to teach ourselves to be whatever it is we want to be.
Observers of the world, show us what we can’t see yet. Please be patient with us, we will see it someday.
And all who may be willing, please follow onto the train.
The train that will take us to the Renaissance Revolution.
How mysterious the revolutionist can be.
For he is the key.
To finding what we long to be.
I am one as he is me.
Tell your neighbours, tell all your friends.
The world is much bigger than the chair you sit in.

Categories
poem/poetry writing

POEM | Things One Should Not Do After A Drunken Dance Party

Things One Should NOT Do After A Drunken Dance Party
an old list poem by Mighty Mike McGee

1a: Drive an automobile or operate heavy machinery.

1b. Text message your ex to let her know you saw her new relationship status on Facebook and it makes sense why she’s ignoring you when you guys were doing great communicating a few weeks earlier.

2. Agree to run for president or city council. Mayoralship is acceptable when inebriated.

3. Miss people who don’t love you.

4. Accept loneliness as your “lot in life.”

5. Miss women who do love you, but live across world.

6. Froget to drink water.

7. Fall for lady poets.

8. Keep wanting to dance at 4 in them morning.

9. Write a list poem.

10. Fanta Size about making out with mouths/vulvas.

11. stop dreamig of getting a mini 2 feet tall girafe as pet,/ Dont EVER stop!

12. dgliytyon 23 elf becuse yo