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
blog thoughts

BOOK LAUNCH: Jack McCarthy’s “Allow The Light”

Jack McCarthy was very dear to me. He helped me get closer to sobriety, guided me on my stage presence, and was pivotal in helping me develop my stage and page voice, and lured me into streamlining my choices in storytelling.

Jack died January 17, 2013, just 13 days after I moved up to Bellingham, Washington to be nearer to him. I was lucky to see him one last time and say goodbye.

On October 15, 2020, Write Bloody Publishing is releasing his new collection of poems and writings called Allow The Light. It’s a beautiful tribute to a man who was a beacon for many poets of all ages and all walks of life.

I’ll be hosting three online book launch events where a number of special guests will join me in reading selections from Jack’s book.

Wed, Oct 14, 4pm Pacific: Jack’s East Coast Launch
Thu, Oct 15, 7pm Pacific: Jack’s Pacific Northwest Launch
Fri, Oct 16, 7pm Pacific: Jack’s California Launch

A picture I took of Jack after performing a set in my Worcester, MA kitchen, 2009.

Jack was the sweetest, yet, most honest person I knew. He was always so patient with his critique, moreso the more one needed constructive criticism. To borrow a phrase from my wise and also-departed friend Lara Ka’apuni, Jack would “issue gentle corrections” to folks who were heading the wrong way. Plus, he only man I ever called with regularity on Father’s Day. 2013 was a doozy for me. It’s gotten easier since, but I often ask myself in times of uncertainty, what would Jack do? Well, a lot of those answers are now in this book.

Categories
blog memoir

The Wayside

Soundtrack to this post: America’s “Lonely People” and
Ventura Highway” and Cat Stevens’s “Wild World

My hometown of San José, California is accused of only having two or three seasons, warm and less warm. Fine by me as long as snow doesn’t begin to acclimate to warmth. Other than looking at it for its inherent beauty, I despise being in the snow. I’ve heard folks attempt to mention the one time they saw snowfall in San José, but I stop them midst their woeful tales of blasphemy and wash my hands of our friendship. I’ve said it before: San José does actually have four seasons: light summer, summer, autumn and extreme autumn.

Summer has always been the time of the year when I abandon blankets, pants, long sleeves, safety and (especially) organization. Let me be honest with you: I have a thin relationship with pants to begin with. I want to wear shorts all year long. I can get away with it for about 10 1/2 out of 12 months. I am wearing shorts now. I will wear them tomorrow as well. Only, like many of you, I will be indoors for a large part of the day. But I have an even thinner relationship with organization.

When it is not summer, I love to do the thing that I call organizing: the act of stacking up the detritus of my entire life—over two or three years worth—into about three to five piles/boxes/baskets while fantasizing every now and then about what it might be like to, someday, schedule a time to attack the stacks. I have learned over the last few years that all I do is restack everything into temporarily smaller, neater piles. Small piles under my control always grow.

Ugh. I admit, I am a hoarder.

Let me clarify. I am a clean person. I shower once or twice a day. I take out the garbage frequently. I am adept at recycling. I clean out Xena’s litter box regularly. I am not super keen on yard work, but what one can see of my front yard from the street is neighborly. I collect tiny silverware I rarely use, but I never leave dirty dishes anywhere but the kitchen sink. Hoarding must fall on a spectrum. I am a hoarder in the sense that I can’t get rid of a good jar or box or magazine. I will find a use for it someday, or I will finally give a stack of it away. I have hard drives full of files I don’t need. As a self-taught designer of promotional flyers, posters and marketing images, I have nearly every file I’ve ever made that advertises past shows. Part of me wants to post them online as a gallery, but that’s unlikely to happen any time soon. I have a filing cabinet with some semblance of order to the folders of files, but I don’t know why I still have many of them. I have documents online and social media accounts for things I’ve only used once. To me, a hoarder is someone preparing for the future, armed only with troves of items in triplicate that are certainly useless in the now—even beyond useless—an actual hindrance to the path of time used wisely. My jars and my flyers are in my way. I now feel as though my hoarding of papers and ephemera and sentimental items is an attempt at creating a future: If I have these things to deal with, but no time today to do the dealing, then a tomorrow must exist in order for the clutter to be dealt with. I put most of my life in The Wayside, maybe so that I can tend to the present?

I never have any desire to organize any aspect of my life in the dead of summer. The Urge to burrow, to sort papers and move furniture and donate clothes and books usually hits me like a tornado in the late fall and again in the early spring. Before Friday, 13 March 2020, I was performing, producing events, organizing workshops and hosting shows. I ran around downtown, hobnobbing, planning, detailing, and setting up and attending meeting after meeting with venues and performers alike. Because of my gluttonous schedule, I rarely had time to truly organize my life and the items in it with any real commitment. But here we are coming down the other side of July Mountain and I am in the midst of some of the most serious organizing I’ve ever attempted. According to my now deleted 2020 schedule, by now I should have already hosted five outdoor festivals, dozens of poetry events, four Go Go Gone Shows—all while performing at countless live readings and open mics. Right now, instead of writing this, I should have spent the last four weeks teaching poetry to kids at the School of Arts & Culture Summer Camp. I miss those events and I miss my students.

Admittedly, I also feel fine about not participating in any of them. I didn’t feel fine about it initially, but then I had to ease into something akin to wearing pants in the summer. Now I wake up to a very light schedule and I cuddle with Xena almost as long as she wants.

The moody, but cuddly, Xena: Worrier Princess.

I lay all of this out to say that up until June, I kept thinking about the future. How would I reconnect my pre-pandemic identity and my life actions to a mystery point in the future?—a date I cannot possibly know. For the first month, my brain urged me to keep my life on hold until that mystery date so that I may restart all of those activities and be Mighty Mike McGee again. Someday, we will all be able to select and delete The Quarantine start date, the end date and everything in between them! Right? But there is no date on the horizon. There is no box on a 2020 calendar that I can look forward to until there is a Covid vaccine. I have come to terms with the notion that I need to self-isolate through 2020—and likely until the day a medical professional is injecting a vaccine into my body. Until then, no shows, no gatherings, and no socializing in the ways I was accustomed. What to do? Logically, dig into it. I shall see it for the personal gift of time that it is and I will organize and I will create. Utilize this time to reconsider every aspect of my life and smash my own preconceived notions of identity, dismantle my own patriarchy, double-check my sense of self, reinforce my wavering sense of duty, investigate and unlearn my misogyny, my racism, my prejudices, and any other burdens I put upon my communities. Slow the fuck down. Stop and smell the anything and the everything.

This succulent has no scent, but you get the picture (literally and figuratively!)

Luckily, I write for a local weekly arts paper and it pays the rent and bills for now, plus I get food stamps to cover my groceries. I feel incredibly lucky and all I need is to do is hold on like this for now.

Like many, I’ve had so much time to think and reflect on everything, internally and externally, while seeking the grand connection between me and the world. Because honestly, who I thought I was prior to 13 March is not who I think I’m going to be come 2021. The past few months have really brought a number of very powerful feelings and ideas to my attention. I have spent so much time pushing my name out into the world. The last 20 years have been constant self-promotion. It is a symptom of the desire for fame and my desire for it has faded significantly over the the last year.

I claim to be someone who hosts shows and I can prove that with loads of evidence. I also claim to be someone who writes things, but up until recently, my most consistent period of writing was 1995 through 2003. I was constantly writing while working the graveyard shift at Kinko’s, and while socializing, which included attending open mics and poetry slams. I turned some of that writing into 11 years of touring and performing. In 2014, I came home to San José and began producing variety shows and poetry events, partially out of my need to stay put. Over the last six years, I’ve hosted so many shows and promoted my events so much that I was recognized on a regular basis. Up until March, I wrote the occasional poem, but only if I had a deadline to write it in. I thrive on the pressure; I am forced to take risks when I am running out of time. Now I write because it’s urging me to let it out. Much like it did in 2001 when I was poor, struggling and so curious about me and the world and how the two fit into each other. I have come full circle, but this current version of myself knows a bit more—I have been heart-broken a few times, in love several times, and I’ve seen a few lifetimes worth of human interaction.

I now live an alarmless life. Writing is one of the few aspects of self-isolation that has made me feel alive. I find myself excited to create again. After treating this website like a glorified business card, I am now adding to it more and more. Mostly poems and thoughts, but the frequent output is very welcome. I have put off so much of what I am passionate about, relegating the things that won’t immediately pay the bills to I just don’t have the time for it now. I now have a glut of time to dedicate to causes and creativity (and I am halfway through the sitcom Cheers.)

It feels strange to say that the actions I am taking now are things I want to do considering I, like many of us, have no real choice in the matter. In order to feel safe living in a city, I must spend most of my day at home. I am a homebody again, like in my mid-twenties when I spent so much of my time in my bedroom writing and thinking about everything. This also means I am now spending most of my day in The Wayside. It is a real place now and it is bursting at the seams with the detritus of my entire life. It is actually, and probably subconsciously, my way of saying, I can’t deal with the past today, but maybe future me will. Saying it deserves my attention now is saying I need to pay attention to who I was and truly organize this time if I am going to have a future. This world is a puzzle and I cannot be hindered by jpegs, jars and boxes if I’m going to help figure it out.

“The times are urgent: let’s slow down.”—Bayo Akomolafe

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 | 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