NaPoWriMo Day 9

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U STREET NOIR

I walked into the venue solo.
My journal tucked firmly under my arm
So not to appear suspicious.
Everyone in the place looked different
dressed different
talked different
but they all had one thing in common
as they sat there
in silence
waiting
All of their names were on a list
and it was only a matter of time
Because it’s poetry night on U Street.

The hot young college student steps up to the mic.
She’s a double major in Communications and Language Arts…
Probably won her first poetry contest at age 5.
(Oh OK! She just said it was age 6.)
With more than enough confidence to go first,
she doesn’t mind
She has to leave early
because she has a secret:
Exams in the morning.

A young man stares at her
like a hungry dog
at an Alpo® factory.
His hasty scribbles
on the napkin in front of him
disguise themselves as a love poem
he’s more than eager to share
with the first girl who’ll believe him.

Under the table
the purse of the woman next to him
is a flimsy camouflauge
for her wayward hand
that moves along his thigh
like she’s got 50 cents but needs a dollar
and she’s gonna get it
from his pocket
without asking
as the next name is called.
Because it’s poetry night on U Street.

Smoke from incense curls and intertwines with
the steam from freshly poured cups of chai.
Fingers snap… light applause.

A nervous stranger shows up late
He reaches out a sweaty hand
to pull the host to one side.
“No, the list is full. Come early next time.
I’ll put you on the waiting list, but I can’t promise anything.”

The stranger takes the long way through the crowd
While dropping fliers
on each table before he leaves.
They’re for his own poetry event.
I pick up a flier
and stuff it into my pocket.
The next name is called.

The haiku poet tries to read ten poems because
“The last poet took five minutes and haiku are small.”
The host nods reluctantly;
The crowd tolerates her, watching
with eyes glazed like day-old donuts.
They don’t get haiku.

The sexy love poet’s words
make the women coo and scream.
He speaks so provocatively,
I want to offer the microphone
a cigarrette.

The feature is introduced and
the performance opens eyes,
changes lives
and brings the crowd to its feet.

The poet bows and says “thank you”
but thinks: “Show me love; buy my book or DVD”.
The host holds them up and says
“They’re only TEN DOLLARS”
The crowd responds, “ONLY TEN DOLLARS?!”

Closing time
The people spill out
onto the empty sidewalk.
Their faces bathed in the orange glow
of the city’s high-crime street lamps.

Moving quickly through the evening air,
Some walk; some duck into the subway
and others sit in their cars
all with the poems replaying
in their minds like a 1970’s sitcom;
Their spirits filled with new inspiration.

Poetry night on U Street.

by Cheryl Crockett

This is the Day 9 Challenge as it appears on napowrimo.net.

“…I’m a sucker for a good mystery novel, especially the hard-boiled noir novels of the thirties and forties. There’s always a two-timing blonde, a city that keeps its secrets, and stuck in the middle, a man who just can’t help but rabbit after truth. Today I challenge you write a poem inspired by noir — it could be in the voice of a detective, or unravel a mystery, or just describe the long shadows of the skyscrapers in the ever-swirling smog. After all, “you know how to write a poem, don’t you, Steve? You just pick up a pen and you write.”

Back to Cheryl’s NaPoWriMo 2013 Main Post

My daily haiku is below. I am writing one haiku per day for all of 2013.

Haiku #97

Watch dandelions
They change from yellow to white
When does that happen?

by Cheryl Crockett

See Cheryl’s Everyday Haiku 2013

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9 Comments on “NaPoWriMo Day 9”

  1. Rayona Says:

    I love this poem so much, great imagery! I will definetly follow x

  2. seekingmeme Says:

    This is great! I am right there with you in that room – listening, applauding, waiting for my name to be called… Fun twist on the prompt!

    • poetatete Says:

      Thank you for reading this! It is based on a real place in Washington DC (@SpitDatDC). Although most of the details are out of my imagination (not the haiku girl), the “ONLY TEN DOLLARS?” thing happens every time someone announces the price of their book.

      • seekingmeme Says:

        I have a friend that lives near DC. I must find this place the next time I visit her! Sounds like great fun!

      • poetatete Says:

        The venue moved to Euclid Street near Howard University. I chose “U Street” because of the historic significance of that area and the prosody of the street name.

  3. Beth Camp Says:

    For every poetry reading I’ve attended, every sign-up, every slam, this poem resonates with smoke and feeling and tension, and I wonder what the narrator did, if she read her poem or just slunk outside in the night, notebook in hand, unread poems dropping, fallen napkins in the empty street.

    • poetatete Says:

      Thanks for reading this! There is so much more I thought about doing with this. NaPoWriMo is an EXPERIENCE!

      The event is tonight (Thursday evening). I haven’t been in many years (my last time was when it was still on U Street).

      Sometimes, the list is too full and the venue manager has a set closing time. When poets take too long, the people on the bottom of the list end up postponing their moment at the mic.

      • Beth Camp Says:

        Courage! Go early and sign up. Then come back here and write it up! U Street Noir deserves at least another chapter — or a poem.


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