Advice to a Young Poet from his Aunt (inspired by Bette Midler)

(here is a little somethin’ somethin’ I wrote for the SpeakEasyCafe’s 3rd Anniversary show last night, the idea came from several conversations I have had with some poets about disillusionment and also, it was inspired by a recent interview with Bette Midler)

When I was younger,

I was such a strong man.

I wrote every thought down,

and polished my words till they shone.

I knew from young age,

poetry was mine,

and I had someone to look to,

to show me how it was done.

My Aunt Bette,

was my idol you see,

she would take the stage each time,

open up her mouth,

and the words would flow right out

I would stand in the wings,

seeing the back of the show

with all its secrets and sweat.

and listen and listen and listen

as she bugled and danced,

I would hear the thunderous roar

see the tears shine in the dark

and feel and feel and feel as if nothing could be shut out.

I wrote it all down,

and polished my voice,

and dreamed of the day,

when that thunderous voice was mine.

I had things to say.

Things I knew would illuminate

these poor souls, gathered in this place.

and like my Aunt Bette,

I would lift them from their lives,

with my fire and youth,

my thunderous voice, and deliver to them

their missing life.

I would be rewarded with carnival thrill,

love would be passionate,

truth to justice would wed

and death for us all, sewn in soft shrouds,

would mark the end of a life well spent.

When I was younger,

I was such a strong man,

and I had such ideals.

I believed that all the things I had to say,

were said for the first,

my epiphanies, language to be learned.

and all things were waiting

the audience holding its breath,

waiting for me to deliver,

the key to why they wept.

The beginning of age,

came to me, not with a grey hair or paunch,

but a quick sharp shot

of reality – a revelation,

that my words and sayings could never be,

more than words and sayings,

forgotten as quickly as they were heard

as the next new thing unfurled.

Audiences, came to not learn,

but to be entertained,

I was not teacher, but pet performing.

In youth we think.

That all our realizations,

voiced in great shouting cries,

are enough to prod life to movement

and to wake the dead from sleep.

Ask anyone who has aged

and they will tell you this is not so,

life sleeping rocks like boats,

any wave, a simple roll.

The worst knowledge of all,

that day reality arrived,

was to find out the dance of my youth,

had been on someone’s grave.

While I was speaking and making music and raising great rebel cry,

life slipped away and bye.

Under the lights,

I forgot,

that part of poetry is listening to another life’s art.

My thunderous voice did not protect me,

from the crashing ax of life’s travesties,

nor did it protect one friend.

While I had been speaking,

words had come to an end.

I stopped that moment to be quiet,

and sit , not thinking my thoughts,

or worrying what next to write,

but sat and became willing,

to listen to anothers life.

I felt youth as it fled,

to make space for what had not been allowed to be said.

The weight of the words that filled me,

broke my youthful bone,

shame and embarassment,

aged me.

Grief became my wound.

Winter moved in.

Aunt Bette sat with me,

our wounds crying softly

as we shared the night,

And I looked at her, for the first time,

not from my memory of what I wanted her to be,

but as she was now, sitting here beside me.

Her sequins packed away,

her mermaids tail two feet,

her glorious frightening nails,

clipped and worn with age

I tried to remember,

When she had brought her hands down and plunged them to earth,

And I realized what I had admired her was not,

her shining on the stage, tortured and apart

but her now, with me, getting up and looking about.

She took from the closet

an old, small box,

and from within pulled a page,

it’s the drawing of her I made,

when I saw her first in her mermaid’s suit,

the light from the pool dancing along with her voice,

my first poem was written beneath.

Somethings about stars, something about life,

something lacking the the glory of misery,

something pulsing with choice,

She smooths the page, smiles at me and says

“Do you know why those boys,

loved those old songs so?”

and truthfully, I answer her, no.

“because they came from another time

when life was hard ,

and things happened that no one could understand.

and just like then, they needed to sing and dance to find the strength

to stay alive, to keep on hoping, someday

the cavalry would arrive.

what those boys heard,

was not me singing of my knowledge of their plight,

but of the joy to be found in knowing they were hurt,

but still here to share life.

She looked at me and said

in age you come to know

and I will tell you this, and you will think it is a lie,

that not one thing said on stage

will save one life or even try,

We stand on stages to create

maps for people to find

bridges to reunite.

If we are lucky, what we do,

lets us find the other life in the room

and just then, we are together.

And if we are lucky, when we wake,

that togetherness, we never forsake.

The world has changed since my start,

now it is all words without hands

making transparent art.

All winters end,

as all seasons do,

summer will come

before spring is even through.

And should things get tough,

should you feel old,

should winter come again and you grow cold.

remember, remember, remember

what I have said and been saying all my life,

beneath those seasons of summer light,

I sang to you these words,

and meant them from my heart.

Hoping you would remember them

whenever you are hurt.

“that in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snow

Lies the seed

That in the spring,

Becomes the rose.”

c.2010 Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved (with lyrics from “The Rose” sung by Bette Midler, written by Amanda McBroom)

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About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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