Getting back into the groove of things isn’t easy. Especially after taking a long hiatus. A hiatus that I figured would last indefinitely. Last Thursday, I participated in the Latine Heritage Month reading at the library. Yes, that library. The one I used to work at. 

And two weeks before that, I participated at an open mic at Moonbeans. Though, if I’m honest, I wasn’t going to partake in that reading (more on that later, possibly another post). 

At both readings, I read something I had written with V in mind. (This poem, actually.) As you can see, the poem didn’t age well. Which is a problem with adding pop culture references in your works. (Note: This isn’t always the case, however. There are plenty of beautifully, wittily written poems that drop random references that have aged wonderfully. Well, I’m sure there are, anyway.)

During the Moonbeans reading, I noted what wasn’t working with the poem. Keep in mind, this version is a Frankensteined creation of two poems smashed together. Something I had composed for a Love & Chocolate reading held a few years ago. 

For the reading at Sekula, I omitted most of the first point. And noted that my father had passed a few months after writing the piece.

While doing so, I remembered something a creative writing professor told me. How the editing process is never truly done, even after publishing. Writers always think of new ways their works could have been better. And maybe that’s what I’ll do. Sit down and read my “best of” poems and contemplate how to “correct” them. 

Because outside of that one poem, I haven’t written poetry in a long while. And outside of these rough-draft, journal-entry type blog posts, I haven’t really written anything either. 

Once a fixture—a staple—within the local poetry scene, I bowed out and took a seat. While the conflict that led to the decision was only partially to blame, things had changed by then. I’d become a father, took down a real job, and began focusing my attention on them. Coupled with the fact that my relationship with Jeanna began, poetry readings didn’t seem as important. 

But performance is a drug not easily shaken. Standing at the mic, reading to a roomful of strangers or friends, just felt right. Like a missing limb or an old confidante.

Photo by Heorhii Heorhiichuk

And All That Could Have Been Pt. 2 The Electric Boogaloo.

I slaved away at an introduction for last night’s reading. Set to introduce Amado Balderas, a friend of mine, as the night’s MC (and every night’s MC), I didn’t want to screw it up. I didn’t, but I went off script. What I said and what I wrote were the same, though greatly edited. This is what I wrote:

I met Amado through my creative writing profession, Rene Saldana, Jr., sometime in 2005. We were at some poetry event that ran throughout the day at UTPA, and Rene was going on about this friend of his who wanted to open a café specifically for poets and writers. We hit it off and I said I’d visit it whenever it opened. Well, a few months later when it was opened a few of my friends and I decided to check the place out. I reintroduced myself to Amado, we spoke, and after a few minutes of him talking me into it, I reluctantly wrote my name on the open mic list. My intentions that night wasn’t to read mind you, but I knew men like Amado in the past so I went prepared. He reassured me it was up to me if I wanted to read, he wasn’t going to force me. Well, one reader got down and he called another and after that guy did his thing Amado got up and announced an up-and-comer. And wouldn’t you believe that he called me? But I never really thanked the man. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am now in my writing. His café brought together a motley crew of us. Some comedic, some serious, some profane. So without him, the writing and poetry community in the Valley wouldn’t be where it is now. It was his love and respect for the craft that paved the way for his dream of a inter-valley community, not just in Edinburg or McAllen, Brownsville or Harlingen, but all along la frontera, and maybe, just maybe further. He wanted to make a noise so loud that others will recognize our singular, unison voice. His nueva onda movement sparked the flame that now burns brightly in every poetry venue, at every reading. So if he doesn’t get a large chunk of credit for that, then he at least deserves a nod of recognition. Ladies and gentlemen, poets, writers and musicians, up-and-comers and those who’ve been in this game for years: Please join me in giving that nod of recognition to my friend and tonight’s MC, Amado Balderas.

Also, I feel obligated to Rene Saldana, Jr. to mention that Amado is an excellent break dancer and we should all try to get him to bust a move for us.

I was an awkward night for me, being on stage after a couple of years. I did last year’s reading at the library, but it was a different case. Parts of an older me were still lingering. Now I’ve established myself, somewhat, in the library that when I stood up there and stared into the eyes of four of my kids (not my kids, but you know, kids who go to the library), I suddenly didn’t want to read the story I had. “I never mind cussing in front of kids so long as the parents are okay with it,” I said. “So if you’re not, this is probably the time to take those kids out.” But was I okay with this? I did my best to censor my words, remove some that didn’t really change the sentence or dialogue. But phrases like toaster fuck couldn’t be altered. So I swallowed my conscience and went along with it.

Still, I had fun last night. Saw some older friends and sat at a table with a few (possibly) up-and-comers to the scene. Until next time, I say. A reading is just a few weeks away.