Not on speaking terms

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I am at a thing. I have been asked to read a couple of poems. It is not my thing, it is someone else’s thing. ‘Two poems max,’ they tell me. They tell me again. And again, just as I am about to go on.

Choosing the poems is not easy. I see the crowd-pleasers, the lairy poems with ideas way above their station, and the shy introverts I never read. I have two poems max, I say to myself. I want to make an impact. I am secretly afraid I hate all my poems. Worse, I am convinced they hate me.

A poem begins to tug at my sleeve. It is the first time we have spoken in years. I am not sure it is even mine. I certainly have no memory of writing it. But it is there, in my book, in a backwater I had forgotten about. ‘Pick me,’ it says.

I do not think the thing goes massively well. I can feel myself toying with the idea of inserting a new word into the poem. I stumble for a micro-second. Somehow this pause forces me to take a new draught of energy -from the syntax, from my breathing, I am not sure where- lending the poem an impetus I did not know it had.

Afterwards the poem is furious with me. It never wants to speak to me again. ‘But we make such a great team,’ I say. ‘They loved you. Me, I mean. I mean, us.’

‘That’s just my point,’ the poem says. ‘It wasn’t supposed to be about you, it wasn’t even your thing, but somehow that’s what you made it. I’m not helping you out again.’

Even as I sign a book containing the poem, I have no idea how to get back on speaking terms with it.

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