As you approach the mic stand, hesitate for a
moment, unsure whether to take hold of it or to run
away; cradle your stomach & double up in pain as
if about to be ill, or bow, or have just realized that
you’re about to make the biggest, most terrific
mistake of your life. Good luck out there!
Before Going on Stage:
Remember that you are a cloud pregnant with a thousand plateaus standing at the threshold of an unknown altar. Remember that your words are the forerunners of an epoch here to decipher these hard times for all of us. The valediction of your hopes, your dreams, your anxieties, your moments of the most abject melancholy & crippling self-doubt all hang tonight in the ballads.
Nothing higher could be at stake for you tonight, or for all of us.
Remember that when the curtain falls & the light shines too brightly in your eye so that you can hardly see or hear a thing–let alone actually connect with anyone in a meaningful way–that you are indeed a force, a seed, at once a witness & actor of a full-blown ideology of TERROR. For you are here to deliver the news about flowers, which can only be grave.
Remember that even though you’ve never done this before, you have just six minutes to change someone’s life in the audience & if you’re going to fuck them later, it doesn’t count.
Remember that you are an animal–a gazelle, an emu, an osprey–soaring magnificently through the air. Remember that neither emu nor osprey are able to soar through the air, technically speaking, due to the dense girth of their pelvic muscles & their lower body mass, which makes them land-creatures only. No matter! You are an osprey & you are soaring. Yes, soaring! I’ve spotted you there on the horizon–look at you go!
Remember to put down whatever you are holding–tonight you can neither hold nor be held except in the gaze of the audience, who will be waiting to undress you with their eyes if you fail to keep their attention even for a moment.
Remember also that there will be someone in the audience recording everything you say & will probably post anonymously about it on the Internet as soon as he or she gets home.
Try not to think about this last point too much actually. Focus on something–anything–else instead. Take a sip from a glass of water. Tie your shoes. Conjure some memory from your youth. Or what you ate for lunch earlier (unless it was pupusas).
Remember that you are enormous! You cannot help this. When the eggs beneath your dress begin to twitch & twirl–whatever it is eggs do beneath a woman’s dress–that means that what you’re saying is working. It arouses them. Remember that this has nothing to do with the way your dress looks on your body at all.
Remember that at one point in history the stage you are standing on was an arid plain where wild animals made love savagely, with little to no self-awareness about this.
Remember to thank the people who got you here: your parents, your grandparents, except the ones on the German side, as we’re still not sure what their relationship was to the Nazis.
Remember that hot beautiful Mexico evening we spent together when you ate fried yucca for the first time & the waiter looked at you like an alarmed bird because you loved it & it wasn’t fried yucca at all but horse genitalia. The memory of that hot Mexican night will hold weight for you tonight. For you will be reminded what it’s like to taste fresh meat & blood, having until now considered yourself a staunch vegetarian.
Remember that if at any point you feel the audience begin to undress you with their eyes–& I promise you will feel them doing so–stop what you are doing. In the middle of the sentence, if necessary. Cast your sad nets on their oceanic eyes. & then–laugh. Yes, laugh.
Tempt them with mirth, tease them with slander. One must not name the temptations out loud, as Shakespeare says. The minute a prediction is released into the air, the sky is poisoned, stars fall down, crowns roll in excrement.
Laugh at them with open mouth & through false teeth, is what I am saying. Give them a lesson in laughter that is at once physical & metaphysical, existential & anti-existential. Let them grasp the work this way in its purest, basest, most indestructible form. & then–quietly, without warning go backstage, in order to vomit.
Never speak of this night again.
Moneta Goldsmith was the 2013 Grand Prize winner of Spark Anthology’s poetry contest. His prose & poetry can be found in such places as Sparkle & Blink, Under the Influence, & Best New Writing 2014. He is the co-founder of the popular lit mag & reading series, ‘When in Drought’, which is based in Los Angeles.