Last year, I opened for Officer Problem, a punk band at Pizza Supreme on Nogales in West Covina. I’m a poet, and I’m used to a certain kind of audience, which isn’t exactly refined or entirely quiet, but I’m not running punk shows, after all. And the audiences for punk bands don’t exactly expect poets. They’re all sensitive people, I’m sure, but no one goes to a punk show expecting a large, middle-aged, bearded poet. Too bad. They got me.
But it was a good experience. I know the drummer for the band, a good friend and former student of mine. He’s an energetic little guy, and he got behind me and banged the drums between each poem, giving my work a power and pulsing sexuality that maybe it doesn’t exactly have or at least he was able to point it out. And he legitimized me too in the eyes of punk rockers.
And I grew up in the 1980s, and punk rockers intimidated me then with their pink mohawks and piercings, back when piercing yourself was strange. And now the children of those punk rockers were watching me reading poems about love and life and everything that goes with that, and I stuck to the funny poems to keep them on my side. If you’ve ever been intimidated by punk rockers, you want them all on your side.
So imagine me reading silly poems to today’s rebels. In my head, there are thirty years of punk rockers sneering at me thinking mean thoughts about me in British accents.
And imagine me getting cheered on by today’s punk rockers, being backed up by a punk rock drummer. The crowd before me cheers, and the sneering crowd in my head starts to smile.
And imagine me, middle-aged, white-haired, mild-mannered (sort of) poet getting bolder, getting louder as I shout each poem over the chaos of the pizza place. And then I was bold. And then I was happy. And then I was a punk rocker -- at least in my heart.
Officer Problem is playing Pizza Supreme (19070 La Puente Road, West Covina, CA 91792) again this Saturday at 7:30pm. I’m not opening for them, but a lot of my friends are. I’m going to be there. I can’t wait to watch poets turn into punk rockers -- at least in their hearts.
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