I blinked. The lights, compared to the rest of the dimly lit café, were blinding. The microphone hovered a good seven-eight-maybe-nine inches above my head. I tugged it down, and it fell off the stand.
“Oh boy,” I said, into the microphone. My voice echoed throughout the café. The laughter, though, was encouraging and I smiled.
“Hello,” I said, “I’m Rachel, and this poem is called ‘the butterfly effect’.”
If you have been following along with my life, or if you have read my bio at the bottom of this page, you may be wondering about now just what a politics major and a French minor is doing at a poetry reading. The answer: I wanted to. I dabble in poetry and creative writing, and I have been taking advantage of the classes offered at the school. The reading in question was the capstone, the last hurrah, etc. of my introduction to poetry class. After weeks of poem-writing and poem-reading and poem-teaching, we all piled into cars and drove to B Sharp Coffee House, in downtown Tacoma.
What followed next is hard to explain. I have issues with things like “reading poems dramatically” and “bearing my heart and soul to anyone, let alone a bunch of classmates and my professor and some servers.” My hands were literally shaking for most of the evening.
But as I listened to my classmates read poems entitled “Good Morning!” and “Fireworks” and “Hypnagogic” and, my personal favorite, “Is This What Growing Up Feels Like?”—which incidentally made me be like “I feel that” on every line—something my professor said returned to haunt me. He said that our class had been one of the most enthusiastic and hard-working classes he had had the privilege of teaching.
I heard and saw that enthusiasm and work in each poem. There is something incredibly amazing that happens when words work together—and I half-closed my eyes and listened.
By the time it was my turn, I had lost track of the order of the evening. I munched on pizza/flatbread Greek-inspired food and stared blankly at a doppio, which, despite sounding like a normal double shot of espresso, is a coffee that really should come with an instruction manual.
“Oh,” I said, “It’s my turn.”
I read two poems. One, “the butterfly effect,” I will reprint in its entirety here. It’s because I love you (and also because my other poem, “Let Me Tell You What I Know of Love,” is much much longer).
the butterfly effect
wings like an egg’s yolk
tremble, and under the rain,
your skin melts.
i read once that when
you stroke the wing
of a butterfly,
the delicate crescents of
your fingers shivering,
it cannot fly again. i lean
close to your silver warmth.
my eyelashes brush
against your cheek, and i
wonder if this kiss,
like the rain clouds drowning
the sun, will ruin you.
[pause for raucous applause and/or snaps]
When I got back to my seat, I was smiling. Flushed with success. Mostly, I was proud of myself. I had done something that I had never done before, something that scared me, and I had succeeded.