First Night at Open Mic
by Elliott Bell
First night at open mic
Seated quietly behind a man,
I listened and watched.
I eyed the the barista mixing drinks,
The hiss of the espresso machine punctuated by a blender,
An echo unnoticed behind recitations and applause,
And I wondered what it’d be like to be him,
What we look like from behind busy tasks of an everyday evening,
The parade of passion and pride on the other side of his counter.
A man who looked like William Shatner wore fluorescent
Called out with a voice like David Bowie that echoed through space,
Called out to the people in the back,
Personalized spotlights shielding their blue-lit faces.
Called them to come up, told them it was inevitable, that they would speak and be heard
Or else fade away into the safety of being automated nobodies.
I felt sorry for them, felt I was one of them,
I felt the glare of their spotlights from where I sat,
Leaning just enough to hide behind the man in front of me.
Speaking is hard.
I tried not to fidget, failed.
Fiddling with my pages bound in blue,
Clasping and unclasping my phone case,
I wondered if drinking a rockstar had been a wise choice,
Would it grant me powers upon the stage?
The raven haired woman announced me
Not as a person, but as a voice.
In the spotlight I confessed my sins immediately,
Brand new here, I said.
Brand new to open mic at all.
Brand new to sharing with real people.
We’re not real, someone said.
My hands shook anyhow.
I opened my book,
And read my piece
The same way I once read a poem over the phone,
To the person it was about –
And at the end, the result felt the same.
I returned to my seat,
Briefly glowing with my words painted across my face.
A neon sign in the dark
That there are words inside,
Though the sign fades
As after, I slip away.
I think I’ll come back.