Collin Kelley is a journalist, playwright, and poet from Atlanta. He is the author of Better To Travel and the host of The Business Of Words radio show.
© 2004 Collin Kelley
sit at a table with four famous poets,
only one acknowledges my existence.
am here by chance, a generous offer from
one who heard me read the night before.
it is the man who studies me like something
from the bottom of his shoe who asks
question: What are your credentials?
have not been published in The New Yorker,
Atlantic, Poetry or Paris Review.
have a few credits to my name in
magazines, journals and online.
stammered response is not enough.
never be enough. I am in my Jesus year,
I am crucified at a greasy spoon by someone
a wall full of degrees, five books and an ego
sucks life from the room. I am 33 years old
I do not have the proper credentials.
am not worthy to be at the table and the shifting
his body away from me ends any hope.
will not speak to me again that evening and
will not write a word for a week,
myself down for not thinking of the words
say, to come back at him. They come later,
and ineffectual. They always do.
am the legacy of two emotionless parents
put on a game face at my late birth and
it to this day.
poker faces sent me reeling into the world,
for emotions and signals and needs
to be satiated.
survived two boys who stripped me of my
of self so they could have one of their own.
lived through years of raised hands, threats
leave and threats to return.
into those arms like an un-tethered animal
stupid to be stunned by the stick.
sat at the same desk for 12 years writing
words for others while my own words
my neck like a noose.
on their need for release only to find
were not good enough.
took every rejection in stride, paying my dues,
for that spark that would make the words
after some modicum of success, someone
always there to temper it.
journals have you appeared in?
will publish your book?
will do it myself like Whitman and countless
before and after him. But it is not enough.
It does not have that scent of academia and cliques,
was a hundred years ago, a fluke,
am told I missed my chance when I dropped
of college because I could not afford tuition,
focus enough to complete remedial algebra.
many days, I have struggled just to stay.
urges to swallow stashed pills,
in the garage with the door closed,
Mac playing on the radio,
me to sleep in the backseat,
merging with a song from my childhood.
have lived another day to put pen to paper,
scratch out words to explain the descending
of mental illness, abuse, poverty and
childhood in purgatory.
have the nerve to ask for my credentials
when I am sitting here before you. Alive.
All work is copyrighted property of Collin Kelley.
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© 2004 SubtleTea Productions All Rights Reserved