By Phebe Jewell
“One minute poem. Any topic.”
Game on. Phil studied the plump, balding man holding the cardboard sign in front of Invisible Cities Bookstore. No “Smile” or “Anything helps.” Or worse, “God Bless.” Honest work. No money mentioned, but Phil respected art. He would be happy to fork over five dollars just to see what the guy could do.
“How about hockey?” he walked up to the poet. “I’m feeling Canadian today.”
Smiling, the man closed his eyes, leaned back and intoned:
carry us home
in a single trice.
More than a game,
more than a fight.
A nation’s honor sparks
Phil usually avoided rhyming poetry, but he liked the imagery and the effort, and handed the poet a fiver. “Can you give me a haiku about broccoli?” What a great start to his day.
“Done!” the poet smiled like a man with a secret. “No problem,” cracking his knuckles before starting.
leaves open to bitter love.
Season’s taste lingers.
“Nice,” Phil pulled out a couple of singles. He should take a selfie with the poet for his “Buried in Books” blog. His readers would love this guy. With his rumpled suit, untameable hair, and wire-rimmed glasses, he looked like a deranged English professor who never received tenure because of unorthodox ideas. What a find. He could milk several entries from these one minute poems. The number of followers would skyrocket.
“Can I film you?” getting out his cell phone without waiting for an answer.
Phil started the feed. “‘Buried in Books’ is live outside Invisible Cities. Check out this One Minute Poet.” Phil turned the phone to the poet. “How about a portrait of me?”
“Lyric? Heroic? Sonnet? What about spoken word?”
The poet nodded and studied Phil with that same smile.
“Whenever you’re ready.” Phil stepped back. This live stream was going to be genius.
they can’t cover what you won’t see.
You wear comfort like a second skin
but you bruise with the slightest breeze.”
Not sure where the poet was going with this, Phil shifted his weight. The poet continued, speeding up his delivery, rocking back and forth on his heels.
FOMO fever stalks you every step of the way.
You walk around town like you own it, but
when did you get here? Yesterday?
Check the mirror and slip in darkness.
I don’t need your money, I don’t need your phone.
I live my art…you just record it.
Come here, let me throw you a bone.”
A small crowd had gathered, laughing and clapping at the poem’s finale. The poet nodded at the applause. “Dang. That’s some shade” from the back.
“Poetry is a dangerous beast, my friends!”the poet called out. “Approach if you dare.”
Phil backed away, phone in hand, the camera eye catching his wordless retreat.
Phebe Jewell’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Every Day Fiction, Amethyst Review, Bindweed Magazine, and Crab Creek Review. She lives in Seattle, where she teaches at Seattle Central College. In addition to her work at SCC, she is a volunteer teacher for Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, a nonprofit offering college-level courses for women in prison.