Sunday, November 7, 2010

November Poetry Challenge: 6/30: Naked Nerves

Here's poem #6 of 30 in my November poetry challenge. I'm writing 30 poems in 30 days. Tonight's topic was easier to come up with than the last few, as I had a rather unique for me experience this evening...

Naked Nerves

I expected more butterflies.
The stomach kind, not the social.
I'm singing with a choir tonight,
the entertainment for a black tie gala
fundraiser, $200 a pop
just to get in the door...and up
from there.

Wow. Look at that.

Formal gowns. Ballroom lit with art glass
chandeliers, each a masterpiece in itself.
The murmur of quiet conversations,
the clink of wine glasses,
and the empty stage
a line of microphones poised,
piano perched to one side...
...And here's our introduction.
A hundred or so heads
watching as we file in.

I should be freaking out by now.
What on earth am I doing?
A nobody amateur
in way over my head.
I just wanted to sing, you know?
And I found a group of people meeting
over music, who let me play too.
I didn't think we'd end up
performing at this level.

Ok, deep breath. Any moment now
there'll be a jumping rush of terror...
But I'm still ...calm?
What gives??
Shouldn't I be a stomach sick
mess by now?
Wait, we're here.
Hold the head high,
spine straight, smile,
and climb the carpeted
steps to the stand.
Er...I mean stage.
Look out at the expectant faces,
settle in, lift my music
and take my pose.


Stand. Pose.
I've got it now.
I've spent the last 4 years
as a life drawing model,
taking off my clothes for artists
and ending up in all my glory
in glowing oil paints and tender
charcoal drawings,
displayed prominently on museum walls.
That practice in poise
and sheer in your face
courage must be kicking in.

This? Yeah, this is nothing.
I can do this.

I've heard advice to performers:
Picturing the audience in their underwear
is a sure fire way to break
a bad case of nerves.
Me? I'm a little different, I guess.
I just have to imagine myself standing
and I'm serene as can be.

Let's sing.

Melissa McCollum

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