the poetry reading

at high noon

at a small college near the beach


the sweat running down my arms

a spot of sweat on the table

I flatten it with my finger

blood money blood money

my god they must think I love this like the others

but it's for bread and beer and rent

blood money

I'm tense lousy feel bad

poor people I'm failing I'm failing

a woman gets up

walks out

slams the door

a dirty poem

somebody told me not to read dirty poems


it's too late.

my eyes can't see some lines

I read it


desperate trembling


they can't hear my voice

and I say,

I quit, that's it, I'm


and later in my room

there's scotch and beer:

the blood of a coward.

this then

will be my destiny:

scrabbling for pennies in tiny dark halls

reading poems I have long since beome tired


and I used to think

that men who drove buses

or cleaned out latrines

or murdered men in alleys were