Sample Poems by Adrian S. Potter
The Blues Almanac
Domestic disputes, gold-toothed insults,
the gentle cadence of shower water on bruises,
I’m going to have to take your keys, drunk
driving, car wrecks, approaching sirens,
mutterings over rosaries, missed appointments,
leftover wedding invitations tossed in a dumpster,
regrets only, gambling debts, barren cupboards, divorce
papers both anticipated and unforeseen, snagged zippers,
the failure to decide between spouse and lover, passion
killings, relapses, overdoses, pills, pornography,
booze and the hostile gospel of reality—
these are the lyrics trapped in our throats like fishbones,
the secondhand inspiration of disaster humming
its half-hearted hymn to our history of false starts
and failed New Year’s resolutions, the hush
of our spirits singing odes to the wrong side of mercy,
the ad-libbed declarations of defeat—an inventory
of what’s missing, stolen, gone—our lives skidding
out of control into the wrong lane
or the next verse, hope dissolving like sugar in sun tea
until the chorus or the bridge, removing the humiliation
that infects our souls and replacing it
with guitar glissandos and guttural moans,
as if happiness and its estranged brother, the blues,
possess equal powers of liberation, as if deliverance
can be discovered in the tempo of a stranger’s stilettos
or the implicit secrets tattooed at the end of her spine.
Field Notes from a House Party
Everybody here is gloriously intoxicated
and it is a delight. People buzz about
with red plastic cups and goofy smiles.
I am tempted to make an impromptu toast
but I’m not yet tipsy enough to attempt
public speaking. I just arrived ten minutes ago
and haven’t hit my stride or found my level;
ironically that stride might be a stumble
and that level will likely lean to one side
like a lopsided birthday cake. All about me
is noise: the deliberate pound of a subwoofer
funking basslines through the basement,
the two-step sway and stomp of chesty ladies
getting down so fiercely with sweat-stained
blouses clinging to their curvature, dialogues
between potential lovers trying to be discrete
but talking loud enough that secrets become
common knowledge. It’s in the air—love,
or some bootleg version of it, coaxing those
with rum and promises and their ex’s tongue
inside their mouths to make questionable choices
tonight and convenient excuses come morning.
But this is who we are, at least for this moment,
smiling and shouting and screwing until dawn,
loving ourselves too little and each other
a little too much, not caring about what’s
on the other side of sunrise, even if we should.
Philosophy According to Prince
A churchlike organ, followed by a backlit proclamation
of dearly beloved…and then drums establish the tempo.
As soon as Prince & The Revolution ignite the audience
inside the First Avenue nightclub, inhibitions disappear
like noble intentions. We are also gathered here today
to get through this thing called life, with its burgeoning
desires, oft-repeated mistakes, and hollowed promises.
Our finest virtues, our hardheaded aspirations are not
perfect. Why would they be? Prince’s empurpled heart
softly bruises with each guitar and whirring synthesizer
played under the Minneapolis skyline. Furious fingertips,
chord progressions, coded lyrics, and a burning question—
Are we gonna let de-elevator bring us down? Oh no,
he’s not pretending to be Dr. Everything’ll Be-Alright,
but onstage Prince diagnoses the fragile nature of survival,
the border between humiliation and hope, the unexpected
epiphany once we find wholeness within the incomplete,
when we can, at last, abandon sanity and simply go crazy.
Night Shift Revelation
At the Gates Motel,
the overnight clerk
has a Bachelor’s in English
and a pulsing migraine
from staying awake too long.
He’s been daydreaming
about writing a novel
for the past two years
based on the customers
who pass through the door.
Some nights it would be a drama,
about the gruff single father
who comes in holding a six-pack
of Old Milwaukee, complaining about
vacancies and sky-high prices.
As he waits nervously
for a credit card to clear,
he balls up a day’s worth of tension
in the palm of his right hand
and smacks his daughter
for asking too many questions
and not standing still.
Other nights it would be chick-lit,
about the good-hearted hooker
who yearns for deliverance.
When she stumbles through the entrance
with a sharp-dressed gentleman,
her dark, glossy eyes fixate
on the array of room keys
hanging on the back wall,
as if they represent
a final shot at both salvation and sin,
hoping someday she can find freedom
from laying down and opening up
while a john bangs her
and a clunky headboard
against floral-papered walls.
Tonight, if this guy wasn’t busy manning
the front desk for minimum wage,
he would write stories about getting away
and traveling on the open road,
driving rapidly down rural highways
until his mind became just like his car
filled with outdated music
with the windows wide open
so he could listen to the wind
whisper its most embarrassing secrets
continuously looped on eternal playback.
I Am Hip Hop
The never-ending drum loop of my internal breakbeat
thumps along: the alternating turntables in my mind,
the eternal reverb of my lungs. I am a deft arrangement
of samples. I can pop and lock wide open through scores
of homemade mixtapes. I fling noise through otherwise
quiet neighborhoods. My existence is so bass-infused
and remixed. Trust me—it is lonely to be the only man
in town with a boombox for a soul. I always savor lyrics
with my hands in the air, pick up new slang like dice
on concrete, understand rhythm dwells in the space
between notes, freestyle my way through each workweek
just to revel in the electric boogaloo of Saturday nights.
Mama was a microphone; my father, a scratched record.
One night they came together, and soon after I was born.