Monday, May 9, 2016

Living Large

Grownup at the Youth Slam

Good artists borrow. Great artists steal from children.
— Simon Mermelstein

     Who da judge?
I'm the judge.
I will rate your craft on a scale of 0.0 to 10.0
(which is actually a scale of 7.2 to 8.7)
and I will be fair yet pitiless
because the fine students of Washtenaw International High School deserve no less.
I am here by invitation
and I will put great consideration into every decimal point (after all, look how few I use)
and my scores will not be dropped—
I am neither the high nor the low but the even middle,
plus I understand basic Game Theory.

My powers are not unlimited: the children can say fuck on stage
and I cannot, because they are uncensored artists-in-training
and I am 26 years old sitting in a high-school library and should fucking behave like a grownup
but my numerical discretion
is unquestioned.

I am Justice Douglas and all of his penumbras.
I am Deborah beneath the date palm
and lo—the children
(three of whom have heard me perform Ode to Fish McBites),
seeing the truth in my numbers,
flock to my words as well.
I am holding court, idly and literally ripping the leaves off a second-hand rose
and dripping second-hand bits of wisdom into open chirping throats
which they lap eagerly. I tell them
that one of the best things you can do at a slam is ask the judges for advice,
and they all agree that this is good advice.

I am modest and regal, apologizing
for not remembering every detail of their poems
as I bless with faint praise
and share my controversial opinions which go unquestioned.

Now I must prepare
to be facebook-friended by girls who are still in high-school
and pretend like that isn't slightly awkward,
but nobody said noblesse oblige would be easy

and this feeling of being listened to
is as dizzy as power.

by Simon Mermelstein
in volume 4 issue 2

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