I Used to Be a Poet

Listen to my first slam poem of 2021 and follow along with the text below.

used to be 
I called myself a poet
thought the words pumped out my mouth
were Midas fingers 

both a blessing and a curse
in the way they gave me value
in the way my vain prayers will leave me dying of starvation 
in the way a mediocre white man
thinks everything he touches is worth something 

that’s you 
and it’s me
to be fair 
I wager it’s more than fifty percent of the room 
it’s the Democrat in the Oval Office too

and we’ve all been cooped up a year 
and that year has lasted ten years now 
no satyr, Dionysus soaked, hive mind 
drinking sweat off strangers on the dance floor 
and these stanzas turned to gilded victory
well they don’t wet the whistle like they

used to be I called myself a poet 
learned how to make a buck
spinning trauma into gold 
in the way my father was no different 
than the bulk of cis-hetero patriarchs

to be crystal clear I mean 
in the way the nuclear family
I mean the nucleus of violence 
taught me God hates fags
turned me into a suicide bomber that survived the plane crash 
left me with PTSD dreams of what

used to be I called myself a poet 
even published a whole damn chapbook
to validate my mental illness 
thought my depression was “The Secret”

like, if I manifested it I’d get that first parking spot at Walmart
and there’d be plenty of paper towels 
and Karen would be wearing her fucking mask properly 

except the parking spot is applause 
and manifesting is ideation
and the paper towels are Instagram subscribers 
and Karen, well she’s just a scapegoat for my own accountability 

cause I can say Breonna’s name five hundred times on stage
but that doesn’t mean I’ve done something 
by the way we still haven’t done something 
by the way The Secret is gated community
new age self-fulfilling prophecy 
like Christianity if communion was wine and a Xanax

but I digress maybe poetry is just self-fulfilled prophecy too
both for my manic cycle 
and this country’s self-determination toward injustice
but who even am I if I can’t write some sad gay boy shit, ya know
and who even is America without pigs killing with impunity 
and mediocre white men’s less than mediocre boners 
for making American great again like it

used to be I called myself a poet
you ever call yourself a lie so much you start to believe it 
it’s a trick I learned with lonely
turns out middle school accelerated reading was 
kind of a grindstone for disassociation 
turns out the crowds who snap my verse 
enable my addiction to broken

but just because it used to be doesn’t mean it has to be 
which I know sounds like some corny self-help book crap 
a therapist would use to fill an awkward silence 
but whatevs 
I’ll roll with it 

and call myself happy
and call myself loved
and call myself worthy
call myself alive 

and maybe, sometimes
what used to be 
is good enough to be again
so I’ll call myself a poet 


Published by Caleb Ferganchick

Caleb Ferganchick is a rural, queer, slam poet activist and author of The Secret of Sunflowers (2021) and Poetry Heels (2018). His work has been featured and published by Western Colorado Writer’s Forum (2021), South Broadway Ghost Society (2020, 2021), “Slam Ur Ex ((the podcast))” (2020), and the Colorado Mesa University Literary Review. He organizes the annual Slamming Bricks poetry slam competition in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and serves as a board member for Western Colorado Writer’s Form and Mutual Aid Partners. A SUP river guide and speech and debate coach, Caleb also dreams of establishing a queer commune with a river otter rescue and falconry. He lives in Grand Junction, Colorado.

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