By Caleb Coy

“Why yes, I did read a poem to Nikki Giovanni,”
I will say casually. “Two poems, actually.”
Yes, me and thirty other people
At a Barnes and Noble poetry reading.

Nikki begins, describing herself
As the sacrificial lamb, the first
To have one’s throat cut before
An audience hungry for placation.

I go last, asking if that makes me the lion.
I read two of my best poems to her,
Her and about thirty other people,
And greet the applause with modesty.

I approach Nikki afterward with a volume of hers,
One from which she read a poem that night.
“Is this the one with ‘I Am So Enchanted With You’?”
I ask, as if I do not know the answer.

As she scribbles a message, I thumb
Through another collection on the table.
“Billy Collins,” I say idly, a name I can drop.
“You know, some people say he’s too pedestrian.

But I disagree— It’s just that he’s very cozy.”
She smiles, and hands me back her book.
I slap myself later, repeating the words:
Too pedestrian. And then after that, cozy.

I sigh, bearing her book to the register,
Nikki on the cover admiring a red bike
As if about to walk it around the studio
Rather than light the seat and stir the pedals.

I slap my white forehead as I leave the store.
Too pedestrian. That must make me the lion.
I palm my face and palm my face
Like a monk’s flail against his back. Cozy.

I should have passed my car and walked home,
The Muses looking down on me from above
A lost wanderer on an enchanted map,
My footprints appearing, disappearing.

Inside the cover, addressed to me and dated,
And yet without having bothered with an epigraph,
Nikki has written, as if with the consolation of a mother,
“Thanks for reading with us.” And I feel cozy.

Category: Featured, Poetry