National Poetry Month, Day 29: “I’m a Poet and I Don’t Know It” by Ariana Reines


I’m a Poet and I Don’t Know It

I am so broke
Maybe I am a poet
I wonder.

I eat three bowls of cereal in a row
I only eat cereal when I am broke
When I am really broke I don’t eat anything
I eat pills or nothing
Maybe I am a poet

Sometimes a wealthy woman gives me money because I am a poet
A great one, she says, and that I deserve it
The money.
Money and deserving it
Are a subject in American poetry.
Right now I feel like a poet.

I want to have sex with somebody
But I just can’t.
I am a poet

Then I have sex with somebody because I’m a poet
So what if I look like a chipmunk if I look like sex
I’m a poet and I know how to do it.
It is a narrow way to say something, saying ‘I’m a poet.’

I am this I am that I am not the other thing.
It is boring to say ‘fucking.’
I’ve had enough of it.

I can smell my friend’s pot but I’m not smoking it.
I’m writing this poem because I’m a poet.
When I’m broke my soul stands outside my face in a parody
Of the way my soul bursts outside of my face when I’m in love.
Knowing what it feels like to have nothing is part of being a poet
Though alone it is nothing. You know it.

When a man says to me, I’m a nomad, and I look at the gold chain
Bright against his brown chest, and he says, I’m from the Bronx,
I’m a caricature
I’m Italian and I wear a medallion, I smile because I’m a poet.

I’m Muhammad Ali over here, and you know it
Accept no substitutions, you can be it without knowing it,
I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.
When I die
Give birth to me in your mind
Let’s just be poets.
It’s high time you
Quit your job
And while you’re at it
Stop calling your mom, drop out of school
Bills are not to be paid by you.
Walk on the world and know it.
You can be that and even show it.
Put out your hand and watch the sky jizz into it.
You’re a poet.
So you feel sad? Row it
Halfway across the world.
It is time for you to open the doors of your houses
It is time for you to stop thinking about fashion
It is time for your style to be blood
It is time for you to dump your boyfriend
It is time for you to kiss your girlfriend goodbye
It is time for you to love things like the shaking leaves more
Or at least as much as the heavy cock bursting like a popup book into your mouth
If pussies had eyes they’d be the sky
I may not be on drugs but I am high

I am not broke now
But I am still a poet
And I’ll be broke tomorrow
My teeth are bad and I can’t afford to fix them
The man humming next to me is getting murdered by me in my mind
Humming and typing, his dry red hands, I will see him dead
In my mind before he stops humming, like those pianists who
Play Bach and hum but much less charming.
Die, mind-destroyer.
Die die die.

Sometimes in public I take off my shirt
A lot of people do that
There are photoblogs in which beautiful girls are doing it
I’m not a beautiful girl when I take my shirt off
I’m a poet.

I only want to fuck people who are broke and have no ambition
What is wrong with me
I am such a slut for you
That couple over there
Their zits bright in the subway glare
Maybe I’m a poet

Sweat equity is a real thing
And some things are better left unsaid
Maybe all of these things
Rolling like a penny
Deeper and deeper into the world

Ariana Reines

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →