Greg Bliss

Greg Bliss is a playwright, director, scenic designer, painter and of course poet. He has been a member of the 2001 Grand Rapids Slam Team and a member of the Kalamazoo Slam Team in 2002 and 2003. He is the chair of the Performance Art Committee at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, the co-founder of X-performance Group and the Michigan Shakespeare Festival. Greg has an MA in Theater, a BA in secondary education/communication.
Greg Bliss

Slam Poem: The Musical (mp3)

the 7 people you meet before you die

you hang from a tree
of the knowledge of good and evil,
you are round ripe, ready to fall,
a wind shakes its earth bound roots,
you drop, you are born.
before you die, you will meet 7 people.

when you pass through the cherry orchard
and knock twice on the door marked innocence,
you meet the mercenary clown.
he will ask for everything you have,
that may only be change and your opinion,
but you will give it and from that he will spin
silk scarves, a monkey on a unicycle
and a bucket of water that turns into sawdust
when he flings it at your neglected state of surprise.
He will wear red shoes the size of all your memories,
and sport a flower that will become your favorite color
when he leaves you will cradle a pocket full of candies
which will either turn out to be benevolent delusions,
sweet lemon drops, or addictions which may linger
until you have met #7.

after your dreams pass, the first childhood nightmares-
the serial dreams of puberty-the heroic dreams of mid life,
you will meet the man in black. he will speak in a voice
Johnny Cash would have envied. you will walk a midnight path
to a silver saucer. a light will draw you into its belly where
you will hear Einstein reciting Sappho playing a 1964 Hammond Organ.
a girl with a blinking forehead will relieve you of your
deepest primal fears and you will want to scream,
instead you will weep for what seems to be a millennium,
then the man in black will assure you that whatever planet
you think you came from, they miss you, they want you to return,
and the little old woman seen outside of KFC and the public library
recently is still looking for you and the reason you swear
she looks familiar is because you sent her to find you
and you almost remember why but not in this life time,
then the man in black will fade into the closing credits
of the fifth time you rented Breakfast at Tiffany's on your birthday,
simply because it’s the only movie that still makes sense.

years later, at the back of a neighborhood bar,
you will meet your 6th grade summer camp counselor.
8 ball in corner pocket, but you scratch.
the dude who pops down the next dollar to punish your
new brother in law will turn into the green pool hall light
you will think nothing of him, he will recognize you first,
then after a few seconds of polite conversation you will follow.
you buy the next few rounds of drinks and he will ask you
three questions which although you close out the bar
bent over a booth speaking feverishly,
you will never quite fully answer.

1. where did you guys bury my electric razor?
2. who is going to win the world series?
3. why didn't you go to grad school?

on Fridays you check his group mail and on one occasion,
eventually, attend the opening game of the world series, together.

when you meet Ophelia,
you will not know you have met Ophelia,
she will serve you coffee at Denny’s,
or the next stop that looks like Denny’s,
she will seat herself and respectfully inquire
if you mind her smoking. you won’t. she will mutter
something about a boy or a girl you remind her of,
how long ago, she doesn’t mention. and you will speak
of loss of respect and the passage of time and you will speak
of the rights of man and the misunderstanding of humility
and you will recite lyrics from bands you saw for the first time
in cities that couldn’t be further apart and she will say
you have square hands and you will mention she speaks in a voice
angels would be proud of and then you say nothing,
eventually you ask for a light and she goes behind the counter
to get another pack of matches but never returns
and to that 30 minutes of clarity you will attribute
a life time of poetry known only to you and the girl who went by
april, or victoria, or sarah but whom you both knew
was really Ophelia even though she never once spoke that name.

nothing prepares you to meet the dog faced boy. He waits.
at the ice cream truck, in the lunchroom, he’s the third singer
the night your office goes out for karaoke,
you never actually connect, you do not speak kindly of him.
he knows this. you catch him out of the corner of your eye.
he looks right through you, enough so
that you look behind, when you snap back, he is gone.
at times, you do not know he is a boy, at times he is a girl,
that girl, and you are equally cruel. She hears everything.
she identifies every deceit. she has a photographic memory
and even when you have forgotten you bump into her
at a training seminar or waiting in line at ticket master,
you look away because she is ordinary,
yet she stares straight ahead because no matter how brilliant
your fictional online personalities,
to the dog faced boy, you can not lie.

time passes, time compresses, whips you like a boomerang
through inventions and revisions, you think life will end
at least twice, without hope, utterly, and then you meet
the dream weaver. he walks into the venue with a tale to tell,
you know he is the featured paranoid of the event,
you have your premonitions. briefly you introduce yourself.
after an awkward moment,
he walks away. fade to black.
from the moment he breathes into the microphone,
you recall every bright lyric that made the hair
on the back of your neck bristle. You remember
your first crush, the first time you had sex, the first time
you thought you would die from lack of sleep over realizing
that on this planet, there existed at least
one other human being who got it, the way you get it.
they get it and if feels like glory.
and it feels like freedom
and it feels like nothing can stop you now.
and then it is over, and you are crashed out on a sofa
and the waking memory of it becomes your touchstone of truth.
and you want to be waking and waking and waking forever.

when you meet #7, a still small voice will whisper,
“this might be god, so pay attention.”
#7 will give you a small box and instruct you to open it.
you will do this. the box will contain a mirror
set at 30 degrees, when #7 says, “What do you see?”
you’ll respond, “I don’t understand.”
to which #7 will say, “this is the seventh person
you meet before you die” you will whisper,
“I thought I was supposed to meet you.”
to which god will stutter, “look, we tried telling you
centuries back, we sent Christ, we sent Buddha,
we sent the Prophet, we even tried to get into
the collective subconscious to send a group e-mail,
nothing seems to work, so I have to tell you…”
and god will shut the box. “I have to tell you
to take very careful care of this box
because it is all you have left before, well...…”
and god will hand you a subway token and clear instructions,
“take the red line to the loop, transfer to the blue,
when you pass the dog faced boy on the outbound platform,
you will know it is time.” “Time for what?”
“I’ll walk from here...peace.” then god will crawl
inside a vending machine and become a mars bar
that mysteriously never gets selected for a very long time.

and so you are still left hanging from the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil.
and is it true that you did not fall
as was reported in the beginning.
you were simply plucked and rolled
toward an unsuspecting universe.
you, kicking your string of rattlesnake rattles,
finding yourself in a drawing room
next to Ophelia reading Marx,
or a cathedral drawing stick figures
of a mercenary clown confessing the sins of the world,
or was it Aladdin’s palace playing blackjack over Baghdad
on a magic rug with your 6th grade summer camp counselor?

and this thing that was your life,
was this just the history of a boy or a girl?
and did you do your best not to reveal any part of it
that might indicate you had met these 7 people
with decades yet to discover?

because if you want to be immortal,
you must be willing to show the world its shame.
when they ask why? you reply, “You wouldn’t know.”
because every person will play tyrant if allowed.
because no one made you feel inferior without your consent,
because while you were busy burning dawn at both ends,
eternity blew beyond you and this notion of your life
you deemed poetry was merely you digging a ditch
to let the sewage of this city float on by,
you shouting from your trough, shovel raised high,
“listen you filthy bastards!
the man who says this cannot be done
will not stop me while I am in the middle of doing it!”

to which the mercenary clown will chortle,
“all idiots are equal, but some more than others.”
to which the man in black will shout,
“Write first, ask questions later.
to which the dog faced boy will cry,
“What did you change? What did you change?”

and you will stammer in a voice that
will make god jealous.
you will say, “Everything.”

Section 8

Jesyka scrawls on her section 8 wall
To: mylilsista my lil china doll

“kissin is a sport fxxkin is a game
guys get all the pleasure girls get all the pain
guys say they love you u believe its true
nine months later and he turns into hell with you
the baby is a bastard and the mother is a whore
it wouldn’t never happen if the rubber never tore.”

“you gonna paint my room after?”
Painter turns with blade full of mud.
Jesyka speaks from the open door
of her brother’s abandoned bedroom.
This place is a mess. You should have seen it
when he was living here.
Ya, he had anger problems,
you know…know what I’m sayin’?”
Painter scan crater holes
randomly pocking the bedroom walls.
“He’s 19. One week on probation.
Assaults an officer.
Now he’s back in prison.
See him in seven. Maybe.
But he’s been in and out since eleven.
So what.”
Jesyka disappears through
a pealing thin wall paper hallway.
CD player blasts Missy Elliot
through two thick plaster walls.
She sets remix to repeat and dances
singing slightly off key.
By the time the first coat of patch is applied
she scribbles into her cipher packed legal pad.

“What’s really good with you though?
Me, da usual. Just playin em. Layin em.
Pymp’ in em and quit’ em.
But other than that just sittin in front of ya.
But always…and shit, dat man,
Mr. Kate or whateva his da fuck his name is
betta not let me see his ass in da hall way,
in his car, in da lunch room, or in da parking lot.
Shit, cause I’m gone do some damage.
He betta not let me find his car
cause I’m straight jacking it.

‘n Gurl. Mr. richards called ma house
sayin dat Friday a school I was cussin,
not following direction and being disruptive in class.
Den ma moma picked me up from work and askin me
was it true and shit. I wuz like “man dat man lieing.”
when we got home she gone say “you can’t talk on da phone
or go no where” I wuz like “man whateva.”
So she looked on da calla I.D.
and called Naquesha and was like
I can’t have phone calls for a few weeks.
I was like “how the hell you gone call up my friends.
I say what I can and can’t do…
I say what I can and can’t do.”
She was like. “Like I just did.”
I was “You dumb bitch.”
She said “What you say?” I said.
“You dumb ass fat bitch.”
So we was just cussing each other out and shit
then we left to go back home.
She told me she was sorry
she told me she was sorry and shit
and she was gone pay to get ma hair done
in sum micro braids. Ya, sum micro braids.

Painter turns and finishes patching the punch holes.
Jesyka draws a bath cause on account of the shower
hasn’t worked in three years.
“Painter says new landlord gonna fix it.
We’ll see bout dat…hands Jesyka a photo found behind the heat grate.
“Thought you might want this, your brother?”
Jesyka glances, purses her lips taking in the smooth new wall.
“Hell no.” Bathroom door latches shut.
Painter pours stain blocker.

Jesyka scrawls on her section 8 wall
To: mylilsista my lil china doll

“kissin is a sport fxxkin is a game
guys get all the pleasure girls get all the pain
guys say they love you u believe its true
nine months later and he turns into hell with you
the baby is a bastard and the mother is a whore
it wouldn’t never happen if the rubber never tore.”