Back in April, when I attended the Austin International Poetry Festival, I got the chance to meet Nikki Giovanni and hear her speak, which was pretty awesome. But something happened after that speech which was also kind of awesome, and I want to share it.
Nikki’s presentation was at the Convention Center, which is right in the heart of downtown Austin. The parking garage where most of the AIPF attendees parked was only a couple of blocks away, but I won’t say that it was “conveniently located.” Downtown can be a confusing place. I live here, and even I get turned around sometimes. Many of the festival-goers were from out of town and all of them were poets, who are better known for their sonnets than their sense of direction. Suffice to say, there were a few lost souls in Austin that night.
I made it back to the parking garage with little trouble and was weaving my way down the spiral of parked cars toward the exit when I saw a woman who looked lost. I recognized her. I didn’t know her name, but I’d seen her at poetry workshops and knew she was attending AIPF. She was talking to a couple of non-poets—How do I know they weren’t poets? I could just tell.—and waving her arms and pointing. She looked stressed. The couple she was talking to looked perplexed.
I stopped my car, rolled down the window, and said, “Is everything okay?”
One of the non-poets said, “She can’t find her car.”
I looked at the poet whose face was familiar and said, “I’d be happy to drive you around to look for it.”
I expected her to gush with thanks and hop right into my car, but she didn’t. She hesitated and peered through the window at me. That’s when I realized she was familiar to me, but I wasn’t familiar to her. Stranger danger!
I wanted to reassure her. I wanted to say, “Oh, it’s okay, you can trust me. My name’s Carie. I recognize you from AIPF. We’ve been in poetry workshops together. I was at Nikki Giovanni’s speech tonight too. Wasn’t she amazing? I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.” But at that point, a line of cars had formed behind me, and I knew they were on the verge of honking, and I didn’t have much time, so the words that came out of my mouth were…
“You can trust me, I’m a poet.”
She got in.
I drove her around, and we found her car. All ended well, but I felt ridiculous about my choice of words. At the same time, though, I knew they were true. Poets are good people. Most of us are kind-hearted souls, and while we may not always deal in facts, we are honest. We may claim the sky is purple or compare a faded coat to a failed relationship or tell you the leaves on the trees outside our windows are voyeurs, and you may find that bizarre, but I promise that if you get in the right light, at just the right angle, you’ll see that we’re telling the truth. At least, a truth. You can trust that.
All I’m saying is, if you ever find yourself lost and stranded in a parking garage and needing someone to trust, you could do worse than a poet.
A few weeks ago, I told this story to my Cousin Kelley, who’s awesome. Kelley gets me in a way that few people do. Last month, for my birthday, she gave me this custom-made mug.
It’s my new favorite.