This poem is about my inability to remember my own poems. It is why I need to have a piece of paper on stage with me because I know if I didn’t have it my mind would start worrying about the consequences of forgetting rather than actually remembering. So it has always been for me. When I am reading my poetry I am fine…




It’s “First night nerves every one night stand.”

The late Ian Dury summed it up well.

How it’s hard to look professional

When your composure’s all gone to hell.


I stand here before you exposed and

Unaccustomed to public speaking.

“Just imagine the audience naked”,

They said. [reassuring hand] We’ve turned up the heating.


This is [waves paper] what covers my modesty;

Acts as shield to stave off what I dread;

Gives me the courage to carry on

Regardless, screaming…don’t lose your head.


It’s just, I think, my brain’s wired up wrong

There’s no need for circuit diagrams

To see my ‘rabbit’ in the headlights

And why I’m crap at poetry slams.


Without this I’m a craven ‘effer.

In the minds of others a coward.

My ad-libs between the poems have

All the focus of Frankie Howerd.


And those links I’ve written purposely

Might have the lot of you in stitches…

If only I could remember them.

I’m more embarrassment than riches


I envy actors’ ability

To learn pages and pages of lines.

I can’t recall the simplest of songs.

Yes I’ve even forgot Auld Lang Syne!


As a kid at the Gospel Mission

They lay the fear of God upon me.

“Win a bible if you can recite

A huge chunk of Deuteronomy!”


I failed and was given a pencil;

So I’m drawing a line in the sand

With these pieces of A4 paper

That are glued to the palm of my hand


Now rather than spending hours on end

In reciting my words verbatim.

I’ll run a nice bath; pick up a pen

Have time better spent in creating.


But I believe in what I’ve written;

I’ll let it do the talking fo’ me.

This paper’s like a ventriloquist

Hang on…that makes me the dummy.


© gray lightfoot