Last night, I watched my favorite poet vomit mid-performance.
Siaara Freeman is a poet so gifted, she gets me to talk about poetry on my otherwise inane blog. She’s a poet so punch-you-in-the-gut important, that it makes me forget about all of the genre’s typical pretense and self-indulgence. But this isn’t a blog about her poetry. She doesn’t need me extoling her genius. Google exists. You can see she does that for her damn self. This is a blog about a force of nature.
I first became a fan of Siaara’s a few years ago when I saw her as a featured performer at The Drunken Retort, a mostly poetry open mic night held at Stella’s Lounge in Grand Rapids. I bought her book of poems, watched her Youtube performances, cried over the imagery in “The Drug Dealer’s Daughter”, and became a full-on fangirl. Siaara and I have almost nothing in common, but her poems have a way of getting under my skin and pushing up all the Kardashian arm hair until it stands on end in a moment of pure education.
She was slated to come back to Grand Rapids last year around this time, and I almost peed when she messaged me on Facebook and asked if I’d “open for her” with some comedy. But. I ended up having emergency surgery and couldn’t make the show. I missed the performance and a whole new education. So when I heard that she’d be at The Retort again, I was going to be there come hell or high water. Which for me is basically laziness or hangover. So I went.
There she was, Pepsi in hand and sparkling like Diana Ross’s actual, personal disco ball. She opened the show with a crowd favorite, “Hexes for my Exes”, and shared everything she wished upon former girlfriends with a delighted audience of fans and newcomers who had braved a nasty, snow-covered night just to sit in a room with her and listen. “Urban Girl” began, and I worked hard to remember my education thus far, repressing the “but not me!” that used to be reflexive in response to her pointed advice to “white girl”. Because of course me. Of course all of us. She’s a shut-up-and-listen poet, and for good reason. Because she has everything to say.
And then she puked. Just. Turned her head and let it go. Right on the floor in front of the hosts’ table. For a moment, I didn’t realize what had happened. Until someone in the crowd said, “Do you need to take a minute in the bathroom?” And she said, “Fuck it, I have Lupus. The show must go on.” And then she just continued, while one of the hosts, and then a bar manager wiped up the mess at her feet. She didn’t apologize. She didn’t change her tone. Her hand didn’t even shake as it once again grabbed the microphone. The only indication that anything had really happened, was when she warned anyone who may have been considering kissing her on the mouth later. Which, to be fair, a lot of us were.
Siaara’s Lupus diagnosis is brand new, too. She’s not even a tried and true veteran. She only found out this past October. She had a reaction to her illness and it didn’t even slow her down. Justin Bieber puked on stage once. That was gross. This wasn’t. This was powerful. This was how Oprah would vomit on stage. Although hers would likely be stomach acid and broccoli cheddar soup, with a little butternut squash hidden in it. Not stomach acid and Pepsi. Stomach acid and Pepsi, while a VERY cool name for a punk band, was a non-issue for Siaara. A wipe-your-mouth and keep telling the truth non-issue. Which is exactly what she did. It made me say, “YESSSSS” out loud at a very inappropriate moment.
Because I was floored. To be honest, I wish she could do that at every show. But you know, Lupus is unpredictable.