Act Natural

Place your elbows where relaxed
hombres do. Once you perfect a gesture,
don’t overwork it. Master vocal
volume: pianissimo and fortissimo
only hit the mark on the opera stage.

Don’t think technique. Take your pocketed
hands out every couple minutes,
but don’t flap them around like flustered
pigeons. Don’t laugh alone. Be
yourself, but emphasize your cool side.

Try to help someone, but keep a low
profile. No one wants to be HELPed.
Don’t talk more than a minute
without pausing to see if your audience
is still there. Be brave enough to take

an unpopular stand but just before
it turns popular. Like liking a hokey
song a week before the curse
of hokeyness lifts. Hum it quietly
so only people who know know you know.

Inside you is a cool kid who knows
when to laugh in scorn, when to laugh
in friendship, when to tip back your head
and laugh with double-lungful abandon.


Paul Jolly was raised in Oakland, California and lives in the outskirts of Washington, D.C. His poems have appeared in The Columbia Journal and Permafrost.