“Token” & “Liner Notes to the Soundtrack of My Ego Trip” by Adrian S. Potter

Abstract painting by Sally Egbert


Truth is, people will pretend
to like you if you simply stay
quiet. If you smile for no reason.

Each day, you drop stereotypes
like tarnished coins down wishing wells.
Dress up preconceived notions in a suit
and attend meetings.  Nod and agree
with supervisors who know nothing
but a diluted version of you, yet they
keep banging up against the sharp edges
of your identity and bleeding all over the office. 

How they never believe
you're like them until they realize
you aren't.  How they say you sound nicer
on the phone. Or seem nicer in emails.
Nicer if you'd open your mouth
and allow yes to fly out abruptly
like a flock of spooked seagulls.

Liner Notes to the Soundtrack of My Ego Trip

Music is code for coolness, so I'm a hard motherfucker
to decipher. With mean '70s horns wailing in the background,
I strut through streets in shell-toe sneakers, emotions teetering
on a precipice the same way loosies used to defy gravity
while perched on my father's bottom lip. Between songs,
silence settles in like drifts of snow. A few facts about me:
I never know exactly how or when to shut up or speak out,
so life becomes a series of mic check moments spliced
together to make another filler track, weak punchlines
spawned from the breath of a Sucker MC. The way this world
remixes everything, there's a difference between love and sex,
though their meanings get slurred together like the words
of drunk people at wedding receptions. Some nights
I have too much, yet it's never quite enough. It's so easy
to forget about pace, tempo. I begin, which is not the same
as simply being. Impromptu librettos in my mind buzz and spin
like ceiling fans on high. The origin story of my mystic bounce:
basslines pulsing through the warped floorboards of my soul
with broken glass, everywhere. There are rules to surviving
when you have a head full of dreams. Bend without breaking,
the way wheat leans into curves of gold when the wind gusts.
Everybody else authors their anthems, forcing me to lip-sync
their mantras back to them; I change up the words, but they hear
what they want to anyway. Up jump the boogie 'til the break
of dawn. You see I know a few things (another long-winded
bass-voiced narration) about what makes my blues so blue.
The side effect of a partial lifetime of social invisibility –
didn't see you standing there – is learning how to breathe
without burning. I keep trying like a fool to be sincere,
but the past is a velvet rope coiling around my throat.
One day my tongue will know all the right lyrics, once regret
comes back around to fix the broken turntables of my soul.


Adrian S. Potter writes poetry and prose in Minnesota. He is the author of the poetry collection Everything Wrong Feels Right and the prose chapbook The Alter Ego Handbook. Some publication credits include North American Review, Obsidian, Jet Fuel Review, and Kansas City Voices. Visit him online at http://adrianspotter.com.

Sally Egbert is a New York based artist. For over three decades, she has been making paintings, drawings, and installations. Her work is mostly abstract, loosely based on observations from nature. Egbert studied at SUNY, New Paltz. She is a recipient of grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, The Gottlieb Foundation, and The New York State Foundation for the Arts. She has shown nationally and internationally.