if i could write a book on all the things that i’ve seen go sour in the center of my high school

you’d get papercuts from trying to turn all the pages

my voice would become hoarse from trying to read the words aloud

you would tell me to come back tomorrow because i’d be wasting your time

if a high school student slips under the surface and they still have all a’s, do they make a sound?


if i could write a book on all the students i’ve seen go sour in the basement classrooms of my high school

i wouldn’t say names

i’d say situations

pregnant homeless depressed destroyed out on the streets no good raped alone spends the evenings counting the cuts on his wrist

hopeless fading no friends no money no future was college bound but burned her own bridges desperate lonely addicted to the things about himself he can no longer control

more often than not you can tell which hand a person writes with by reading their scars

not to say they don’t try

but more often than not their slope is more slippery than anyone can understand their lives are not graded by letters on a computer screen but by how grateful they are to be alive in the morning


if i told all this to my teachers

they would understand

in their own way, nodding their heads as if to say they’ve seen it all

and maybe they have, but this fire that’s burning at the heels of these kids that crowd like sheep in the hallways seems alien

i’ve seen more self-destructive faces than in a prison documentary on the way to first period i’ve seen hell in the smile of a friend i’ve seen that fire burning slowly up my hands

if i told all this to my teachers

they would understand

but there are things you cannot say to make them see the whole picture they are trained to see over the heads of those that fall in favor of the ones who can make it out

if a high school student screams in the middle of a hallway, do they make a sound?


i have been filling out scholarship applications

i am asked to define myself by the numbers that report back my self worth

grade point average social security family income sat act scores class rank class size they ask you who you are but “1-9 characters only” please try again

i am worth more than these numbers on a 4.0 scale i am more than the 9 digits of my social security i am not 1-9 or a-z i am 100 percent h-u-m-a-n

my access to my future shouldn’t be a safe where i am the dial wasting my time trying to find the right combinations

my eligibility to become something shouldn’t come after a “3-point”


if i could write a book on how many times my anxieties have been invalidated in my high school

it would not be in words that i would show how i was affected

but in blank pages


five classes and five different workloads five universities in question and 500 scholarships so i can make 5000 to go to a school whose tuition is more than the sum of all these numbers

friendships failing confidence flatlining and uncertainty and terror renaming me atlas, i hope you’ll understand why sometimes i can only say that “it’s hard”

and i just want you to know, even though sometimes i feel like i’m lost in the dry-erase stains on the whiteboard, that i am trying

that even though i do make a sound it’s only too easy for me to fall silent

we are all trying

we are all scared and confused afraid of slipping through the cracks fighting home lives that shrivel and relationships that combust

our demons come knocking and sometimes it’s hard to remember to tell them no

so it becomes your job to remember that our lives and high school are not direct bloodstreams

you can make the separation clean or we’re going to do it ourselves and believe me, it will get messy

we are more than the crumpled up math homework at the bottom of our backpack and the college essay we turned in 2 hours too late, we are not a summation of a presentation that didn’t match your opinion

we are trying


if i could write a book, the first line would be that there are 26 letters in the alphabet and A, B, C, and F don’t spell a fucking thing




That last line is absolute, utter perfection.


I command you on your poem. It stirred such relative emotions inside of me, and I'm just speechless. You deserved the award. Thank you for sharing such a moving poem. 


If there was ever a way to accurately portray my thoughts toward school and our education system in general, this would be it.  You nailed it.  Congratulations!  You definitely earned this award.


I didn't like it. Sorry. I couldn't even get through it. Doesn't really sound like anything more than an angry rant to me. And the line breaks were hard to maneuver. 


Dope! I love it. Wish all of our peers understood this. People often find themself conforming to a system in order to belong. The more we voice our opinions and seperate ourselves as intellectuals who are socially cognizant, the better chance we have of changing this "system". Most of us have no excuse to ignore societal issues, because of social media, and it is becoming harder and harder to ignore these issues. Thank you for speaking out against the failing education system here in America. 


This is amazing.


I think this is my favorite spoken word EVER

Ellary Mischel

This just left me speechless and can easily bring me to tears because what you just expressed is  what I also wish  to express as emotions and feelings about this topic. Im so thrilled that this was widely recognized. Honestly, thank you so much for making that video; it was incredible how in a few minutes you conveyed so much of what is reality for a lot of people. Keep it up. Wow.


Well I think I'm ready for high school now...haha 

That was a really deep and meaningful poem. You are amazing and I wish I could be as good as you, but I'm not. But if you could, can you check out some of the poems that I've posted?



Absolutely love this. All my family expects is good grades and go to medical school, which is what i WANT to do. But life happens, and things get difficult.


I love this poem! No wonder you won!




I love this poem! Sierra, you capture so perfectly the anxiety and stress and inadequacy that so often plagues us as teenagers and as high school students. Thank you for giving us a voice. :)


Holy Guac! So relatable ((: I loved reading this poem. I could feel the strength in it! You really hold a great tone throughout the piece. And I agree, for applications we have to put on a facade just to get into a decent school. You really do get it!


This is an incredible, uneuphoric and tough work of truth. Thank you.


That ending man, oo!


Chills the whole time, so good! You deserved it! That last line though! AMAZING


That last line near had me crap my pants... Wow great poem.. Good inspiration for others.. This poem is a great message.


I recognize the rhythm of this poem, was your rhythm based off a different spoken word poem? Another student read a poem with the same rhythm and Im trying to find it! Its , about religion I think...


This is amazing


I just keep reading the last line over and over and over because it is so brilliant.


Well said, and so very full of feeling. I love the way to whirrs and makes your emotion apparent


Wow.... just wow. You are my introduction to slam poetry... and now I know why they call it 'slam'. You are a truly gifted writer who is able to convey so much emotion in so little text. Thank you for that.

Amber Davis

this. THIS.




Oh my gosh! Thi is awesome!!! 


My sentiments exactly.


You are an incredible talent, miss.


I'm actually crying, I've never read anything so relatable. Wonderfully done.


UGH. All of the frustration and anxiety is shown so beautifully and clearly. Thank you for saying the things I couldn't figure out to word. Amazing, poignent poem. Bravo!


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