Stage Fright


United States

Tongue-tied with fraying ends,
The words sputter out like exhaust
Blackening my vision and muddling my thoughts.
Lost in translation
I cannot speak coherently in front of…
Of anyone really.
The words which flowed easily onto paper
And receipts and napkins and the paneling of my walls
Suddenly turn into staccatoed syllables
Powerless the moment they are uttered
Because no one finds weight in my
Breath slammed behind shutters
And my palms beaded with sweat.

I remember. Learning to fear.
When I first understood
That the whitewashed expanse of faces
In front of me
Would take away a tiny piece of my soul
That I had engrained in my passions and mistakes,
And that this theft- though voluntary- left me a quaking mess.

I was taught to guard myself
Because “when people can take from you, they will!”
And whatIf I left a dissatisfaction?
Well, what if?
I was caught between wanting to pour myself
Into their hands to prove
My fleeting worth
And guarding my secrets to preserve my meager value.

In the end, I chose neither
To prove or leave hidden
The words written in my soul
But rather to claim
My sweat-soaked words
Amid the belief
That I have a right to them
As they are
Without Apology or Explanation.

Because I was taught to respond this way:
To question my authority and ability.
To concern myself with how and what
Others think of me,
And the mistakes and passions to which I adhere
My weary voice
So exhausted from learning to tremble.

Well I will not tremble.
Abandoned in my words
I found solace and I found power
I learned to weld my syllables
Together into armor.
But this was not enough.
I was ill-content with mere protection
Instead I fashioned from my frozen lips
Flakes of precious metals borne from the stars
And a scepter from the sea of my thoughts
With which I rule the kingdom of my creation.

But yet the moment I part my lips to suck in breath
To spin the air into magic
My heart still pushes- through my throat
And my eyes still catch- beneath my lashes
Praying to squeeze closed.
            Yet despite this testament to my instruction
            My lips part, my voice tumbles unbound,
                        And I speak.


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