Sitting there, looking around, I didn't make a sound.
The torrent of words was enough for me
for there it hit me, slow and true,
a Truth I've always known somewhere inside yet never quite understood.
The world is full of lies, stereotypes, words, labels,
liars, fables, demons, angels
They say so many things, whisper so many lies into the trusting, unsuspecting, unassuming child's ear.
A sweet smile hides pointed teeth that leave scars I feel like I'm the only one that can see.
In this room full of prepubescents, there's an invisible mark tattooed on all of us,
hiding in plain sight
I stare at cheerleaders, teachers, emos,
preps, geeks, leaders, jocks, and jokes
They seem to notice, laughing at the loner, the loser
who sits alone each day
But I cannot listen, cannot hear
My attention is fully focused on invisible labels engraved in their skin
Queen, Freak, Fag, Slut,
Lost Cause, Retard, Pot-Head, Slow
Yet as I stare in a disgusting curiosity
Letters float in the air, changing, twisting, turning, dancing
Until the labels reappear and scar the skin anew
Queer, Ratched, Fat, Low,
Hissy, Brat, Gold-Digger, Hoe
These new labels mark the skin
of people whom I do not know, cannot see
underneath so many pounds of ink.
A thought hits me, terrible and sly
What tattoos mark my skin? What am I?
I rush to look, scramble to see what horrors dare mark me.
I will not cry, I tell myself, no matter what it'll be.
But I see nothing but my own skin, pink and bruised and pale
So I tell myself I must be free.
Free of the bite marks society has left on the people around me,
littered with Names, Titles, Exaggerations, Lies, and Designations
I almost manage to convince myself.
A year passes since that day.
I've gotten good at ignoring those short thirty minutes engraved in my mind.
I base everything I know about a person on them and them alone.
After all, it can't possibly be true!
Republicans can't all be out for your money.
Christians can do more than talk the talk.
Black people aren't all ratched.
Homosexuals don't have sex on the street.
Westerns don't always make the Indian the villain.
Heroes can fail.
Bad guys can win.
Good men can Die.
I adopted the name nerd, took it like a crown.
I was a theater geek, a math nerd, the good student, someone quiet only in class
But then that dreaded day, I couldn't do it.
I couldn't remember the simple syllables to Alone, words from Edgar Allan Poe, a poem.
And when I told my best friend,
words again filled up my throat, turning and twisting, churning and burning
Suddenly, it wasn't the words that were blurring
My face was wet, my heart pounding, eyes pouring
I found myself in the hall, it as empty as my lungs.
I couldn't breathe, I didn't want to
I just wanted to be alone
like Edgar Allan Poe.
But someone was at my side, speaking in an oddly harsh tone,
demanding to know what happened, what was wrong.
She wasn't my friend, not someone I knew, just another of hundreds of faces you see in school.
I felt defensive, like a cornered animal, like she had a gun to my head, my heart
I tried to explain what no words can describe,
but the only thing I could say was how badly I'd messed up my poem earlier that day
After all, there's no one brilliant enough to describe how you feel
when your mom's always shouting
when your dad doesn't know any of basics of your life
when you know he knows all the basics of mathematics
And there will never be a word great enough to capture
how you know your sister never has and never will
care for or listen to a single nondescript word from your stupid, bumbling and fumbling monologue
I can't speak, I can't breathe,
but this face from school barely seems to care!
She goes off using clichés, phrases, and words
(I get it, I really do, I know how you feel, You can't give up, You don't see me giving up, do you?)
that mean everything yet nothing-nothing at all
And I wish she'd shut up.
How could she possibly know my pain when even I don't?
Time drags on, and my tears do slow,
but not because of this loud faceless face I barely know.
All I can think is why can't this
Attention-seeking brat just shut her trap?
My breath catches, but I hide it as a sob.
For the second time, words mask the skin
Her lips are moving, but it's my own voice, my own words I hear.
My surroundings dull, my heart stops, I want to cry
All I can see are the burns on her body, one from me.
I say I'm fine, really, she's helped me a lot
I feel like bawling, yet I cannot
For the satisfied, triumphant grin on this faceless face holds me back
As soon as she's gone back to class, the dam breaks, my cries restart
Not for embarrassment or self-pity, but for what I've done,
What I did.
For the second time in my life, I felt the world flip
Society was an evil I knew and faced, was warned against yet pushed toward
A terrible being that seethed and hissed
with worn out ideas, fakers, myths
But what if Society was less a collection of demons and more a cage
of platinum, silver, jewels and gold?
When did I fall off my pedestal to join the rest? Why couldn't I see it before?
Seeing for the first time made my heart yearn, yearn for something more
Something I'd never known before, something I wanted to learn
Eyes dropped to my hands as I saw the marks that did indeed adorn me.
This time I saw, this time I know
I'm certainly not white as snow
But these inscriptions written in pain, sorrow, blood, fire aglow
I'm horrified to see are all my own!
These words on my skin were written my me, no one else
All this time I'd pointed the finger, I told myself I was good
A good child, A good student, a nerd
I wasn't me that did it! It was all of you!
Never I, Not Me, It couldn't possibly be me
I'm not a part of the society of bringing good people, happy people down!
But I still watch in quiet, silent, sad resignation
as letters black as poison carve themselves into my hand
already tattered and torn by invisible burns.
I know who I am, what I've done.
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