Identity: A Study In Numbers

One: Numbers.


Height, weight, age

date of birth, social security

cell phone number, credit card.

SAT score, grade average on a four-point scale,

transcripts, salary, expenses, repeat.

A collection of numerical digits

that tell you everything you need to know to steal my identity,

but not to keep it.

A lot can be said with the characters 0-9.

Two: Actions.

88 ivory keys practiced daily,

one microphone to sing out a message.

Music in four-four time,

one beat, two beat, three beat, rest.

Two pairs of worn-out running shoes,

forced to practice seven days a week.

Step, step, step, finish line.

"Your time is—"

There's the numbers again.


This is what I do; this is who I am

drawn out on a number line,

graphed in a coordinate plane.


Three: Relationships.

My identity is not single-digit,

Our sum is greater when we are together.

Two parents, one brother,

Three aunts, four uncles, three grandparents,

Cousins that can't be counted using only two hands.

Two cats, one dog, one family,

Small numbers that build the foundation beneath my feet.

A small circle of best friends,

A larger circle of friends, of teammates,

An even bigger circle of acquaintances.

All intrinsically bound

by the number of breaths between our laughter

and the steady one-two-three of our hearts.


There are billions of people I will never meet.

But I am immeasurably grateful for the small number

of which I received that privilege.

(They are my identity

as much as I am.)


Three: Timeline.

In number order, I go like this:

At two I am cute, though unremarkable—

At four, I am a princess, and then the president, and then a mermaid, depending on the day of the week.

At six, I am an elementary schooler, a friend, and a dreamer

placing myself in a big kid world I don't yet know I'm not ready for.

By eight, I am "gifted"

a title I accept but do not quite grasp.

I buy two cookies for 50 cents

and eat them at recess,

oblivious to anything the future might have in store.

By ten, I write poetry

and read it to the class.

"You should be a poet," from the mouth of my teacher,

and the six year old in me thinks that is an excellent idea,

though four thinks it's a little bit boring.


But by 12 that has been forgotten,

too impractical, too unstable.

I only write poetry now when the numbers on the clock read late into the night,

hundreds of words that I do not show to anyone.

I laugh with my friends and try not to think about it.

The future is uncertain,

thousands of days ahead of me,

4,380 already lived.


At 14, high school is looming,

7 tough classes, 180 days of school, one backpack and one bundle of nerves.

Four extra-curriculars, three school clubs, and three honors societies.

Time is told through the number of assignments I turn in

divided by the grade on top of them.


Now at 16, I am one-half scared

and one-half excited.

5,840 days lived

and a future that's never been more difficult to see.

It hasn't been easy;

countless sleepless nights, hundreds of homework assignments, dozens of gained and lost friends, forgotten dreams—and then replaced ones.

The weight of being "gifted" threatens to crush me sometimes;

the number of pounds is almost higher than I can bear.

But I bear it— and I maintain,

with piano, with running, with relationships, with poems, with life.

With numbers.

There are 197,000,000 square miles on Earth and 7,000,000,000 people.

My future is wide open.


This is my identity—

chronologically, numerically, decimally.

I've heard it said that it is impossible

to define a human being.

Because people are too complicated,

too beautiful,

too indescribable using words.

And I might agree with that.

I don't need words.

I only need the characters 0-9.

This poem is about: 


Grant-Grey Porter Hawk Guda

Powerful expression. Always let poetry fill your life. Keep expressing your heart.  

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