On Voices


My sixteenth summer I played General Siward in a summer camp production of Macbeth.

Pudgy cheeks, round stomach, five foot three- are you sure this is “an older and a better soldier none than Christendom gives out”,

Are you sure that this voice which cracks with disuse like wooden floorboards in an abandoned house can rally together the scottish rebels, can ring like drums and fifes,

Did you cast me in this role because there were none others left, and my parents payed for one?

I never asked the directors because I was too afraid of the answer.

Whatever is was, they must’ve known what they were doing or I must’ve been so much more than they thought I was because I turned three balmy summer nights into Burnham Wood,

I stood center stage and the words gave me muscles I could only dream of having,

I was thunder and fire and a sword raised unashamedly into the air and that is something I could never do when I am myself.

The stage is as much a home to me as my mother’s arms,

And when she asks me how it is possible for me to want to stand before hundreds of people, but dread making a phone call, I think she is forgetting this:

I do not exist onstage.

I am Siward, I am Mariana, I am Juliet and Katarina and any number of people who do not feel that they are being wasteful of other people’s time by speaking.

I write, but it is always princesses and knights and ghosts and dear lord anybody but a quiet girl in suburban virginia.

Anybody but someone who starts to say something only to fade out halfway through when she realizes nobody is listening,

They say my generation has an obsession with being heard, but I don’t think that desire is very new.

It’s reassuring to think that other people recognize your existence and that you are not going to slip off this earth with nothing to prove you were ever there,

So we cling on with ropes woven out of paintings and books and speeches and wars and inventions, and maybe a sixteen year old girl clings on with a poem written at three am because she can not sleep and if she dies before the sun rises, she wants to have something to prove for it.

Maybe, for once, she wants to stand on a stage and have it be her voice that is heard.


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