December 2016

By Cassidy Martin, Youth Poet Laureate

Photograph by Carla Ciuffo

Cassidy Martin is the 2016 Nashville Youth Poet Laureate and a junior at Nashville Big Picture High School. Join her on December 10 at Ingram Hall as we select the next Youth Poet Laureate. Learn more at www.southernword.org.

I’ll never forget my first poem

My sunlight moment
I didn’t think I would cry so hard
I didn’t think it would be that easy
to shrug the world off my shoulders
As tightly as I gripped my paper
waves of anxiety crashing on desks
Admission was someone I didn’t know
I could meet
she looked so good
Her strong delicate hands pried the fingers from my throat
That choked my stanzas
Her lips pressed against mine
her approval slipped inside
I had permission to speak
She held the paper steady for me
She lifted my chin and brushed the dirty hair from my face
She cradled my cheeks
She lived for me to speak my truth
She willed me to live like a loved one wills a comatose patient to move

She commanded me to open my mouth
let out something other than silence as loud as screams
Dared me to taste freedom
She dared me
To taste
Freedom
It was the first bite I had had in 11 years.
Other than hard skeleton bodies that were shoved down my throat
I threw up my bones
all
over
that makeshift stage
Everyone who read
Poured the darkest corners of our souls on the cement floor
Full of empty and dark memories
Heavy they rolled around like bowling balls
Slamming together
They created earthquakes and we shook to tears
We plummeted off skyscrapers with extended wings

That poetry lets us wear

That art supplied
Art gave us wings
And we flew

Like we never wanted to taste dirt again

My wings grew stronger with every poem

Art stood in front of me
When I tried to turn around and go back

She carried me

She dragged me
when I was too weak to move
She force fed me with relief until I could stomach the eerie feeling peace
on my own
Sometimes it’s still hard to swallow
But with every brush stroke I feel her fingers on my shoulder
Every new line is the bird who eats my crumbs back to a broken home
As I meet others whose experience with her is almost no different than mine

Friends whose string of fate was gently picked up by her
And she tied and connected all the different pieces
Twisted all the places in our lives that began to unravel in chaos
She saved my sister
Cradled her hand in sketchbook paper
Held her feet on stage in forensic competitions
She saved my best friend
Held his ear drums with melodies
Traced the outline of his fingertips
with pads of a studio sound board
She doesn’t let the razor taste your skin
anymore
She urges you only to describe its memory
As a tool to help others
You don’t have to crawl inside yourself
And be alone
And grow up in this world without an outlet
Without a voice
Or a palette
Or drums
Use your heartbeat as the drum
Take a marker to your skin
If you don’t see beauty
Draw It There
If you only hear gunshots screaming and mothers weeping
Drown it out with your music
Compare it to God’s thunder
Make Bold lines

turn up the bass
lift your voice
Until you are riding the sky
Until you are swimming with clouds as children watch from the ground As they wait
For art
To give them wings

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