By: Violet Webster
In sixth grade, I was introduced to the poetry of Sarah Kay. I was eleven, a spoken word virgin. At the beginning of our poetry unit, my English teacher found a youtube video of Sarah’s “Toothbrush to the Bicycle Tire” and played it for the class. I was immediately hooked. After two years of participating in various workshops in the Young Artists and Writers Festival, I finally decided to take my first ever poetry workshop with Sarah. I am so glad I did. We spent the first day talking about sensory imagery and the frigid temperature in the Writing Center. The second day was full of performance and sharing our poetry with the rest of the Festival.
Here are two of the poems I wrote with the feedback of the incomparable Sarah Kay!
To My True Country
I pledge allegiance to my family
And by choice
I pledge to those who try to do the right thing
Even if they fail
to all the teachers
Who taught me how to tangle and untangle a story
From just one word
I come from the dying oak tree in my back yard
The one that stretches its branches to meet the earth when I climb it
But holds me anyway
I come from my mother’s shoulder
And her grandmother’s wedding band
That sits on top of her bony fingers
Where I come from,
We listen to Christmas music starting November 1st
We hold full conversations with eight-year-olds
We double knot our shoelaces
We drive alone down the highway at night
Windows down. Music up. Voices raised.
I pledge to writing notes on tops of palms
To my collection of friendship bracelets
To being polite to servers
And to tipping five dollars on a ten-dollar check
When you walk into a restaurant twenty minutes till closing.
We are not a country of people
Who use empty words to make empty promises
We are not in the business
Of judging others for the way they were born
Of making a mess and expecting someone else to clean it up.
Here we put our faith in slips of fortune cookie paper
On chipped nail polish we were too tired to take off
To wearing cartoon animal socks
Just to make someone laugh
To being kind to people you don’t like
And trying to leave the world a little better than the way you found it.
Wishing for Once
Once, the smell of Old Spice fluttered against my nostrils
As your lips grazed my collar bone and your fingers crept between mine.
Once, the swick of playing cards and the thundering of my heart at a stolen glance
Was loud enough to drown out the doubt in our minds
Once, it seemed that everything would turn out just fine.
In just an hour or two
The space between my hand and yours stretched
From an inch to a mile
What once was a perfect smile
Became your eyes barely meeting mine.
Maybe it was your parent’s disapproval
Eating its way into your better judgment
Maybe it was the thought of the summer heat
Crumbling away through the fall
And blowing away with the autumn leaves
That ripped the warmth of your fingers from my cheek
Maybe it was me holding on too tight
That turned the taste of sweat
Into a snapchat message left on received.
All I know for sure is
Once, your name held weight,
But now when I hear it
I just feel empty.