Each time I’m asked to tell about myself, I find myself starting the same way: “My name is Kelsey and I’m nineteen..”
but what I’d really like to say is:
“My name means island of the ships but once
I found a translation that said I’m a burning shipwreck-
not a burning ship but a ship that has caught fire
after the wreckage and well, I’d say that’s more fitting.”
I’ve learned that people don’t have time for about me’s.
They need two things: a name and an indication you’re someone special.
The doctors, they want facts not details.
“I broke my leg when I was three, it’s a funny story actually-“
The right or the left?
The teachers, they want interests, hobbies.
You’re sad, yes, but what do you like to do?
The adults are a spew of questions.
What school do you go to? What classes are you taking?
What do you plan on becoming? Got a boyfriend?
People my own age are the worst.
“I’m planning on an English degree with a concentration in creative writing.”
Yeah, aren’t we all. So how many times have you, you know,
I’m pulled apart, my interests travelling highway 2
my goals at a stop light at traffic hour,
my medical history on a billboard for the world to see.
But what about me?
Where’s the chance to say,
“I hang on to fistfuls of poetry like loose change in my pockets,
and I keep waiting for the day that the world turns upside down
so I can swim with the stars.
I’m not afraid of darkness, it’s a loneliness I can empathize with it.
It’s the blackholes like cigarette burns inside of me that get troublesome.
I walk through graveyards and read the dashes between years,
each a story I’ll never know. Sometimes I create my own.”
No one, none of us know who we are anymore.
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
n. frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone—spending the first few weeks chatting in their psychological entryway, with each subsequent conversation like entering a different anteroom, each a little closer to the center of the house—wishing instead that you could start there and work your way out, exchanging your deepest secrets first, before easing into casualness, until you’ve built up enough mystery over the years to ask them where they’re from, and what they do for a living.
Andrew performing an acoustic rendition of Synesthesia for buzznet.