Liberating Words: “Where do my words go?”

12276833636_a4e8d6ab93_zThe poems contained in this series, “Liberating Words,” came out of an interdisciplinary course for high school juniors at The Winsor School, an all-girls school in Boston. The course, “The Personal Is Political:  An Interdisciplinary Look at Feminism,” is co-taught by Libby Parsley, a history teacher, and Susanna Ryan, an English teacher. The second unit of the course focuses on the history and literature of second-wave feminism: the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Students read a compilation of poems by women writers from that period and then wrote their own poems; the assignment asked them to represent an issue or problem they see as central to 21st-century women’s experience through the very personal genre of poetry.

Where do my words go?

By Emily Gliklich

How do I break into the conversation?
It’s a constant worry I have
During class discussions when the smart girls use big fancy words and talk about imagery that I never even noticed
Over twenty-five-minute lunches, somehow the clock ticks twenty four times before I can slip into the charged prom discussion
On the bus to sports games when we are changing into cleats—I can knot the laces together but I can’t tie my words into a sentence

Why do all my words get caught somewhere in the twisty tunnel between my head and my mouth?
Why do they struggle to escape?
Is it because I don’t know big fancy words and I don’t have a prom date?
But I do know how to lace up my cleats
And I studied a lot of vocabulary for the SAT
And my friend set me up with a prom date
But that doesn’t count because he never asked
We haven’t even talked about what color corsage—

Maybe my words
My not so fancy words
Get stuck in the twisty tunnel because I think too much
But how else am I going to think of something smart to say?
Or squeeze in a stressed syllable about prom?
Or blurt something out on the sports bus?

But I high five my teammates on the sports field
And I add to the discussion in smaller groups
And I use fancy words in my writing… sometimes
And maybe that’s enough

Or is it?

Emily Gliklich is a 17-year-old softball player who attends the Winsor School in Boston. 

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Photo courtesy of Stabler Department of Nursing on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0