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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: In and Out (04/30/09)

TITLE: Her Poem Of Silence
By Sara Harricharan


I want to bite my fingernails. I really do. But it would ruin the pretty pink polish Mother had painstakingly painted on, the night before. There were no butterflies in my stomach, I had cocoons instead. The butterflies hadn’t hatched yet. I prayed they wouldn’t.

My hands hurt as I squeezed that sheet of paper so tightly, I couldn’t feel the fingernails digging into my palms anymore. I wanted it to be over with, to be far away from the judgmental audience before me. The upper crème class with eyes only for their prodigy.

Mrs. Lemons finished the graduation speech, before turning her neon-tinted smile in my direction. “…Princeton Gold is proud to present a special treat from an extremely talented graduate this year. Her poignant work of art is haunting, deep and filled with the microscopic things forming this experience we call life. I know you will be honored to hear this beautiful poem.”

The smattering of applause slowly grew to a full chorus as Mrs. Lemon delicately inched away from the microphone, extending a hand towards me. I shuffled forward, focusing on one stiletto in front of the other.

“T-thank you.” I stammered into the microphone and then winced. Great! What kind of an opening is that? I licked my lips. “I-I’m Shelby Donovan…and I’m reading….”

My mind blanked. I glanced to the half-crumpled paper in my hand, hurriedly bringing it to eye-level, hiding the gaping expanse of the audience. My eyes ached as I began the usual chant to scare tears away. No tears, no fears, no tears, no fears. “…my poem, The College Student.” I cleared my throat.

“It’s not our fault
That we don’t turn out
The way you want us to

It’s not our fault
We can’t become
What you want us to

We’re trying
In our own way

We’re trying
But it’s hard to say

I’m the girl with blue eye-shadow
That you cut in front of
At the checkout counter

I’m the dude with the earrings
In his eyebrow
At the gas station

I’m the girl gabbing on the phone
In the early morning
Because I missed class yesterday
And I need to borrow notes

I’m the guy texting his cousin
To get his half of the critical paper
Co-writing wasn’t an option
It was necessary

We’re the half-grown adults
Sneaking into reality
Dipping our toes in the water of your world
Testing the waves of insecurity

We don’t want this
But it’s not our choice
We won’t refuse it
That’s our choice

We feel the same things
As you
We love the same things
As you

Why do your eyes burn
When they glare at us?
Is it because we’re young
And carefree?

We’re not,
We’re so old on the inside
We crumble
So tortured inside,
It hurts to laugh

But if we don’t laugh and smile
You call us ungrateful
You slap your labels all over our lives
Never seeing through
To us

Don’t pretend you can’t see us
Because we see you
Don’t pretend we’re stupid
Because we’re just like you

Transparent to a fault
Ungrounded without purpose
We want something out of life
We want out of our life
Why can’t you accept us?”

The air was thicker than I remembered and as the paper inched down from my face, I scanned the sea of prejudiced parents staring blankly in return.

There was no applause. No criticisms. Nothing at all.

The awkward silence grew as I crumpled the paper in my fist, edging away from the microphone as fast as my stilettos would allow. Mrs. Lemon came forward and her French-manicured hand briefly touched my shoulder.

Her smile was soft, her voice hard. “Ladies and gentlemen, Shelby Donovan. A round of applause, shall we?” Mrs. Lemon repeated. “Shelby Donovan, a round of applause?”

A few soft claps started in front, grew. I turned as my fingers caressed the velvet backstage curtain, to see the graduates filing in loudly declaring their approval.

Shocked parents and relatives were reluctantly joining in. I didn’t understand why or why not. It wasn’t spectacular, it wasn’t horrible, but it was real. It was every memory in the five years I’d attended this private university. The ghost of things I was leaving behind as my fellow students screamed and cheered.

Snatching my graduation gown from the stagehand at the corner, I slapped the hat on my head and stepped out to join the celebration.


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This article has been read 943 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sharon Kane05/08/09
The prose caught the atmosphere in the hall, and the poem captured teenage pain very well. Good job!
Myrna Noyes05/11/09
This story and poem had a haunting but realistic atmosphere to it. The feelings of your MC probably mirror those of many college graduates about to step into the complex adult arena.

I especially liked this stanza of the poem: "We’re the half-grown adults
Sneaking into reality
Dipping our toes in the water of your world
Testing the waves of insecurity"

I was impressed with Shelby's honesty and desire to be "real" as she faces her new life.
Gregory Kane05/13/09
I thought this captured the angst of teenage insecurity extremely well - the nervousness on stage, the gut-wrenching honesty of the poetry, the painful rejection of the message by the adults, and finally in the way that the girl donned her cap and gown and thus submerged her individuality in the mass of the other graduands. Brilliant.
Loren T. Lowery05/13/09
Boy, have I ever been here before: "My mind blanked."
I really liked the way you set this story up to tell the poem, showing the inner anguish of the importance of the poem to the MC as well as its meaning. I think you conveyed the angst of the young graduate very well and how great the divide is between teen and adult and how the world is perceived. Good job!
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/13/09
I loved the realness of your story and your poem. You had some great pictures of youth, and some wonderful lines. The "half-grown adults sneaking into reality" was my favorite. You have a gifted "pen," Dear.
Shelley Ledfors 05/13/09
This was so well done. You really captured the atmosphere. Then the brilliant poem, and finally back to the reaction to it. Wonderful!
Betty Castleberry05/13/09
You captured the emotions of a young lady about to enter an adult world very well. Two thumbs up.
Yvonne Blake 05/14/09
Very real, Sara! I love that you can cut through the facade and show reality.
Chely Roach05/14/09
Wow, this was very powerful! Very vivid writing. Well done!
Dee Yoder 05/14/09
Man, you took me right back to those days just before I was forced into the adult world. So many confusing reactions--mature/immature--all at once! Great writing and descriptive phrases.