If My Words Were Anything But Words (A Spoken Word)

Photo Credit: Deviantart
Photo Credit: Deviantart

My lips cannot begin to list

the legacies left by dead men

or the lives lent to that lengthy highway

we call history.

Truthfully, I don’t care–I’m just trying to make it

at mile-marker twenty-one,

and, truthfully, of that sum

you won’t find a landmark.

If my words were building materials

I would construct cities of glass where the sun never sets.

If my words were found in the wild they would drip

like dew from leaves,

running over rocks from great heights to collect in swirls

and be sucked up by green things.

If my words were infinity, I would have no need to belong to history.

If my words were anything but words,

maybe I would have arrived at my worth by now.

But my words are the murmur of a melody already sung.

Their reverb in the cathedral of my ribcage

is like the echo of a coronation choir

whose syllables I will never curl with my own tongue.

It’s been said that the mediocre writer borrows

from what has been written,

but that the great writer steals it…

so perhaps I could make history.

It’s been said the best stealing happens at 2 AM

when the world is asleep, and the creative juices have had time to steep,

so maybe I should just juice up on caffeine and steal until my fingertips bleed–

never mind

that none of the words belong to me, or that my identity camps out

like a homeless man beneath a bridge with other thieves,

to wake and walk highways to cafes in cities of other nations

whose caffeination is the achievement of 2 AM dreams

that have steeped for too long, so have to be stolen.

We’re all just trying to make history…

For twenty miles I have tried to subtract

the rubber skid-marks of right answers from the highway

as proof of a worthy existence,

ever since I was looked in the eyes as a youth

and told I could make a difference,

but the greatest Thief had stolen the truth–

and there is no rest for the deceived–

so I was destined to mark my miles

with words the world would perceive

as landmarks, but my life never seemed

to add up.

I was told as a child it was important to read history

to learn from our mistakes.

Like knowing facts

would keep my hitchhiking heart intact

or knowing when wars ended would guardrail the war starting within me–

I have written a textbook of the holocausts

of my heart I never want you to see.

But I can’t rewrite history,

so instead I write with stolen words

who I wish I could have been,

and let you read that historical fiction.

When I was eighteen and a student of story’s craft,

I was brave enough to call myself a writer.

It was no longer a hobby, or homework, or future hope–

it was time to hang my byline on billboards along the highway.


no one trusts a thief they’ve taught

and the proposals I pitched were held to the master’s mile-stick

and found wanting.

They tell me to write what I know,

so I think about going back to school to study history,

secretly wanting to be found in my own.

They tell me to write the raw truth,

but not any truth that would upend the status quo.

They tell me to find my voice,

that a strong sense of self can only forge full-throttle,

to steal what has already been written–

but be original with it–

like words are recyclable glass bottles.

I don’t remember

when I realized my glass cities would never fit

into their plastic system.

I suppose it was when he gave me bread

so I wouldn’t have to steal anymore.

When I had fractioned my soul into fourths for this faction,

like a fractal trying to fit into an octagon,

and he came to make my fractured heart whole.

It was when he built me cities of glass

where the sun never sets,

when he found my history and forgot my holocausts,

when he hung as a byword so I could have a byline.

It was when I trusted him to lead me off the highway,

south into the desert,

where he fed me manna I did not know

so I would find I don’t live by bread alone,

but by the word that comes from his mouth.

It was when, in the hot sun,

he stripped me of my snake skin

so his words would drip as dew,

running over my ridges to swirl in my soul

and be sucked up by this green heart.

It was when I saw his words were the only words

unbound by time

and believed they are the only words

that give me worth.

Last summer he told me to write my story.

To trace the tune of his words in ink

until the stains and my skin are one in the same.

If my words were anything but words

I might have made history.

But with a single word he formed my ribcage

to be the cathedral of his voice,

and I am made

for his story.


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