The First Time I Was Heard by Tasimba D. Saidi
I stood there, felt my heart ramming against my rib cage,
Like the bass to a song that only I could hear.
I clenched my fist and felt it slick with perspiration,
Like a sign to some inevitable slip, slide and fall.
I tried to open my mouth but my jaws refused to budge,
As if my body rebelled and refused to make a fool of us.
The first time I performed poetry,
My body was against the entire idea,
And I couldn’t blame it.
I had the uncontrollable impulse
To leap off stage and run far away.
Far, far, far away.
But something made me hesitate.
Just a thought – but it was enough to make me wait.
Why was I on that stage,
Quivering in front of all those people in the first place?
Why did I subjugate my mind to this kind of stress,
Force my heart to hammer and race?
Was it to hear the audience clap?
For the clear cut sound of their finger snaps?
Was it for the attention or for the thrill to fulfil some crazy fantasy?
Or for the feeling that spoken word brought, a poetic ecstasy?
And then I remembered,
It was because I wanted to be heard.
And that was enough motivation for me.
I don’t remember exactly what I wanted to say,
But I do remember what I felt.
I wanted the world to hear my story,
I wanted to have a voice that people would listen to,
I wanted to step out of the masses and scream my history,
I wanted be a poet and a freaking good one at that.
So with new conviction,
I gripped the mic tight,
Slick hands and all.
I took a step forward,
Against the protests of my terror struck body.
I unhinged my jaw ready to speak.
I decided that if I couldn’t stop the violent beat of my hammering heart,
Then I’d let it act as the background rhythm to my poetry.
I stared into the faces of my first audience, smiled and said,
“Hi, I’m Dante and I want to be heard.”
Tasimba D. Saidi