Speak Up! (second draft)*

They told me to speak up when I spoke to them.
They said, “We can’t hear you from waaaaay back here.”
Your voice is too mousy, too quiet, too soft.
They told me to speak up.
“OK,” I said. And I cleared my throat. And I used my “theatre voice.”
— It’s not my voice, but I’ll wear it for awhile. —
Why won’t they move in closer to hear?

They told me to speak up in class.
When I sat next to that guy
— you know the one —
who wouldn’t stop talking, monopolizing, arguing
Even though he didn’t know. He didn’t read. His words meant nothing.
Not a thing.
Why didn’t you leave space for my thoughts?

They told me to speak up at my meetings.
The ones where half the people sitting around the table are somewhere else
And the other half are repeating each others words in different words.
And the boss is sitting back in that chair (the one with armrests),
But they’re actually at another meeting on their cell phone.
And I wondered, ironically,
Why didn’t you hear what I said?

They told me to speak up.
And for a long time I believed them.
They said I was wrong, quiet, shy, unsure.
They told me to speak up.

But one day, I realized
My voice is my voice
And telling me to speak up
Is no better than telling me
You’re not really listening.
Not to me, at least.
And must I remind you that listening isn’t always done
In a classroom, in a meeting, crowded between four walls?
And am I the only one that realizes
Hearing me doesn’t require I have a voice at all?

They told me to speak up.

But they didn’t know I was listening
And that ears to hear were stronger
Than tongues to speak.
My ears were my power
And listening — my odyssey.

My ears blessed me with stories.
Beyond my own. Beyond my tongue.

My ears granted me journeys.
Beyond my own. Beyond my toes.

My ears gave me thoughts
Beyond my own. Beyond my mind.

And (mostly) my ears taught me your heart
So when I spoke — quietly, sure —
I had been shaped (and re-shaped)
by you
and yours
and theirs, too.

They told me to speak up.
But speaking up didn’t connect me to you.
Because that power belongs to ears.

So, now,
when they tell me to speak up.

I say, (or maybe think)
Listen up.

-Megan Attermann

The first draft was scribbled in a notebook in the middle of the night. The third draft isn’t here yet. 

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