Meredith Graham shared this moving spoken word poem at AFABC's Hats Off! gala in 2016. The audience was so captivated that we wanted to share it with you too.
Life is a mystery. No, it’s really just misery which loves company but I have no one to accompany me. I wish you could see and were privy to the litany and cacophony of voices that abound in surround sound and won’t rest in my head. These intense immense feelings of dread that say I should be dead feed through a reel wheel of blurred stills that stalls in the film feeder–a deep well, in the confines of my mind. Please come find me.
Staff member I’m hearing voices, loud noises, I’m losing focus, and an internal locus of control with this ruckus in my head–go to bed. Staff member I think people are watching me, stalking me, marching to come and get me–go to bed.
Wish someone could sit and sing with me, rock-a-bye, baby… Someone to rub my back while I slip into a slumber. Like a mother. Which I know you are not and I’ve been taught I ought not to get attached. You’re not the person who will automatically accept the charges and press 1 when I call your number collect to connect.
I am a reject. A manufacturer’s defect. Subject to discontent because my life is irrelevant. I’ve been discarded and regarded as less than, a less deserving human, because I’m abhorrently difficult and different. Because my displacement runs the gamut. I’ve been forfeited. Damnit.
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on me. I want someone to come to parent-teacher night, someone who squeals in utter delight at the sight of my grades, and showers love in embraces and accolades. Someone to highlight my highs instead of the worries and woes of my lows.
In love is where hope grows.
I want someone to defend me with all their might not offend me with all their fight. With time and with gifts instead of with their poisoned words and the width of their heavy fists. The punches land and the words don’t miss. Leaving marks on my arm and scars on my heart. My brain is constantly being torn apart. From trying to survive and revive the pulse inside that I was born with. And giving in to the darkness.
But today for no reason—and all the reasons—I feel like a mistake. That if I were to take my own life the ripples and waves of sorrow would last maybe only until a borrowed tomorrow. Why am I here? This existential question that permeates my mind and steals all my time.
But I’ve been told there’s this spark that exists amidst the dark; this fire in my eyes that is endlessly wise and maybe if I hold on, walk boldly, or at this point even meekly on, then I am #winning. I have not yet sold my soul but the soles of my shoes are old and worn out from trying to stand by my own side bide my own time. I seem to have no rhyme or reason and I’m tired of the sun hiding for all the seasons. My life is rife with strife and the knife marks on my body are where I reroute the disguised geysers of my shame and pain.
Government appointed and holy anointed person in my life: I know you don’t hit and I know you don’t hurt but complacent apathy cannot be common. It is pathetic and has no place here. I’m just a mere kid in care and I know that I scare people while I dare them to love me. I know that it’s quite the task to look beneath my mask. I know that I ask you to accept my layers of illusion and layers of confusion. I know that I push and I test but you must know that I’m showing my best. Rest on successes being fleeting and believe that it may not be during a six adult against me meeting. Or when I’m having waking nightmares of my childhood beatings. Or when my brain is hungry ‘cause I haven’t eaten in days because I hate myself in so many ways. When I inspect the specimen in the mirror it’s typically met with fear and horror and disgrace–of course no one could love this face. Or when I’m wallowing, beneath the weeping willow, my hollow heart being swallowed by my inability to love my own self that I am wary of anyone else’s attempts.
I know that I’m eighteen so it’s expected of me to have all the pieces of my life and parts of my heart together. But I’m tethered, grounded, and surrounded only by fraying strings of duties and obligations always feeling like a burden. An impossible imposition.
I get it. I get it. Pretty soon I’ll be on my own and then it’s my sole responsibility to take care of me, alone, and what capacity for that do I have? But you have to understand that since I was birthed from my birth mother’s womb I have been standing on my own. I don’t mean to fill the room with doom and gloom but it’s safe to assume that my beginning days were void of love. I have fragments of tainted memories of being hit or being left alone. Of wishing for broken bones instead of angry tones and the degrading and shaming insults of a parental unit.
If you’ve committed treason by stepping into my life it is for a reason. Please let it be a season of love. Not stringent lists of check marks and targets. Dear whatever title you don to greet the morn: teach me to make a meal, yes, but love me enough to believe that I can make that meal and love me enough so that I begin to believe that I am worthy of that meal.
And when you are absolutely exasperated and have to ask yourself, “What am I going to do with you?”
Trust that love is the question and love is the answer.
Love me in your choice of tone of voice. With phone call check ins, or drop ins. Surprise texts that tell me I’m the best. By celebrating my successes without comparison or measure because they matter to me.
Every beautifully delicate, intricate piece of love you give me is a treasure and evidence for my mind to find release to succumb to the belief and relief that perhaps someone believes I can. Someone who has taken my hand—figuratively—and stands with me–literally—to read me my rights and lead me in love.
Meredith Graham holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Child and Youth Care Counselling from Douglas College. She is a spoken-word artist, a proud young person from government care, a youth worker, and an advocate for systems change, especially inside our child welfare system. She is honoured to be a member of the Vancouver Foundation's Youth Advisory Circle and an adviser with the Vancouver Foundation’s Fostering Change Initiative. She journeys with five mental illnesses and weaves those stories into her mental health and spoken-word workshops, keynote presentations, and consulting. Meredith is a recipient of the 2016 Courage to Come Back Award.