I Know You: An Open Letter to Young Artists

 In Poems

I know you.

You were the quiet kid,
the first in your grade
to get braces
and that mouthful of metal
went and stole your voice.
Writing was a rescue mission
to steal back your tongue
from silence.

You were the weird kid,
the geek, the nerd.
The world looked at you
and saw Clark Kent,
never Superman,
but super heroes lived
in the pages of your sketch pad,
bright capes and costumes
bursting from the tip of your pen.

Or maybe,
you were the loud kid,
the class clown.
Born under a bad sign,
you were a constellation taking up
too much space.
You laughed too hard,
told too many jokes,
always acting
out.
You got sent to the principal’s office
a lot,
didn’t you?

You see, I know you.

You watched the popular ones,
the beautiful faces
always lit with easy smiles,
trying to learn their secret,
the magic trick
for being normal.

You squeezed into their clothes,
copied their haircuts,
tried to laugh like they laughed.

You learned to hold it in.
Your voice.
Your truth.
You swallowed them whole,
bit back your tongue
to be more like them,
to fit in,
to not be so different.

But I know you.

You are different.

You knew that
the first time you picked up
a pen,
a guitar,
a paintbrush.

You felt it
the first time you sang
the first time you danced
the first time the curtain rose
and you stepped out on stage.

For the first time, you were free.
For the first time, the world saw the real you.

But every time adults asked you,
“What do you want to be
when you grow up?”,
you felt a lump grow
in the back of your throat.
You learned the real answer
made adults uneasy.
Much safer to say
doctor or lawyer
because every time
you found your spine,
summoned the courage to speak
and declared
“I am an artist”

You were beset with talk
of back up plans
and Option B’s.
Fine as a hobby,
they would say,
but not a career.
Be sensible,
they said.
Be practical,
they said.

But I know you.

Your soul was never
meant to be sold,
to the lifeless job,
the loveless marriage,
the slow suicide.

You were born for so much more.

I’ve seen too much
starlight in your eyes,
too much magic in your fingertips.

You were meant to work miracles
and to shine with the electricity of your dreams.

Believe me, I know you.
Because I am you.
And you are me.

We are artists,
born to bring beauty into an ugly world.
We’ve got work to do.

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