Elaine Emmerich

A Word

“I too am not a bit tamed…..I too am untranslatable”

-Walt Whitman


Teachers always say

Ask yourself: in one word, what are you?

I think: What am I? Or who am I? How am I? Or why?

I ask myself everything in an effort to achieve and the questions ask me back

Echoing in my brain like a shout in a cluttered alley

Do I really want to drag my pen across the page and create myself out of synthetic black liquid?

Am I really so unimportant that I pop out of people’s brains to be put into a word?

Get pressed into six letters and seven or eight if I’m lucky?

If not, should I be worried whether I have friends who know me well enough?

Or should I be thrilled that I’m so complex

So interesting.

We get asked, is everybody done? Because we have to Move On.

A chorus of no

We get rewarded 30 more seconds to define our whole lives

Into an inch

On a piece of dead tree

Whatever word we choose, the effort seems futile

People around me, they write down “versatile” and “varying” to avoid the void words provide

I tap my pen on my desk and bite my lip

Fearing my personality gets chopped off on all edges, whatever word I choose

Times up!

Sure, I say. Sure, I’m done

I look down at my paper, I see I was doodling the moon and sun

A picture’s worth a thousand words


Copyright © 2002-2011 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose © 2002-2011 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission.