game on

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: September 07, 2018

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Submitted: September 07, 2018

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Game On

 

We play this game called life, you know,

we all just want to win.

But rules aren’t fair, we learn to take

the hurt and not give in.

 

Survive the falls, endure the shame

and fight to find our spot.

We’re stronger from the blows we take,

we’ll climb up to the top.

 

I once was small and shy, was told

that I could not succeed.

So now, I’ll tell the tale of how

I actualized my dreams.

 

In Indiana I grew up,

an outcast and alone.

I spoke no English, knew no church –

the kids, they teased, you know.

 

“That Chinese girl, she never speaks.”

“So skinny – what’s her weight?”

I sat on see-saws, catching words

but having none to say.

 

On Sundays, I would hang around

a park that’s near my house.

I’d see a boy, he always stuffed

his stones into his mouth.

 

At last, one day, I found my strength.

“Hello, hello,” I said.

He looked at me and gave me stones –

Somehow, I’d found a friend!

 

I took him home. My mom, she cried,

“Well, don’t you know he’s dumb?”

She told me I was stupid too

for friending “Down Syndrome."

 

When I was ten, my parents moved

to Boston, where I saw

as many Chinese kids as me –

I finally thought I’d won.

 

But in the classroom, when I spoke

the heads would turn to stare.

My grammar sucked, my words were wrong,

articulated weird.

 

Ms. Nason kindly gave me help.

I slowly came to see

how sounds and words can fit in line

and form a sentence. Neat.

 

But I had wrecked myself of luck

because of how I seemed:

A quiet, scrawny, slouching girl,

so no one talked to me.

 

In middle school, I wandered through

the hallways like a ghost.

I read and read and slept and read

and read and never spoke.

 

One Christmas day, my mother said,

“Our daughter never speaks.”

“We’ll sign you up to do debate,”

my father called to me.

 

That moment – everything was ice –

the heater did not click –

my face burned red – my breath was gone –

My life has gone to shit.

 

Then high school came, I joined the team.

Well, what could I now do?

I’ll try my best to make them proud.

But that did not go through.

 

I’d start my speech, drop my notes,

forgetting arguments.

I’d always be the only one

to somehow lose my head.

 

I’d mutter, stutter, through the round.

My face would blush so red

the judge would stop his notes, and he

would stare at me instead.

 

So five months in the team, and I

discovered I was done.

‘Cause after every round, I’d win

just absolutely none.

 

On Monday night, I went to mom

to tell her that I’ll leave.

I walked into the kitchen, and

I made her take a seat.

 

She said, “I know, my dear, that you

will now decide to quit.

I only wanted you to try.

You’d never make it big.”

 

Again the room was turned to ice –

the fuck did she just say?

So failure was the only thought

when people looked my way?

 

Did mom just see me as a girl

who didn’t have a brain?

Did she just see me as the boy

who swallowed stones that day?

 

The boy I saw that day had known

what I was going through.

He’d shared his stones as if to say,

“I think you feel it too.”

 

Ms. Nason, she had coached me not

because she knew I’d lose.

She coached me since she knew I could

be good at English too.

 

And father, he believed in me.

He thought that I could do

the things that other kids could do

and win some trophies too.

 

No! Mom did not know who I was

or who I could become.

I’ll prove her wrong when I’ll come home

with trophies I have won.

 

I looked at her and then I lied

right straight through my own teeth.

“I only came to ask to go

to tournaments this week.”

 

From that day on, I worked so hard,

I did not have a time

to read my books or eat a snack

before my meal at nine.

 

I wrote my files there, after school,

until the lights went out.

I’d practice speaking drills alone

with pens clamped in my mouth.

 

I’d volunteer to give my speech

despite my fears and doubts.

I’d speak and speak and speak until

my timer gave its shout.

 

And one day, Joe came up to me,

said, “Hey. You’ve stayed a lot

to practice after school, so I

just wanted you to stop.

 

You’re practicing alone, you know.

I want to join you too.

I know that Sasha wants to come,

so maybe sometime soon?”
 

And long at last, I’d finally found

a guy I called a friend.

I didn’t take him to my mom,

debated him instead.

 

Slowly, slowly, somehow I

got better over time.

I won round one, and two, and three.

Then finally round five!

 

I made it to the top eight rounds,

I told myself, “Don’t lose.”

And when I gave my speech, I made

my voice fill up the room.

 

But then I learned I’d lost the round…

I almost broke in sobs.

And then the judges clapped and said,

“Both teams did awesome jobs.”

 

The first time in forever I

just heard a compliment.

The sweat and pain that I had put

all showed me what they’re worth.

 

That Sunday night, I came back home,

award tight in my hand.

“Third speaker” was the trophy tag –

I gave it to my dad.

 

My mom walked in, all dressed in robes,

and saw the golden cup.

She didn’t even smile when she

walked over for a hug.

 

So then I stood there, and I held

my mother as she cried,

and suddenly I found myself

so lucky to have tried.

 

My mentors, family, friends and more

have pulled me down this road.

I’ve met defeat, again, again,

but now, at last, I glow.

 

The pain we’ve felt, the cuts we’ve had

are never meant to last.

We’ll fight it all, win it all,

and conquer life with laughs.

 

“I play this game, debate,” I said,

“and I just want to win.

I’ve hit some ups and downs, but I

will never say ‘give in.’”


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