by thea marie
Written for SLAM Final Round 2: Boundaries
“Color inside the lines, children.
Make your work nice and neat.”
But to her eyes, edges blurred.
The leaves of her trees were real
Natural colors, blended tones
Of greens and yellows, blues and browns.
For her, squares had flat places and depth. Circles were balls.
And the light went clear ‘round each shape,
Not just in places that eyes could see.
“Your work is not good.” She was told.
You are careless, and you are messy.
You have not listened. You must do better.”
In shame, she hid away what she had done,
And did not speak aloud of how she saw.
She only knew that she had gone
Outside the lines, which was not right.
“Keep inside the line, children,
Walk one head behind the other.”
But being small, she could not see
Past the back in front of her.
She strayed a bit to the left
To see the puppets in the case.
To the right was the fountain,
Green-copper turtles spouting water way up high.
“Get back in line.” She was told.
“You never want to listen.”
That was untrue; just could not see
From her place of relegation.
When she walked beside her friend,
To speak together as people do,
She was told, “Your head is hard.”
And shamed, she fell back into line,
Wanting earnestly to be called "good".
“You are a child.” she was told.
“And children do not choose.”
Then what do children do? She wondered.
"Close their mouths, and listen, and follow,
And they do as they are told."
So obediently, she closed her mouth
And kept how she saw things to herself.
She colored in places that were allowed,
And walked where she was told to go.
Thinking to herself in all that time
That she was being very good.
Then a new one came along.
In a new time in my life.
And right after that very first essay paper
It was me, to whom she pointed.
“You are bright.” She said to me. “But sadly, tightly closed.
Too young and smart to hold yourself
so far inside the lines.”
Dressed in reds, and oranges, and teals,
Her twisted hair like ropey snakes;
Wise eyes of onyx, black and shiny
Rife with bright words, ideas, and challenges
That hadn’t ever been heard before.
She spoke to me of books, and authors,
And of places I had never been.
Brought pictures, and objects, and talked to us
From the middle of a circle in the grass.
“There are no lines.” She said to me.
Ideas have no hard edges.
The world is ours to see, and know.
Our eyes, our hands, our mouths have reason.”
“Think.” She told me. “Do not parrot.
There is life outside the box
There is no wrong in being you.
There is no wrong in saying who you are.”
Drawing myself up, looking again,
I could see the trees once more.
The colors and the tones there still
That once I noticed so automatically.
I strayed away to touch, to know.
And then I began to write
Of the squares with flat places and depth,
Of how circles were balls
With light clear ‘round,
And not just in the places where eyes could see.
I wrote of blurred edges, of the things I saw
And I wrote of them in the manner they were seen.
“Your work is now good,” She said to me.
“It is freely given from your own heart.
Let no one tell you how to think.
Let no one keep you inside the lines.”
He runs to me now at the end of his day
A little boy with his picture.
A masterpiece of hues, and tones,
All mixed together, and straying.
“Teacher said it was a mess.” He moaned, looking up to me.
“Said I was hardheaded and did not care. But this is how I wanted it.”
I smile at him, and pat his head.
And tell him it is beautiful.
I explain to him that it is fine with me
If he chooses to color
Outside his lines.