once i was young


once i was young
Nokyoung Xayasane

once i was young
and didn’t know any better
i stood inside a photo
that looked out
into the world
vibrant with sound and colour

i held my tongue
and i kept quiet
i stood where they told me to stand
i sat where they asked me to sit
i didn’t make a sound
not a single sound

one day i woke up
everyone around me had left
they were busy with their own lives
there was only the sound
of the tap running
and this sound
this incessant sound
this chant

no one will remember your name

i stepped out of the photo
and the sound
it was deafening
the voices
they were calling to me
calling to each other
the colours pierced
pinpoints of light
faces distorted in anguish
hands open bleeding and hopeful

i asked the noises to stop
i wanted to turn back
to the place that was safe
where i was told how to stand
and when to speak

but there was no going back
the photo had been lost
in drawer somewhere
in a dusty attic somewhere

I turned to the colours
their painful sheen
I shielded my eyes
with my upraised hand
I held my ears shut
but that symphony of sound
that torturous beauty
could still be heard

I opened my mouth
and I spoke words quietly
nonsense words
words for the sake of speaking

suddenly, the words became
the phrases
the sentences
the paragraphs
a narrative of my life
for all lives that have been
and will ever be

I began to shout
I shouted those words
I shouted that narrative
and I’ve been shouting ever since

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