The Struggle of Speech

Breathe.  Breathe.  Don’t forget to breathe.
Look ahead, focus, clear your mind and speak.
You know what you want to say, exactly what you want to say,
Your thoughts are in line, everything’s fine
If you would just speak.

My gaze skims over a full hall
Of faces and eyes, especially eyes,
Eyes, all watching, all waiting,
Wondering why this awkward guy is hesitating.

And in my mind’s eye, every face that I spy
Represents another brick in this wall that I cannot climb.
In my mind sirens blare and I’m acutely aware
As all my worries and anxieties come to bear
That it’s all going wrong, mayday mayday!
Mission Abort, salvage what dignity you may
Before I sink too deep and lose it all anyway.

Look, I’ve always been shy, maybe that’s why
When forced into the public eye
Regardless of preparation and planning I
Just can’t seem to keep it together I
Stand to face my peers
But regardless of the closeness in years
Between us, I feel foolish.

No.  Pull it together, you can do this.
Focus.  Ignore these distractions
Detracting from my performance, highlighting my weakness.
Take a breath.  Eyes forward.  Speak.

I begin.  One shallow word at a time
With every sentence I dread that I’ve crossed the line
Into incomprehensibility.  Why does my ability
To communicate, enunciate, think straight
When I most need it cease to operate?
Meanwhile my heart rate accelerates
Time is ticking, the whole room waits.

About then I realise I’d forgotten to breathe
I struggle to calm myself and ease
My troubled thoughts.  A single pause
Can’t be too much to ask?

A mistake.  In this state a pause is a lifetime.
Long enough to see their faces and I’m
Back at square one.  Self-doubt grows
And reaches a peak.  My thought process slows
To a crawl as I take in the staring hall
Now losing interest and looking away.
But what do I say?  What should I say?

In a moment of clarity I recognize a choice.
It is my right to speak.  I have a voice.
This is my moment to make or break,
And nobody now watching will take
That away from me.  Now I must speak.
I have a voice.  Hear my voice.
Just let me speak!

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