FALMOUTH – In the interest of optimism, it is important to be reminded who actually owns the future.
Until I saw Helena Marschall, 13, perform her poem, “A Word” at a vigil Wednesday on Falmouth Village Green for the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, I was feeling more cynical and sad about the future of America than I have in my entire life.
I had recently looked it up and found that Orlando marked 998 mass shootings in America since the Sandy Hook shooting in which 20 first graders, as well as six adults, were massacred in December, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut.
Mass shootings are always described as being like war zones.
So that is almost 1,000 war zones in America in less than four years. Frankly, I was not feeling inspired by another vigil.
But I wandered over and while adults gave speeches and sang songs that were comforting on some level, it was this 13-year-old girl reciting her original poem with the passion of a 1960s civil rights leader that caught my attention.
Afterward, I reached Helena by phone and discovered her poem was actually a winning poem in a recent Lawrence School slam poetry contest. Helena is in eighth grade.
“The organizer of the event emailed my English teacher in school looking for someone to speak at the event,” said Helena.
The event was organized by No Place For Hate, a Falmouth community organization combating bias and promoting respect for all people.
Helena said her poem is “about the power of words, and freedom of speech.”
“I talk a lot in school,” she explained. “Words are important to me.”
Her poem was moving, and her performance was mesmerizing. She said that afterwards, people came up to her and thanked her. Some were crying, she said.
I totally understand.
I started recording this video halfway through her performance. Here is Helena’s complete poem:
by Helena Marschall
What is a word?
What’s in a word?
If you look in the book Filled with words.
Ms.Webster will tell you.
Or combination of sounds
With a meaning
That is spoken
Is that all?
Isn’t a word,
Isn’t it so much more?
Worth so much more?
What can a word do?
What can a word change?
As I sit and listen a slight drip, drip, drip starts.
A word just coming out,
Here and there,
Like a tap someone forgot to turn off
maybe one that doesn’t turn off.
In a bathroom with a window
A window looking out on a field of flowers
Still wet with morning dew.
That word can do so much bad.
That little drip from within me could change
Of society thinks about themselves
About each other
and the world that they live in.
That drip can burrow deep inside their souls
And can do so much good.
Can change people forever
Can change how people live their lives
How they walk the path
And how they interact
With each other.
Or not, but at least that drip is out there,
Where it has the chance
The chance to turn slowly into a stream
Words like facade
Can join that stream
can get the chance to turn into a roaring river of thought
Can Join the ocean of ideas
Those Ideas can become a tsunami
But they can
they have the chance
To bring about change
That’s what counts.
And maybe small change in one person is just as important.
Maybe if I affect one of you tonight
We all have the chance
That our drip drip becomes a tsunami
In this country we like to call the us of a
We all have the chance and no one can stop us
We talk and chat
We have the chance to make a harangue.
We have the chance we should
each and every one of us should
Count ourselves lucky that we have this chance
Because others don’t
They get Squashed like
Irrelevant, but annoying flies
Buzzing around our heads
When we squish those flies
When we extinguish that flame
We set the whole food web out of balance.
A word released into that vast ocean
Can cause innocent
to be punctured with bullet holes
that no word of sorry can ever undo.
But you see,
Squishing those flies
It Won’t work
Because every time
Every time you try to dam the river
Every time hundreds of new cracks will appear
Because no one no one can can stop that drop of water from having a chance.
No one can stop Ideas.