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If you knew my story: Youth Speaks

Based in the Mission District, Youth Speaks has been championing the Bay Area’s young writers for more than twenty years. We asked their poets to respond to the opening song of BRIGHT STAR, “If You Knew My Story”—to start with that line and tell their own stories from there. We’re proud to share two original poems with you here.

Leticia Guzman

If you knew my story
You would hold it close
Try to write an ending
You would try to wipe the smudges off
Notice the ink leaking like eyeliner
Like the roof
Like my heart
Like all I know how to do is leak,
too afraid to flood so
drown myself in cliché water metaphors
If you knew my story
You would help me float
Try to save me
You would try to understand my obsession
with drowning
Maybe this is how to
Block out the sad girl who writes in blue
Block out the sad girl
Block out the sad
Block
Like stitches
Like surviving
Like all I really do is survive
If you knew my story you would call me
survivor
Born spilling insides like emotions
Sad girl wears a crop top now
Smiles
Becomes just girl
You would try to say scars are beautiful
Maybe confidence is just convincing
And loving
And flowing
And something taught to hold
Held close
To be able to write an ending
Learn to read through the smudges and leaks
Not all stories survive floods
If you knew my story, you could survive the
flood.

  Samuel Getachew and Leticia Guzman

Samuel Getachew

If you knew my story
You would wonder how I managed
to fit so many
laughs
tears
sunsets
poems
into just fifteen years.
You would not know where to start
would not know if you were finished
would not be able to draw the lines
between chapters
or sections
or volumes,
would not be able to tell the difference
between biographies
and obituaries.
They have all blurred into one.
You would not think to fear this black child
because you would know
That he is just learning not to fear himself.
You would not know where one
part of me ends
and the next begins.
But you would not mind.
Because you would know
that I am just learning that myself.
If you knew my story,
You would gaze at all that I have seen in awe
wonder how one child could see so much pain
and so much joy
and so much humanity
and still love a world that spends every minute
of every day
trying to purge itself of him.
Or perhaps
you would recognize it.
Greet it like an old friend
Because you have seen my story
before.

Join us for Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's BRIGHT STAR, November 28-December 17 at the Curran.