She said take two
when you’re stressed
and let me know
how that works
But I get so down
that I take three
or four or five
One time I took
the whole bottle
and I showed up at her door
in a panic-
“What’ll happen to me now?”
So she gave me gin and tonic
and she told me not to worry-
“It’ll all be over soon anyhow”
She peeled back the label-
they were candy after all!
and I haven’t worried much
Don’t ask me if they’re any good,
the words you pressed into my hand-
I can’t give you permission.
I can tell you if your package is presentable,
and in what manner it was received-
but will you still give lopsided gifts
with crooked bows
if I tell you they are?
A magazine can tell you if you’re lucrative,
and it might sing like heaven to hear it
or sting like hell-
but will you still work for free if they tell you
you’re not worth a cent?
Have you not earned the right to speak
by being alive and having something to say?
And if I tell you to write because I think you should
would you write what I wanted to hear?
You must give yourself permission
because the rest of the universe already has-
What flower hasn’t died for you to stand there wavering,
waiting for permission to timidly assert
that in some worlds it was red
and some worlds grey?
What English teacher has not at his core
some desire to give more than paper permission,
to raise up more than nervous doormats
vying for praise?
What injustice hasn’t gone on long enough
before you finally stand up
and call it what it is?
No one gives us permission for that-
you must permit yourself to be.
Only then will you have the courage
to keep on speaking
when the world won’t hear.