Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Kelly Tsai - "The Divided Soul" (Spoken Word)

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The piece that I wrote tonight

was inspired from so many of the amazing

conversations with - that I had with the staffers

from Search for Common Ground,

and I don't know about you, but when I hear

about all of these amazing women

all around the world

taking such huge risks, being so brave,

being so visionary,

and then I think about the kinds of actions and risks that we can take here.

I realize sometimes I might be falling a little bit short,

and sometimes it can be a little bit of a circuitous road

to finding common ground. So, this poem

is a little bit about that.

It's called, "The Divided Soul."

I am currently in an argument with myself

actually, all of my selves.

Welcome to the coffeeshop of my soul

where every person whom I have ever been sits,

waiting, glaring, waiting for something to happen.

The twenty-four year old activist me

with her hoop earrings and newly inked tattoos

feels that churn in the pit of her stomach,

that hardened knot soured by

all those who told her that her voice didnt matter.

She wants to take that knot and fling it

Into the face of whoever disagrees with her.

She crosses her fists across her chest, over a t-shirt

that reads, “If youre not angry, youre not paying attention.”

While the thirty-seven year old spiritualist me

sips green tea from a paper cup

In her uniform of yoga clothes and no makeup.

She doesnt cry or scream or fight in public

or even private anymore - because some years,

some losses took all of that out of her.

She inhales deep, eyes the bold letters on that t-shirt

and whispers, “Anger is a secondary emotion.

what youre feeling is pain. All people suffer

whether they speak it or not.”

While at the kidstable, the five year old curious me

clutches her crayons and sips her orange juice.

She dives straight into the glossy black and white photos

in her kidsbiography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On these pages, she sees this great man speak.

Beside her waits an illustrated book of Nelson Mandela,

his huge smile beaming from its cover, his hands outstretched

in a human chain around the green earth beneath a rainbow sky.

This child is watched by the nineteen year old suspicious me.

She touches her carved wooden necklace on her chest,

the one that she bought in Johannesburg

after sitting with anti-Apartheid activists on a grassy lawn.

They called themselves theLost Generation,”

unsure how to survive after conflict

in times of peace.

She scribbles maniacally in her notebook

looking around the cafe, wondering,

"Who knows what I know now?"

Breezing past her is the thirty-four year old professional artist me.

She throws down her leather bag, kicks off her heels, and thumb types,

Why say, ‘Fight The Man?’

when The Man funds every arts program, political conference,

and all the sandwiches anyway?

Wouldn't it make more sense to just say,

'Invite the Man'?

Less sexy...but less disingenuous?”

She gets a text from a friend:

"We knew how to protest under Bush,

so we'll know how to protest under Trump."

She starts,

"He went from reality star to President.

We went from protest to protest.

Tweet me all you want,

but don't we need new tactics?"

Pause. She decides not to send.

The twenty-four year old activist me sees her

and scoffs, “Sell-out.”

The thirty-four year old professional artist me

looks up from her phone and says, “Excuse me?”

The nineteen-year old suspicious me says,

Neither of you are even scratching

the surface at all.”

The thirty-seven year old spiritualist me says,

Oh honey, if you only knew.”

The five year old curious me starts crying.

The floodgates go wide open:

Oh, you think you got all the answers, dont you?”

It's because of people like you that things are so messed up.”

You know, none of you are even worth talking to anyway.”

You wanna live my life for me. Well then, go right ahead!”

The doors of the coffeeshop fly open.

In walks

the forty-one year old self-conscious me

that I am today.

Shes gone back to wearing her hoodies and sneakers and hoop earrings,

because after a decade of trying,

she realizes that there are no real adults on planet earth anyway,

no supreme wisdom passed down,

no absolute truths revealed -

She holds up both her hands,

Ladies, ladies, ladies, please,

everybody, take a breath.”

She smiles,

hoping this will buy her time.

How does she say this?

That every morning, she looks in the mirror

and wonders if all the people that she've been - shes been

can be seen on her skin.

How many more people will she become?

The saying goes that

if youre a conservative at 20, you have no heart;

if youre a liberal at 40, you have no head.

She doesnt know about that,

but she can feel her heart in her chest

and her head on her shoulders and she knows

that she doesnt want to be a divided soul.

Who doesnt have a sense of disbelief

about their own life?

Shes seen

the dominatrix artist

turned to conservative mom.

She's seen the the gang leader

transformed to social worker.

She's seen the finance executive,

now meditation guru.

The homophobic father who came out as gay,

the radical who became conservative,

the billionaire who became socialist,

the rich to the poor,

the poor to the ri - the poor to the rich,

the healthy to the sick,

the weak to the strong,

the adversary to the friend

the stranger to the lover

back to the stranger again.

Who exactly is fighting with whom

and why?

When battles so viciously pursued end,

and victory still cedes no answers,

when relationships are deemed as futile

and disposable as a buttons click,

when voices are heard because theyre loudest,

when solutions are chosen because theyre fastest,

how can we live

anonymous to our own hearts,

unable to shout the dead back to life.

We cannot batter the world into agreement with itself,

fragmenting peace with our shut eyes, ears, and souls.

In the coffeeshop,

the forty-one year old self-conscious me

feels her palms sweat.

She looks each self in the eye

knowing that each of them

are as real and relevant

as she is today,

She clasps her hands together

and says, “Okay.

Looks like weve got a lot of work to do.

Who wants to start?”

Thank you all so much. [Applause]

The Description of Kelly Tsai - "The Divided Soul" (Spoken Word)