Public Speaking

by Michael Bell, age 14 from the UK

You stand at the front of the crowd,
Heart pounding, palms sweating and brain thinking of all the things that could happen.

You begin, and the first couple of words go well.
Then the whole paragraph,
And eventually the page.

But then, all of a sudden,
Like a beast freed from its cage,
It pounces,
Rright - nnnext

A deathly silence falls over the room
And you stand there naked and exposed,
There are hundreds of eyes locked on to you.
You can feel them, every one of them burning you.

You continue, knowing that now
Every person in the room thinks that you are a freak,
And everyone is listening, to not what you say,
But what you don't.

You ask yourself,
"Why have I spent all these years banging my head again a brick wall for nothing?"
It's not fair, why me?

But still, you trudge on,
Feeling inadequate
And wanting it to be over,
You just keep going.

"Take a deep breath,
Just speak slowly,"
After all, thatís what everyone tells you to do isn't it?
But why doesn't it work?

You finally finish your words,
And you are relieved,
A tremendous roar takes over the room
And you feel great.

added with permission of the poet, July 11, 2002