On the second day of school, my AP English Literature and Composition class analyzed a poem by Clint Smith titled “Something You Should Know.” After dissecting and discussing Smith’s work, my teacher tasked the class with creating our own version of the poem by using an element of our past to reveal a quality or trait deeply embedded in our sense of self. I encourage you to take a look at the original before reading mine.
SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW
is that as a kid, I was photographed a lot.
My mom—fresh from her online class—plopped me down in front of the camera,
adorning me with luxury fabrics purchased at the thrift store.
A front yard, a botanical garden, a nature trail,
I ran in front of the searching lens, my billowing gown trailing behind me,
beaming, posing, staring—unwaveringly—into the eye of the camera.
Which left me to wonder, where did she go?
Where did that girl of unspoiled confidence run off to,
leaving behind a teenager teeming with insecurity?
She danced in front of the camera, in front of the prying eyes of grandmothers, cousins, and college friends,
only thinking of their probable admiration,
never of their potential condemnation.
Perhaps her departure is when I became afraid
of the casual thought of a classmate, of the wavering gaze of a stranger.
Perhaps that is why
I save my dancing for the bathroom mirror,
my smile for the pleasantries,
my confidence for the past,
afraid of what the lens might think.