The Age Of The Witness [potm]

Shane Koyczan
Spoken Word

Poem of the Month

Shane Koyczan, award winning poet, author and performer, reciting his poem “The Age Of The Witness”.

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The Age Of The Witness

I remember the volunteers
the way they would raise their arms like trees refusing to be felled

their hands splayed open and ready to help
ready to give a destiny to their bones
and a purpose to their sweat

as children
we sat at our desks and watched in quiet admiration
we witnessed them grease the gears of progress
with their own conviction 

and from their labour was born a simple but necessary truth

the truth doesn’t wear make up

it’s not trying to be pretty

it is our own embarrassment

that is the blanket

we throw on top of the truth

thinking that if we can cover it up

it will somehow stop existing

the truth is something we prefer not to see or hear

because the truth is about us

and we are terrified to feel it

we believe it will be unbearably upsetting

to learn the truth

to be forced to live with it

like some terrible cell mate

on a stretch of life

with no possibility of parole

no hope

of ever escaping the truth

so we shout at each other
birthing an ocean of noise
in which we attempt to drown the truth

and in the moments when the world is still
when a hush falls over us like a morning frost
when it finally feels as though we are ready to speak the truth

we offer silence instead

so frightened of what we might say

that we lay down in our coffins

and we are buried with the truth

having never shared it with anyone

the truth is

we are sick of the lies

the evening news was the spoon they used

to feed us their poison

television poured sugar into our minds

and free thought decayed

like the teeth we once used to eat the rich

but through the red and blue candy coated

police light tinted

3D glasses they gave us

so we could stare endlessly
into the sweetness they were offering

we witnessed

we witnessed tumours of greed
blossom from behind their eyes
like dark and thickening cataracts

we witnessed a sickness of want

become a fever in their appetite

they fed a pointless hunger

so often

they slowly stopped tasting the blood on their tongues

if we turned the volume of our hearts to silent

and gave them everything

they would hate us for having died for them

because our sacrifice would only mean

we could no longer give them more

we have witnessed

can we please evolve now?

we have witnessed those who held their children
like grudges
passing on their prejudice
so that their bloodline
could carry their hate forward

we have witnessed fear

we hold onto it like a ticket for a train
that is moving full steam ahead
toward a bridge that remains unfinished
because we could not learn to work together

can we please evolve now?
can we please stop bearing witness to our inaction?
can we please stop waiting?

we have been waiting 
for someone to step bravely into our future
and turn us into their past

waiting for the last witness among us
to cross the border into our next frontier
to demonstrate the simple but necessary truth
that the age of the witness is over

we need a volunteer.