Shane Koyczan
To This Day

[spoken word poem]

There’s so many of you.

When I was a kid, I hid my heart under the bed, because my mother said, “If you’re not careful, someday someone’s going to break it.” Take it from me: Under the bed is not a good hiding spot. I know because I’ve been shot down so many times, I get altitude sickness just from standing up for myself. But that’s what we were told. “Stand up for yourself.” And that’s hard to do if you don’t know who you are. We were expected to define ourselves at such an early age, and if we didn’t do it, others did it for us. Geek. Fatty.Slut. Fag.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a man. I wanted a registered retirement savings plan that would keep me in candy long enough to make old age sweet.

When I was a kid, I wanted to shave. Now, not so much.

When I was eight, I wanted to be a marine biologist. When I was nine, I saw the movie “Jaws,” and thought to myself, “No, thank you.”

And when I was 10, I was told that my parents left because they didn’t want me. When I was 11, I wanted to be left alone. When I was 12, I wanted to die. When I was 13, I wanted to kill a kid. When I was 14, I was asked to seriously consider a career path.

I said, “I’d like to be a writer.”

And they said, “Choose something realistic.”

So I said, “Professional wrestler.”

And they said, “Don’t be stupid.”

See, they asked me what I wanted to be, then told me what not to be.

And I wasn’t the only one. We were being told that we somehow must become what we are not, sacrificing what we are to inherit the masquerade of what we will be. I was being told to accept the identity that others will give me.

And I wondered, what made my dreams so easy to dismiss? Granted, my dreams are shy, because they’re Canadian.

My dreams are self-conscious and overly apologetic. They’re standing alone at the high school dance,and they’ve never been kissed. See, my dreams got called names too. Silly. Foolish. Impossible. But I kept dreaming. I was going to be a wrestler. I had it all figured out. I was going to be The Garbage Man.

My finishing move was going to be The Trash Compactor. My saying was going to be, “I’m taking out the trash!”

And then this guy, Duke “The Dumpster” Droese, stole my entire shtick.

I was crushed, as if by a trash compactor.

I thought to myself, “What now? Where do I turn?”


Like a boomerang, the thing I loved came back to me. One of the first lines of poetry I can remember writing was in response to a world that demanded I hate myself. From age 15 to 18, I hated myself for becoming the thing that I loathed: a bully.

When I was 19, I wrote, “I will love myself despite the ease with which I lean toward the opposite.”

Standing up for yourself doesn’t have to mean embracing violence.

When I was a kid, I traded in homework assignments for friendship, then gave each friend a late slip for never showing up on time, and in most cases, not at all. I gave myself a hall pass to get through each broken promise. And I remember this plan, born out of frustration from a kid who kept calling me “Yogi,”then pointed at my tummy and said, “Too many picnic baskets.” Turns out it’s not that hard to trick someone, and one day before class, I said, “Yeah, you can copy my homework,” and I gave him all the wrong answers that I’d written down the night before. He got his paper back expecting a near-perfect score, and couldn’t believe it when he looked across the room at me and held up a zero. I knew I didn’t have to hold up my paper of 28 out of 30, but my satisfaction was complete when he looked at me, puzzled, and I thought to myself, “Smarter than the average bear, motherfucker.”

This is who I am. This is how I stand up for myself.

When I was a kid
I used to think that pork chops and karate chops were the same thing
I thought they were both pork chops
My grandmother thought it was cute
So she let me keep doing it
Because you know, they were my favorite
It wasn’t a big deal

Until I was seven years old

And a bad fall caused me to bruise my upper arm and shoulder rather severely
I didn’t wana tell my grandmother what happened

Because I was afraid I would get in trouble
Because I was playing somewhere I shouldn’t have been

One day in gym class the teacher notices the bruise
And I was sent to the principals office
Not long after that I ended up in another small room

With a really nice lady who asked me all sorts of questions about my life at home
I saw no reason to lie

It was pretty good as fas as i was concerned
So I told her, whenever I’m sad my grandmother gives me karate chops
This lead to a full scale investigation
And I was removed from my grandparents house for three days

And then returned when they finally asked me how I got the bruises
News of this silly little story eventually spread through the school
And when the students finally caught wind of it

I earned my first name
Pork Chop

To this day I fucking hate pork chops

I’m not the only kid
Who grew up this way

Surrounded by people who used to say
That rhyme about sticks and stones

As if broken bones

Hurt more than the names we got called

And we got called them all

So we grew up believing no one
Would ever fall in love with us
That we’d be lonely forever
That we’d never meet someone
To make us feel like the sun
Was something they built for us
In their tool shed
So broken heart strings bled the blues
As we tried to empty ourselves
So we would feel nothing

Don’t tell me that hurts less than a broken bone

That an ingrown life
Is something surgeons can cut away
That there’s no way for it to metastasize
It does
She was eight years old
Our first day of grade three
When she got called ugly
We both got moved to the back of the class
So we would stop getting bombarded by spit balls

But the school halls were a battleground

We found ourselves outnumbered day after day

We used to stay inside for recess
Because outside was worse
Outside we’d have to rehearse running away
Or learn to stay still like statues giving no clues that we were there
In grade five they taped a sign to the front of her desk
That read
“Beware Of Dog”

To this day despite a loving husband
She doesn’t think she’s beautiful
Because of a birthmark
That takes up a little less than half of her face

Kids used to say she looks like a wrong answer

That someone tried to erase
But couldn’t quite get the job done
And they’ll never understand
That she’s raising two kids
Whose definition of beauty
Begins with the word mom
Because they see her heart
Before they see her skin
Because she’s only ever always been amazing
Was a broken branch
Grafted onto a different family tree

But not because his parents opted for a different destiny
He was three when he became a mixed drink
Of one part left alone
And two parts tragedy
Started therapy in 8th grade
Had a personality made up of tests and pills
Lived like the uphills were mountains
And the downhills were cliffs

Four fifths suicidal
A tidal wave of anti depressants
And an adolescence of being called popper
One part because of the pills
And ninety nine parts because of the cruelty
He tried to kill himself in grade ten
When a kid who could still go home to mom and dad
Had the audacity to tell him “get over it”
As if depression is something that can be remedied
By any of the contents found in a first aid kit

To this day he is a stick of TNT lift from both ends
Could describe you in detail the way the sky bends
In the moments before it’s about to fall
And despite an army of friends

Who all call him an inspiration
He remains a conversation piece between people
Who can’t understand
That sometimes becoming drug free
Has less to do with addiction
And more to do with sanity
We weren’t the only kids who grew up this way
To this day kids are still being called names
The classics were
“Hey stupid”

“Hey spaz”
Seems like every school has an arsenal of names
Getting updated every year
And if a kid breaks in a school
And no one around chooses to hear
Do they make a sound?
Are they just the background noise
Of a soundtrack stuck on repeat
When people say things like
Kids can be cruel?
Every school was a big top circus tent
And the pecking order went
From acrobats to lion tamers
From clowns to carnies

All of these were miles ahead of who we were
We were freaks
Lobster claw boys and bearded ladies
Juggling depression and loneliness playing solitaire spin the bottle
Trying to kiss the wounded parts of ourselves and heal
But at night
While the others slept
We kept walking the tightrope
It was practice
And yeah
Some of us fell
But I wanna tell them
That all of this
Is just debris
Leftover when we finally decide to smash all the things we thought

We used to be
And if you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself
Get a better mirror
Look a little closer
Stare a little longer
Because there’s something inside you

That made you keep trying

Despite everyone who told you to quit
You built a cast around your broken heart
And signed it yourself
You signed it
“They were wrong”
Because maybe you didn’t belong to a group or a click
Maybe they decided to pick you last for basketball or everything
Maybe you used to bring bruises and broken teeth
To show and tell but never told
Because how can you hold your ground
If everyone around you wants to better you beneath it
You have to believe that they were wrong
They have to be wrong
Why else we’d still be here?
We grew up learning to cheer on the underdog
Because we see ourselves in them
We stem from a root planted in the belief
That we are not what we were called
We are not abandoned cars stalled out and Sitting empty on some highway
And if in some way we are
Don’t worry
We only got out to walk and get gas
We are graduating members from the class of
we made it
Not the faded echoes of voices crying out
Names will never hurt me
Of course
They did
But our lives will only ever always
Continue to be
A balancing act
That has less to do with pain
And more to do with beauty

Traduzione italiana

HERE the Italian version


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