Monologue: the public speech

Statue of a speaker
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Delivering a public speech is unlike any other experience in life. I first addressed a crowd of people, albeit a small group, maybe 30 or so, when I was only seven years old. The only thing I vividly remember about that year of my life was the way I felt while standing on a chair so I could see over the podium, the way I felt when I saw my father and mother in the front row and the other faces, some kind, others skeptical, like assorted emoticons dotting the twin rows of wooden pews. (There were no emoticons then but there are now, and the description fits.)

I remember the way I felt, the nervous excitement, that superball of energy in my core, like it was stuck there, suspended, and held by an invisible force. If I were to free it, it would bounce like crazy, everywhere, with no purpose or pattern, and I would never catch it, and neither would anyone else. But it was trapped and I had to grip it and release it in a way that I could control it, and they, the people staring at me, some empathetically and others impatiently, could catch it. They could hold it and examine it and feel the energy it kept inside itself.

It was only words and words were all I had to play catch with my audience then and now. Only words.

The following poem was written about that feeling, that inner struggle, that boiling cauldron of emotions and thoughts inside the public speaker, that calm before the storm, and then the storm itself.


A sea of faces faces me
They look at me as one
The pregnant silence like an anthem
Silences them
I should already have begun

I am stone, a statue
At a podium
More hidden than revealed
The podium a coffin, me the corpse, my lips are sealed
What have I to offer them?

I came here uninvited
By more of them than not
They came to get something, anything
But what if this silent nothing
Is really all I’ve got?

I scour my notes
For evidence of what I came to say
The words are there in black and white
As clear as mud and just as quiet
They will not give themselves away

I sense a hindrance
And I’m about to freak
The frog lodged in my throat
Requires I swallow so I don’t croak
The time has come to speak!

Who am I?
Why am I here?
My tongue is tangled
My mind is mangled
They’re the headlights; I’m the deer

But then it comes from nowhere
The still, small voice
No small act of charity
Just what I need to hear, in crystal clarity
And now I speak; I have no choice

The silence is broken
And so am I
Broken and spilled out
Everything revealed – my confidence, my doubt
I’ve never bent so low; I’ve never reached so high

They’re only words 
Heaved forth without fanfare
There is no pomp, no circumstance
No choreography, no dance
Just words, just words that fill the air

Only words? 
Yeah, right!
As if there’s such a thing
As if words could be called “only” anything
Words are where the mighty get their might

I gave my all
To the crowd that  night
Broken silence no longer broken
I had finally spoken
What I believed was right

I dedicate this poem to my dearest friend Keith Day, pastor of Chapel Creek Church in Fort Worth, Texas, whose pregnant pause before a powerful sermon inspired it. Keith has always inspired me in one way or another. A better friend I could not imagine.

Word Warrior is coming, April 4th, 2023

The poem in this post is one of more than 60 included in my first book of poetry, which is scheduled for release on April 4, 2023. Some of the poems come with stories, notes, context, explanations, or scriptural references. Some just speak for themselves and leave the reader to imagine the context or inspiration for them.

The book will be available in hardcover, paperback, and as an ebook.

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Donya Strother
Donya Strother
16 days ago

This is awesome!

Debbie Day
Debbie Day
15 days ago

Gene, once again, a GREAT expression of your experiences! I love your authenticity and the ability to communicate your thoughts to so many different people. Can’t wait each week to see what’s next.

Last edited 15 days ago by Debbie Day