In school we learned that there are four types of sentences
classified by their purpose:
To tell, to command, to exclaim, to ask.
I decided that I would not make demands of the world—
even my statements lacked the confidence of a real person.
Even they were a kind of asking.
There’s always one crayon that won’t fit back in the box.
I learned to take up the least amount of space,
saving room for the others.
I wanted to erase myself like a misspelled word
rubbing the paper so hard it tears
leaving nothing behind but pink crumbs.
The teacher wanted our best work for the authors’ tea,
but I knew my writing was asking too much.
So I wrote a new story, one that was a little charming,
a little funny, but not a lot of anything.
I used as few words as possible
to shorten the length of my voice against the gnawing silence.
In my retelling, I stand as tall as an exclamation mark.
I look you all in the eyes and I ask you—
no, I command you
to place your hands on my shoulders, gently, and tell me that one day
I will learn to use my voice to put out fires,
and also, to start them.
Sarah Mills is a former English teacher who now works as a freelance writer and editor. Originally from Delaware, she received her bachelor’s degree in English Education from the University of Delaware and her master’s in Literacy and TESOL from Wilmington University. Her poetry has appeared in Glass Mountain. She is currently writing a YA novel. You can visit her at sarahmillswrites.com.