The following poem, written by Andrew Nguyen, is the runner-up of the Creative Writing category of the “Tell Your Story” student contest conducted by UC Santa Barbara’s Division of Humanities and Fine Arts for Give Day 2018.
Train of Thought
By Andrew Nguyen
I have a big mouth and I talk a lot.
I just run off with an idea, and I can’t seem to stop.
It’s like in movies, when a damsel’s tied to train tracks,
And the train is coming, and it’s coming real fast,
And the train keeps blowing its horn, as if the girl could move,
As if she’s just taking her time, tying her shoe.
And the conductor is slamming onto the brakes,
But the train keeps going and it’s all too…late.
And I imagine that’s how my sister feels,
About the train in my thought, always running and never still,
“Do you ever shut up?” she says,
Rhetorical question, trying to put my train of thought to rest,
And yet I run, and I run with my idea,
Post and tweet, take over social media,
Because I love talking about this and that and thingamabobs,
Because I have a big mouth and I talk a lot.
But I think it’s natural, it’s what we’re supposed to do,
To say and express our minds, to people outside our inside few,
And it doesn’t just have to be someone saying something,
The best thing about freedom of expression, is that it’s bound to nothing.
I have a friend that acts, and I have a friend that dances,
And the beauty in it all, is that expression’s an open canvas,
An open canvas, that can have a lasting effect,
Insight into the inner human experience, that makes people self-reflect,
An open canvas, that knows no time and never will,
Because it’s painted in our culture, and lives within how people feel.
To know no time and never will, humanity’s endless applause,
For creativity is immortal and ongoing, a train of thought never lost.
I like to talk, but it’s not the only medium,
Opposition to that idea needs to be a little more lenient,
A little more lenient, on the definition of creativity,
Because I talk a lot, but I also write poetry.
It’s there in English, that people ask me what my plans are,
With my future and my education, and my poetic heart,
I hear them cry, “What are you supposed to do with an English degree?”
And a love-drunken grin slips, when I answer “I want to teach.”
“Oh, so you mean like grammar in elementary school or maybe middle?”
“I mean, yeah maybe, but when I say ‘teach,’ it doesn’t have to be all that little,”
For teaching youth is powerful, sharpening future minds into a sharper blade,
But more so that we are human beings that talk, and teach everyday,
We teach each other about everything, things big and small,
About how our days went, or our opinions on civil law,
We teach each other how to be great, larger than what we comprehend,
How to be humble and courageous, and how to pursue what we dreamt,
Teaching is infinite, and there’s a universe beyond what we learn in a desk,
And we eat a little bit more of that universe, every time we begin to express,
How we feel and the things on our mind, or the problems we fought,
When we open our mouths, move our bodies, and drive our train of thought.
For the problems of hate and injustice, Syrian children who lost their childhood,
And the families affected by mass shootings, from Las Vegas to Sandy Hook,
To the people oppressed for the way they were born, under a glass ceiling,
Or aside a nation’s racists history, raised fearing unjust policing.
I’m only eighteen, and I live in the safest city of the U.S,
But people are talking and teaching, and I’m ignorant a little less,
The beauty and power in English, and the things that we say,
The ways we can say it, and how differently it’ll resonate,
With different people, and how it can initiate action and change their minds,
How it’s ingrained in literature forever, forever transcending time,
Like the actions of Atticus, and his battles against society,
That’ll live immortally, like “comparing thee to a Summer’s day.”
The world needs people like that, to document history like the next Mark Twain,
So people down the line can learn, maybe from a book with my name,
To be a contributor of literature, and an author of the problems we fought,
Because after all, I have a big mouth and I talk a lot.
Life in Humanities and Fine Arts aims to tell a compelling story of Creativity, Imagination and Empathy - and Nguyen weaves such a story out of an exploration of life and identity through words.
Nguyen is a UCSB Freshman, majoring in English.