What does it mean to speak out, to speak up, to speak the truth? This week’s poem shows us one person’s struggle to find the right words and how that struggle can lead to something treasured being broken.

LaLa Drew lives and writes in Portland. In the spring of 2017, Drew began a poetry night that amplifies and uplifts the voices of queer and trans people of color and femme people of color called “BloodLetting.” Drew also runs a poetry-focused blog called “Tales of Black Winged Night.”


By LaLa Drew

For a long time I equated being good with being silent

I was told to hold contradictions in my mouth

speak up but stay silent

speak up when you have something to say, but don’t say the truth

don’t speak your fear

speak so you can be heard:

I have a rage inside me which has yet to find its limit

it crawls up my back, claws out my eyes and spills from my mouth

I war with everyone around me

words ripping//eyes tearing the way through my day

I dropped a bottle of perfume

My grandmother gave it to me when I was a child

it smells strong like lilac and it stained the tapestry

I can’t help the smell

and the bottle I kept safe for years is now gone

like the woman who gave it to me

and is that a sign or just a bottle or a combination of the two

a reminder from the ancestors not to forget them, telling me,

sometimes bottles break

when what’s inside needs to be let out

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2017 LaLa Drew. It appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to www.pressherald.com/tag/deep-water.

filed under: