Words Spoken from the Heart and Mind: Ashlynn Damers at TEDxMileHigh (Transcript)

My Father is a statue of a saint that stands outside of a Catholic church. His arms are made of porcelain. His spine crafted from the unholiest parts of church pews, he is hallow Infallible. But also the things that birds poop on Karma. See it is his burdens that weight him down.

That keep him from flying away with the wind that keep him grounded. And silent. And I guess you could call him St Mathew because I go to him for confession Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I have taken splinters out of your spine and put them in my throat. I wanted to be as sturdy as you, but all I wound up with is a mouthful of secrets that you couldn’t even tell the Pope, Father. Was it all of your confessions, of your past transgressions that have turned you into stone? Is that why you don’t come home anymore, Father? The marble has worked its way around my feet. I can’t be just another statue, Father Forgive me for I have sinned. I’ve drilled holes in your ears where the barricades used to be and put them where my halo used to sit. Father, When I speak, does it remind you of the wedding bells that you will never hear again. Is that why you don’t say anything back Father? The marble has worked its way up to my hips. It is too heavy to bear.

I can’t be just another statue. Forgive me Father, for I have sinned I have taken the hallowness of your arms and wrapped them around my tongue. When you hold me, do you feel the weight of her too? Is that why you don’t hold me anymore, Father? The marble is just too heavy to bear; I can’t be just another statue. Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.

I’ve taken all of the things that have painted you beautiful and sewed them into my smile. Do you even do that anymore? Is that why I haven’t seen the inside of a church since the day I was born? Does it remind you too much of your humanity to kneel before a crucifix resurrected in your shoulders, Father? Can you breathe now? Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned I’ve let myself become sanctioned in your image. And I’ve reached the end of my confessions. I will sit here on the outside of your church waiting for you to put this marble sinner inside of your church, Father.

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Are you happy? Please, Father, will you remember me? I am your archangel without a halo. Just the truth in this poem, Father Remember me. Will you you remember me broken and humbled? Just remember me, Father Remember me.

Now, I don’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t writing poetry. But I’ve never actually considered making a career out of it. And it wasn’t until my mother brought me down to the Mercury Cafe on Valentine’s Day. I mean of all days: Valentine’s Day! She gave me some of the most important advice I had ever heard in my life. She said, “Just sit and listen.” So I did. And I fell in love and ever since that moment in time, poetry has been my life.

Upon my first doctor’s visit as a child, I decided that I wanted to become a neurologist; needed to understand the way neurons interacted with neurons. How when certain chemicals are released from the brain like endorphins, it moves the seven muscles it takes for you to smile. How your hypothalamus generates the more than 103 degrees it takes to to flush your cheeks and make you blush.

How your pre-central cortex moves the 54 muscles it takes to stand up for something you believe in. And how this, moves the 72 muscles in my throat to speak and tell you that I love you, but of course, you already have that written in the muscle memory of your heart beat. Maybe if I’d studied archaeology, at least then I could uncover the fossils written in our memory beds and build our home there. I would build the frame of our house in your cerebral cortex, and craft the dreams of our children in your cerebellum, and in your frontal lobe, I will build a park and a tire swing; you will know our 25th wedding anniversary as your brain stem. And in your temporal lobe – the one that controls your thoughts and things – I will know that when you think of all the reasons to stay with me, that they travel faster along your neurological highways than the the 1,300 miles that separate our tongues, but maybe, maybe I should have been a foreign language major.

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Because you always fell in love the way “Te quiero, ¡te amo querida!” rolled off my tongue. But maybe if I said it in French. If I said, “Je t’aime, Mon Cherie Chou Chou,” maybe it would be for tonight, but maybe. Maybe if I said it in Arabic. If I said, “Habibti, habibi albi,” maybe it would be for the rest of our lives.

But I know that out of the more than 6,909 languages that exist on this planet, I could say, “I love you,” in a different language every day for the next 18 years, 339 days, just give me a chance. Otherwise, I will become a podiatrist. Because you have the most beautiful soles etched to the center of your gravity, and your wrinkles, they look a lot like fault lines. And you walk, you walk in earthquakes. And you kick, you kick in tsunamis, but maybe, I should have been a meteorologist tracking the storm in your lungs, and the hurricane in your voice, and some days, some days, I will address you as Katrina.

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