Speech by Jerry Durick

The problem with public speaking is the public part,
That group there to observe, listen, absorb your words;
You know them well, have played that part many times,
You feel their discomfort with their passive role; at first
They feel a moment of empathy, imagine themselves
Alone up there about to speak, then they move on to
Discover the nature of the speaker, you this time, and
They watch for nervous gestures, any break in your voice,
Before they begin to weigh what you have to say; you
Know their part, and now at the lectern, podium, pulpit
On stage you begin your part, the one you watched often
Enough that you can play both parts out in your head,
Speaker and the spoken to; you adjust the mike and then
Search their faces, search the silence you need to fill and
Begin; the things that sounded so good in your head mock
You, form an echo, play out in a voice you don’t know,
The voice of the stranger you have become, the words
Bounce around, lose focus; the other you sits in the audience,
Embarrassed to think he knows the speaker, met him once
In passing in the hall outside the auditorium on his way
To hear yet another speaker speak.

J. K. Durick is a writing teacher at the Community College of Vermont and an online writing tutor. His recent poems have appeared in Social Justice Poetry, Tuck Magazine, Yellow Chair ReviewSynchronized Chaos, and Haikuniverse.


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