Prize Poetry

I Can't

by a young woman, age 19

I’ve been patient.
I’ve been kind.
I’ve been sweet.
But I just can’t any longer.

It’s not natural for me to wear a smile every day.
I’m tired of pretending to be happy when I’m not.
It’s not natural for me to wear a smile every day.
I’m tired of pretending to be happy for the sake of their wellbeing.

I’ve been patient.
I’ve been kind.
I’ve been sweet.
But I just can’t any longer.

I feel my sanity slipping every time I put on that mask.
Every day I just slip closer and closer to the edge.
Every day I watch as I lean over the edge to look at my death.
I can feel the urge to jump every time I think about putting on that mask.

I’ve been patient.
I’ve been kind.
I’ve been sweet.
But I just can’t any longer.
I can’t wear the smile they need me to so that their worlds don’t seem so bad.
I can’t be optimistic every time their lives turn bad when I’m a pessimist at heart.
I can’t be their rock when being their rock is slowly killing me.
I can’t keep going because it’s not natural for me.

I’ve been patient.
I’ve been kind.
I’ve been sweet.
But I just can’t any longer.

It’s not me.
I can’t.