self-righteous (a slam poem

I've got a story to tell you.

Twenty-one years ago, I made my debut
into the world with hopes and dreams and worth, the same as you
but less strength and less ability set me apart
I was doomed to fail and expected to settle from the start

But growing up I found a world where I could be free
And the adrenaline was just enough to start liking the real me
and if the story had a happy ending I could finish it there
but you know there's more to it, and you think, 'why should I care?'

Honestly, the truth is, you're oblivious and unkind
when the world that you keep building is leaving me behind
and the words that leave your lips sting more than my muscles do - 
they're just strong enough to make me want to take back my debut

but I'm here now, and I'm not moving, and this is a self-righteous piece
do I care? No. Not really. Because this one is for me.

Not for the tutors who told me I would never land a lead role;
not for the peers who whispered insults when they passed me in the hall;
not for the leaders whose resentment caused more pain than life is worth;
not for the industry whose opportunities leave our talents unearthed.

I wish that people saw my heart and soul and who I truly am
that they cared less about what I couldn't do and more about what I can
I wish that people knew how hard I love the things that are good
I don't want to speak out anymore. But. I know I really should.

But people stop listening when they find out I'm a cripple
and rumour goes around, 'that bitch's name is Madeleine Little,
'so obnoxious and outspoken, won't she ever shut up?'
'and the way that she walks, I'm glad I'm not that fucked up'.

You can stand there and you can judge me when I take a timeout
and you can say that I'm lazy when I refuse to go out
but when your body is on fire and your limbs are being shredded
into slivers and your weakness leaves you wanting to faint instead

you've got more on your mind than 'do I look good in these shoes'
because the ugly ones are all this able-bodied world makes for you.


I'm not trying to be melodramatic or to exaggerate at all.
if this is shocking or unsettling, just imagine, the next time I fall
you take a step and you sit down right there, next to me
and you become a friend and learn from experiencing.

'cause down here, they will judge you for not being like them
and down here, they will expect you to fail again and again
and when you start to inch closer to the shiny, sparkly top
they'll claim that you're too needy and shove you right off.


So I'll go right home, exhausted from talking way too much, 
I'll flop across the bed, tired from standing way too much,
I'll wonder why people don't see that I'm working way too much,
but I have to keep doing it in pursuit of that sacred adrenaline rush.


the above poem was originally written and published by Madeleine Little in '...and leap', a compilation of writing pieces, in 2016.