One thing that has always struck me in listening to great women speak, is that may of them only learned to do so with memorization.  It’s astonishing really to see their ability to recall words they’ve learned before.  And if you listen to some of these women, some of the greatest communicators of our time,  they speak with wisdom in them.  They seem to speak in perfectly timed cadences.  Their choice of words, their timing, it all seems to naturally just flow.

For many of us, poetry is something that speaks quietly to us in the pages of books, through the flipping of a magazine but rarely do we recite it out loud. Listening to Maya Angelou talk about regaining her voice speaking poetry, made me think of a poem I was told to memorize when I was younger. Then, a student, I didn’t see the need for it- after all, saying the words was the same as reading them. They were words on a page then in my mouth.

And so a little me would huff and puff then begin repeating, “One wants a teller in a time like this.”


“One wants a teller in a time like this.”

“Leslie-Ann. Like you have some life within you, please. Start again.”

“One wants a teller in a time like this.”

I hated these sessions with my mother. By the time we were finished, I had mangled whatever poem she gave me and was even more restless than before. But “one last time before bed,” she would say and so I would recite the new words in my mouth before telling her “Goodnight.”

Though I didn’t see it at the time, there is something truly inexplicable that happens when we speak words we have come to know. It’s why it’s so important that the words we internalize about ourselves and our future be the right ones. Often we find ourselves struggling, it is because the words we’ve told ourselves say that it’d be impossible for us to be more than where we find ourselves now. Perhaps this is why Maya Angelou says that “words are things.” Because the words we hold between our teeth, the ones we let lay on top of our tongues are the foundation for creating a reality that permeates our views, our outlook, our belief in ourselves.

When I finally had the rhythm right and had found a distinct tone of expression, I finally said out loud the poem my mother had planted in me. And with love for those words from the legendary Ms. Gwendolyn Brooks and their power to change, I wanted to share them with you.

Today, I hope you will do more than read them, I hope you will say and live them out loud.

One wants a teller in a time like this

One wants a teller in a time like this

One’s not a man, one’s not a woman grown
To bear enormous business all alone.

One cannot walk this winding street with pride
Straight-shouldered, tranquil-eyed,
Knowing one knows for sure the way back home.
One wonders if one has a home.

One is not certain if or why or how.
One wants a Teller now:

Put on your rubbers and you won’t catch a cold
Here’s hell, there’s heaven. Go to Sunday School
Be patient, time brings all good things–(and cool
Stong balm to calm the burning at the brain?)
Love’s true, and triumphs; and God’s actual.

-Gwendolyn Brooks

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  • Elizabeth

    This is beautiful!!