Nathan Say


When I was 14, I forgot how to feel
still don't know much about that,
But this place of rage sits inside my rib cage,
Travels diagonally in both directions into my heart muscle
Making my stomach sour
I have to tell myself, I have just eaten Jambalaya
And now I have indigestion.
Stories of abandoned children in crack houses and alley ways,
The latchkey kid that turns to drugs and at 17 robs a liquor store,
The baby left in the shoebox that's being mauled by the pitbull
I can't stop and think how horrific it is,
Can't think about how unfortunate it is
My body is too high on pain medication,
My fever high enough to make me delirious because of that surgery I had when I was 13 to free me from the pain
of the experimental surgery I had when I was 4,
That made me able to sit up straight and look a little more human.
My people's history is a history of broken bodies, torn flesh, experimental medicine,
Eugenics, locked rooms and systematic exclusion,
I've never understood why a surgeon's knife brandished against my skin before operation
Is more socially acceptable than the imprint of the old man's
Hands against my windpipe before he raped me;
The screams curdle in my throat the same way.
My body is my history, where every scar tells a story,
Every incision imprints confusion in my mind,
Every ring under my eye, a year I grew up faster
Closed doors where parents talked alone for many hours,
When I asked the next morning what they talked about,
They said it wasn't important.
In High School
They called me 'retard' because I wrote the small yellow school bus,
Called me "TIM-TIM-TIMMEH" after South Park came out,
Called me the Choir's Faggot: I reached high notes well; it was from all the screaming during hospital
visits I'm sure,
Tricked myself into thinking, disability is beautiful.
Inside, I feel like the dirt the trees grow from.
This one time, I saw a group of teenagers steal three bags of groceries from a homeless family.
Burst into tears,
It's been the only time I've cried, in 13 years.

* * *


They say, Medication is amazing and worth it.

Say its worth the shakes, and the headaches, and the shit that surrounds you in your bed the next morning because your eyes clang shut like lead,

they will tell you sleep is just par for the course.

They will tell you you'll be awake to see a crisp blue sky, birds chirping good morning

they will tell you your thoughts that used to bind you, will become dislodged

they will tell you, be patient, it might take weeks to work they will tell you, how important is it to take your medicine

they will tell you, your penis might become flaccid and shriveled

they will tell you, this is the only way.

Don't ask them if they've used these things before, it will cause them to be vulnerable, they will ask you why are you asking

Don't ask them if you can do it without pills, they will tell you its impossible, tell you you're being defiant, they will insist on three more adjustments, they will tell you its necessary

They won't tell you your cured

they wont tell you, your thoughts that tied you in bondage, made you paralyze to think, they wont tell you they dont go away, they wont tell you, they just float, or that you have to put them somewhere, so you lodge them, in shoulder blades and in your mouth, between your enamel and the gumline,

they wont tell you you might be tempted to drink red wine

they wont tell you you might throw it up afterwards in the toliet by yourself

they wont tell you, you will probably feel worse before you feel better

they wont tell you, you might see spiders on the wall

they wont tell you, you might feel like the sky is caving in

they wont tell you, insurance might not cover this

they wont tell you, you might have to quit your job

they wont tell you, you might stay in bed for days

they wont tell you, its ok to throw in the towel

they wont tell you, its possible to make it on your own

they wont tell you, get a second opinion.

they wont tell you, your cured.


Nathan Say is a Performance Poet based out of San Diego, California, and is a member of the KripHop Nation, an international collective of performing artists with disabilities. His one man show and CD will be out by the end of 2011. Nathan is available for public performances and workshops nationwide. Contact him at for more information.