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Natalie Baliker

Applause is a dull roar, muffled by their disbelief.

I feel their hands on my shoulders, pushing me down,

down into a box that doesn’t fit me.

They call my voice a “Thing,”

too much for any other word, I guess.

Shut up and listen to me—

hear the times I clawed myself to shreds.

My voice is like a thunderstorm,

the grinding out of cigarettes,

the gravel burn of skidding over an open road.

They marvel at the voice that emerges

from this ordinary throat,

this soft round face and freckled nose.

They cry while I read words off a page,

but call me names that are not mine.

Am I invisible once the song ends?

Do they hear my nineteen years

or just the famous voices from before me?

You swallowed Janis Joplin!

No, my voice is not the shriek of glass,

it’s kneeling in the silver shards and praying.

It’s rainbow socks with the toes cut off,

used to cover up the scars.

Now your jagged compliments carve new ones.

They call me the new “Queen of Soul,”

but I’m no Aretha Franklin.

Why can’t I sound like myself?

They say this Thing of mine’s a gift,

a devil’s deal I had to earn.

Can’t they hear the sound of my survival?

I know this song’s been sung before,

these chords have shivered in pubs galore,

I didn’t come to tell, I came to show you.

I unleashed myself and killed them all,

I’m the pain that comes after the fall,

I’m more than just a story, I’m a fighter.

Karise Eden is an Australian singer and songwriter. In 2012, she became the winner of the first season of The Voice Australia.

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