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I Don't Have To Be Amanda Gorman

By Noelle Sterne

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Everyone’s lips.

Did she know, so early, she’d be so famous?

That it would all explode?

Offers, invitations, money, agent, appearances all over, endorsements, titles, cover

spreads, best sellers, fashion icon.

Started in teens, 14, 15, 16. Ridiculous. Now still early, early twenties.

A word-wielding Mozart.

The bio says—Poet and activist,

marginalization, oppression, race, feminism, social justice.

Already founded several organizations to help children, women, minorities, etc. etc.


Already declared bid for President in fifteen years,

Already with famous women’s political endorsements.

I, too-white skinned without real deprivation,

am green, blue, purple with envy.

Many decades older

Lifelong writing and struggling—poetry, prose, sending.

Modest successes, a few Internet listings.

Ridiculous to even think it, but how ever to compete?

Don’t want to be an activist.

Bleed for marginalized people but weep silently at my desk

And go on with my day. Don’t want to be on covers and TV. Too many wrinkles and folds.

Or to found organizations,

Tangled in forms, creative pollen scattered.

But I give a dollar to worthy causes.

Don’t want to be a fashion icon.

Barely keep up with latest (traditional) styles

but I always wear earrings.

Uncomfortable with titles, except for writer, author.

While earning living, have managed to write






Capture the essence

Caress the word

Trace relationships, sore struggling cadenzas.

Life’s battles

Not public outcries but

Private agonies,

Mostly women.

A series of (female) nemeses, killer weeds, plagues from college on,

Each marking my insecurity, guilt, deficiency,

Looking for love, looking for love, looking for love.

Whenever, more mature, I congratulate myself,

And rationalize, knocking one from the throne (latest book panned),

another springs up,

Like her now.

Drowning, I flip on the television.

An evangelist exhorts, arm outstretched,

Rebuking finger at the rapt head-nodding audience,

“Don’t worry about what others are doing, how they’re getting ahead of you.”


“Don’t worry about them.

“Focus on your goals.

“Run your own race.”

Arm raised, I point at the screen, mutter “Amen,” and sob.

Get up, go sit at computer,

And run my own race.


Author, editor, writing coach, workshop leader, academic mentor, and life and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne has published over 600 stories, essays, writing craft articles, spiritual pieces, and poems in literary and academic print and online venues. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for 30 years she has assisted doctoral candidates in completing their dissertations (finally). Her published handbook to assist them is based on her professional academic practice: Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Psychological Struggles (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2015). In her spiritual self-help book, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), Noelle draws examples from her academic consulting and other aspects of life to support readers in reaching their lifelong yearnings. Continuing with her own, she is draft-deep in her third novel, taking respites with the continued creation of poems.


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