Audition by Rachel Schmieder-Gropen She admired my courage, she said in a way that made it clear that she had noticed nothing else. I did not need her to validate my humiliation. I was there to watch myself rock and weep, breathe too fast and cringe in the far corner, face to the wall, and because I am not a child I know that that is what a child would do. It is what a soldier would do. She thinks herself strategic: here to press a Purple Heart into the hollow of my hand. She thinks I am back from the wars, lungs burnt black and rattling with gas. I want to tell her, this was no foregone conclusion. I did not walk into this room like a soldier into a rain of mortars, a martyr primed for courage. I want to tell her, I am here to sing. I want to tell her, calling this courage is making the assumption that my vocal cords are cut.
Rachel Schmieder-Gropen recently received the 2016 Gertrude Claytor Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets and represented Mount Holyoke College in the 93rd Kathryn Irene Glascock Intercollegiate Poetry Contest. Her poems have appeared in publications including the Bitchin’ Kitsch, the Peeking Cat Poetry Review, Crab Fat Magazine, and the Yellow Chair Review.