It was hard to pick only one of Shane Koyczan’s poems since all of them have their own unique charm that I adore. The first piece of Koyczan’s that I heard was arguably his most popular one, titled To This Day. It made a thirteen-year-old me cry in the middle of the dark auditorium as it was played during an assembly. From then on, I began to explore more of his poetry and he did not disappoint. The one I’ve decided to share with you today focuses on the ominous place that is the internet and all the cruel individuals that lurk among it. As always, his words are so beautifully written and eloquently presented that it never fails to take my breath away. If you aren’t familiar with Koyczan’s work, I highly recommend that you take the time to explore more of his poetry beyond what I’m about to show you.
Troll by Shane Koyczan
“Once upon a time,
You and all your kind lived underneath bridges,
Had ridges for ribs that dropped off into empty chests as if your hearts were all stolen treasures,
As if an excavation crew were hired to dig up and remove the part of you that let you feel.
And while the world above you invented the wheel, you stayed put,
Knowing it would one day need to roll over top of you to get to where it’s going.
You had an endlessly flowing supply line of food.
You began to brood over humanity and made meals of our hope,
As if crushing our spirits would make your mirrors cast better reflections than the ones they gave,
As if the only way you could save yourselves was to make the world ugly so no one would notice you hiding in it.
You learned to knit pain into a kind of camouflage,
Treated hope like a mirage that you could use to lure in your next meal.
You lived off of our fears, as if you could taste what we feel.
And every night, as the moon read bedtime stories to sunlight.
You took darkness as an invite to head out into the world,
You curled your hands into wrecking balls, your breath became squalls, you made rocks rumble, you made land shiver
You made boys and girls pray that someone would deliver them from you
We told them you aren’t real.
Then one day, the world changed, but you all stayed the same.
Just migrated from living underneath bridges to living underneath information super-highways.
Days and nights became meaningless, each already deepened chest became an abyss that no one would ever find the bottom of.
Concepts like love fell into your gravity, we turned ourselves into live preservers, hoping to save as many as we could,
But the fathers who stood guarding closet doors and the mothers who secured the floors underneath beds,
All shook their heads not knowing how to deal with you.
You, who crept into our lives with tongues like knives stabbing your words into our skin.
You began to begin uploading yourselves into our homes you had computer screens for eyes, and software for bones.
You turned your hate into stones and hurled them at beauty,
As if you couldn’t bear to see anything other than ugly, anything different.
You had fingernails like flint, and scraped them along decency hoping we would be the ones to all catch fire.
You all had smiles like one-way barbed wire not meant to keep us out,
Meant to keep us in
Voice like a firing pin, you spoke in explosions
It isn’t cute. It isn’t funny.
You’ve talked strangers into death, and laughed.
And as each family learns to graft skin over the wounds you gave them, you hem yourselves into the scar.
You have coaxed the sober back into bars,
Handed out cigars at memorials,
Offered nooses, cliffs, and pills to those who unfortunately found you before they found help.
You have praised suffering,
Waltzed in between tragedies,
Gracefully dipping misery as if we would somehow be impressed with the dexterity of your animosity.
You have cheered on rape, dashed through police tape as if it were the finish line in a race of who can be awful first.
You somehow see this as an invitation to turn your keyboards into catapults,
Wondering which of you can be the first to hate this best.
Your loathing, already dressed in riot gear,
Ready to incite rage,
As if each message board is a stage,
Where you recite hostility,
Turning freedom of speech into freedom of cruelty.
We are stuck with you, the same way you are stuck with you.
Your mind is glue, and it keeps malice fastened there like cheap wallpaper.
We were once upon a time told that none of you exist, we dismissed you as make believe or myth.
Now armed only with resolve, we can no longer afford to tell ourselves that you aren’t real.
We will not let you make your dinners out of the things we feel.”