A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

“Four Square” by Charlotte Soliven

When did I start falling behind
My life, a game of 4 square
I must have not been paying attention
When did they started adding all these new rules
I was completely oblivious
Everyone ran along the lines
While another person with the ball chases us
Like a weird version of Pac-Man
I am tagged instantly
When did they change 4 square?
The game I was so good at!

When did I stop knowing how to play?
I once was the bright-eyed 5th grader at the highest reading level
Now I can’t remember the order of the alphabet without singing the song
I used to flip pages of the newest Percy Jackson book at lightning speed
Now Orwell’s 1984 sits on my shelf
a bookmark wedged between page three and four

I was walking in the park and drawn on the cement was a 3 x 3 grid
Back my day we didn’t have nine squares, you just had to wait your turn
When did everything start multiplying?
The number variables in math problems
The amount of assignments in my binder
Milligrams of Adderall in each blue pill
When did 4 square get so complicated?

When did it all get too much?

My arms now too long to hold hands with my father
Too many assignments to love going to school
Too much to do to come down for dinner
Too many thoughts in my head

At 15 I don’t enjoy four square anymore
The painted box, now too small
When did I outgrow it all?
My childhood stuffed animal is abandoned beneath my bed
My dreams, ill-fitting like old camp tee shirts
The yellow walls of my room
Now headache inducing

What am I missing?
I’m just a little too slow
Too optimistic
Too ambitious
So I get back in line
Every time

Once I saw myself as the underdog
That eventually, I’d be the King of the court
After each failure
After waiting my turn
Where is my victory?

There is a new rule
The first player tosses the ball in the air and claps once before catching it
The next player goes, each time adding another clap
I no longer know how to play
The claps multiply
It all gets too much
And the ball comes crashing down

This poem was written by Charlotte Soliven, as a 2023-24 Youth Poetry Fellow. Performed at the Seattle Arts & Lectures SAL Presents event with Rick Riordan on Tuesday, September 26, 2023 at Benaroya Hall. 

Posted in Student WritingWriters in the SchoolsYouth Programs2023/24 Season