Will Smith ’22 was recently awarded a Gold Key, the highest regional award for scholastic writing, for his poem “More Weight.” His poem will now be judged in the national competition, with results due out in March.
Explaining the background for the poem, Will says, “I performed in Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ in 8th grade at my old school, Cambridge Friends, and learned about Giles Corey, who was a real historical figure from the Salem witch trials. He was crushed to death because he refused to make a plea, and as they piled on stone after stone, he would defiantly yell out, ‘More weight!’” The poem itself details the challenges of the past year during the pandemic.
An essay of Will’s entitled, “No Control” also won a Scholastic Gold Key last year. It was based on the winning speech he delivered in the Middle School Public Speaking Contest.
In previous years, Will has won other Scholastic awards in poetry and also the “New Voices, Young Writers” award for an essay. “Despite that,” he notes, “I would say I’m an occasional writer and a reluctant poet.”
Will pays a special tribute to Doc Fast for being one of his strongest supporters at Belmont Hill. “He sponsored my essay last year that also won the Gold Key as well as my poem this year,” he explains.
Please enjoy “More Weight,” below.
2020 America is Giles Corey
Shouting out “More weight!”
Weight on a prone man’s neck, it’s just one knee
But we all gasp for breath and surge to the streets.
More weight! The crucible of Salem was far more overt
Than the witch hunts now of brown men and brown women.
In 2020, we’re always trapped in lines
Lines to the test, lines to the vote, lines to the food pantry
Lurching then pausing, six feet apart, a coffin’s distance.
Physicians of old wore the Plague Doctor’s beaked mask
That Venetians remade into festive masquerade
But the flimsy cloths that now disguise our faces are not so beautiful.
Pristine N95s might be the quarantine prize
Yet their shortages coincide with our shortness of breath.
More weight, more weight, more weight!
We knew full well that all this was coming
This weight of the air and its microscopic passengers
This weight of the segregated city
This weight of a job lost and the landlord's demand
This weight of desperate crowds and angry bodies.
Before, plagues announced themselves with a long, pointed beak
But now, our new plagues only insidiously creep.
We tell factories to make them faster, the surgical masks,
But the quality would be worse, as bad as Zoom calls.
Discorporate voices radiate from laptops and parted lips
Lit wanly in computer blue, speaking out electrons not breath.
Our Zoom avatars are trapped in grids like cages
And in 2020, avatars were not the only souls we caged.
If 2020’s ruthless knee was to relax off our throat
Will human endurance and inner power throw off that weight?
As we take distanced step after distanced step
Closer to the vaccine and the polling place
Will the wounds under our masks heal then fade?
Will the bodycams and cell phones record it
The way that they recorded murder?
All that weight lies so heavy, this 2020 weight.
Cruel rocks crushed Giles Corey
They might crush me, too.