A Taylor Toast


So last week I got this sent to me from a former student:


I’m not sure I had anything to do with this. I hope I did! The middle school teachers at the school I used to teach at have a special ceremony where we individually give a toast to each of the graduating eighth graders. One of my toasts was for JJ, who is a Taylor Swift super-fan — so I wrote hers in the form of a poem made entirely of lines from Taylor Swift songs. (Actually, one line is a famously misheard lyric in “Blank Space”).

To celebrate JJ’s meetup with Ms. Swift, I got her permission to reprint my toast to her (and the rest of the Burgundy class of 2015):

I was reminiscing just the other day,
While having coffee all alone and Lord, it took me away.
I was playing back a thousand memories, baby,
Thinking ’bout everything we’ve been through—
Maybe I’ve been going back too much lately—
I know people change and these things happen,
But I remember how it was back then,
Like the colors in autumn, so bright just before they lose it all
It just comes back in flashes, you know?
It’s like a kaleidoscope of memories.
It just all comes back. …
I close my eyes and the flashback starts:

It’s the morning of your very first day,
And you’re mortified your mom’s dropping you off.
You say, “Hi” to your friends you ain’t seen in a while—
Too many cool kids, uh uh, uh uh (who’s Taylor Swift anyway, ew?)
You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye…
“Oh my God, who is she?”
All I know is a simple name.
“Nice to meet you, where you been?
You know I haven’t seen you around, before,”
And you smile and say, “How are you? ”
And I know you heard about me—
Got a long list of Starbucks lovers,
They’ll tell you I’m insane.
That’s what people say, mmm-mmm
The rumors are terrible and cruel,
But, honey, most of them are true—
And that was the first day.

I still remember the look on your face,
And I remember thinking…
You walk around here thinking you’re not pretty
But that’s not true, cause I know you…
There’s a fire inside of you
That can’t help but shine through.
I realize your laugh is the best sound
I have ever heard;
Then you took me by surprise—
You can take me down with just one single blow—
With that same big loud opinion.
Were you just kidding? ‘Cause it seems to me
I underestimated just who I was dealing with.
The playful conversation starts,
Counter all your quick remarks,
And I roll my eyes and then
I hang on every word you say—yay!—
And I love the riddles that you speak.
I guess you didn’t care, and I guess I liked that,
And I realize the joke is on me, yeah!

I hear the sound of my own voice,
And I could go on and on, on and on… and I will.
Haven’t you heard what becomes of curious minds?
Didn’t it all seem new and exciting?
We found wonderland
On a history book page,
Fell down a rabbit hole.
The rest of the world was black and white,
But we were in screaming color
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
I could show you incredible things:
Magic, madness, heaven, sin—
You and I got lost in it.
The tricky thing
Is yesterday we were just children,
Just pretending,
Dreaming dreams with happy endings
In backyards, winning battles with our wooden swords,
But now we’ve stepped into a cruel world
Where everybody stands and keeps score.
We’re so young but we’re on the road to ruin;
We play dumb but we know exactly what we’re doing,
Tryin’ to figure out what is and isn’t true.
Talk to the wind, talk to the sky,
Talk to the man with the reasons why,
Talk to yourself, talk to the tears,
Talk to the man who put you here,
And don’t wait for the sky to clear.

Now, we got problems:
How’d we end up this way?
People are people, and sometimes we change our minds.
People are people, and sometimes it doesn’t work out,
And you understand now why they lost their minds and fought the wars,
And why I’ve spent my whole life trying to put it into words,
So don’t think it’s in the past, these kinda wounds they last and they last.
Walls of insincerity,
Shifting eyes and vacancy—
Oh, a simple complication,
Miscommunications lead to fall-out.

It’s okay, life is a tough crowd.
Time turns flames to embers;
Every one of us has messed up, too,
Minds change like the weather,
Repeating history and you’re getting sick of it.
At 14 there’s just so much you can’t do,
And you can’t wait to move out someday and call your own shots,
So, babe, if you know everything, tell me why you couldn’t see?
It’s a bad sign, bad sign

The more I think about it now the less I know
Cause they got the cages, they got the boxes
And guns
They are the hunters, we are the foxes
And we run
When you’re young, you just run.
If you live like that, you live with ghosts,
But you’ve got something they don’t:
You’ve just gotta keep your eyes open
Keep your feet ready
Heartbeat steady
Keep your eyes open
Keep your aim locked
Because these things will change
Everything has changed

Go save the world, I’ll be around,
And you’ll leave, got places to be and I’ll be OK.
Long live the walls we crashed through—
I was screaming, “Long live all the magic we made,
And bring on all the pretenders—
One day, we will be remembered!”
And the cynics were outraged,
Screaming, “This is absurd!”
So don’t you worry your pretty little mind.
People throw rocks at things that shine.
The stakes are high, the water’s rough.
This slope is treacherous.
This path is reckless.
And all we are is skin and bone,
Trained to get along,
Forever going with the flow,
But you’re friction.

This is a state of grace
This is the worthwhile fight
Love is a ruthless game
Unless you play it good and right
These are the hands of fate
This is the golden age of something good and right and real
‘Cause you know I love the players,
And you love the game
‘Cause we’re young and we’re reckless….
We’ll take this way too far
It’ll leave you breathless
Or with a nasty scar

You’ll have new Septembers…
I bet these memories
Follow you around.
Honey, life is just a classroom—
There in my rear view mirror disappearing now:
The battle’s in your hands now.

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