Spoken word: ‘The Lights are my Road’ by America Castillo Cruz

This piece placed first for high school spoken word submissions in the 2023 Ánimo Voices Writing and Art Competition, which invited students to respond to the open prompt “About Joy” The competition is an opportunity to motivate, recognize, and celebrate our strong student voices through writing, spoken word, and art.

A Feeling That Felt Like Freedom

Joy is when you laugh so much
Your stomach hurts.
When you smile so hard,
Your eyes squint and wrinkle,
Joy is when you feel the breeze
Flowing through your face.
When you feel HAPPY
Just by seeing someone else HAPPY!

Joy is being able to smile without having to force it.
Joy is seeing the leaves turn color.
Joy is being home under a blanket
Watching the leaves fall and land softly
Against the ground.
Joy is joy,
a feeling,
an action
...Maybe a mystery.

Who knows?

Joy is like a house with a pretty tall tree,
A porch with a rocking chair and
A yard full of fallen leaves,
A mat at the entrance saying,
Feeling the breeze slowly go
Your open window
Far away from
The road.

The road
It takes you to many places,
Sometimes you don't even know where.
It's full of trash with hot cement and lines.
Everyone Takes the Road!

But when it's dark no ones is seen
But let the lights hit it and
They’re the first ones to show,

When they find their destination
They don't need it anymore

They abandon it!
They leave it!
It’s empty and alone!
They get mad!

When it has so many signs to
Show the way!

But how clear can it be?

And still they don't understand
The road will take them
To the end of the world and
Back and won’t ask for anything
In return.

But instead of being happy
That you can feel the breeze in the road.
They complain about it being hard to inhale,

But nobody stops and thinks,
“Why is it so hard to breathe?”

Maybe it's because the breeze
carries everything:
The woe, The loneliness.
Even with its woe,
The road won't change
It will take you home
Regardless of the way you make it feel.
But will it be the house with fallen leaves,
A nice porch,
The smoke in the
fireplace coming
Out the chimney?
Or will it be the home you wish you never had to go
back to,
But you feel so guilty


Because you owe that house so much
But it doesn't matter!
Even if the cost is your joy.

Joy... I don’t know.
I think I've only felt joy once
I smile so I look joyful but that's
Not the case.
Crying can mean two things:
Sadness or Joy.
But in reality
How do I really know what is what?
Like am I crying because I am proud?
Or am I crying cause they’re not here to see it?

I ended up laughing anyway.
Is it because I am joyful?
Or is it because I pity myself?

What really is joy?
I haven't found out yet.
Is it a warm house with a chimney?
Or the house I don't want to go back to?

Joy is chocolate melting in your mouth!
Sneaking out in the middle of the night!
Getting in the car,
Going for a drive!
Looking up at the dark blue
There IS Beauty in the WOE!

Where are the stars?

I’ll drive far to see the stars!
As fast as I can
So I can reach the stars
Before the sky gets full of
DRIVING past DT and

Looking at how BRIGHT
My dreams could BE!
My House!
My Road!
The Future Me!
The Lights ARE MY ROAD where
Where the stars are no longer
So far to REACH!
Where my eyes SHINE SO BRIGHT!
Just by seeing
The HOPE in the sky.

Thank you.

America Castillo Cruz

America Castillo Cruz

12th Grade, Ánimo Jackie Robinson Charter High School 

Guiding Teacher: Rachel Kopera