What “Strong in the Real Way” from the Steven Universe Volume 1 Soundtrack Might Mean

What does strong in the real way mean?
Who am I to discuss this?
Champagne makes me cry;
bubbles ask if I accomplished my dreams in the last 365 days.
Sun-scorched dreams get burnt
when staring into reality. I try
to look sexy on New Year’s when lying like
a stunned raccoon posing on the couch –
eyeliner, a dripping river to everywhere.
I’m not roadkill, but I’m not swishing
through fresh grass and
finding golden days in trash either.

But that’s alright.
And that’s okay.
My friend is strong in the real way when
she’s holding her friend’s hair back at the toilet.
I might be strong in the real way when
I still stare into the cup and say,

“Fine. I’ll get up” –
even after the hangover.

And what is being strong the real way? I’m a bit tired
of saying what is real as defined by dead men.
We live too.
‘Cause shouting through war might be strong,
but so is finally asking the boy to dance when you
were in middle school and
Get Low was blasting in the gym.
A 14 year old asking,
“Would you like to dance with me, get low with me?”

What could be strong in a real way is
letting the abusive sit in the fridge, spoil
and still being called unimaginable,
because you wouldn’t let him make you
sit and rot with him
like last year’s milk –
spilling on the floor like a movie.

Strong in the real way is asking for
some assistance.
Strong is people who’ll help my grandma
get some groceries.
Strong is looking at you on Zoom
and having hope I’ll feel you again,
even after I freeze forever.
Strong in the real way means to
keep walking even with what feels like
blood pouring from you,
trailing behind you like a satin cape,
because you’re a queen.

“And when I talk,
it lights a fire in you.”
Fuck the dictionary –
being strong in the real way
means being here.

Tiana is a local slam poet, podcaster, and student affairs professional residing in Spokane, WA. You can find her on Twitter at @drivinintoday.

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