Matilda: The Truest Fiction (Spoken Word + Video)

Matilda cover4Watch the video on YouTube or read the poem below.
*trigger warning: child abuse*

What if I told you
That Roald Dahl didn’t write Matilda –
Matilda did.

She could read nearly as soon as she could talk,
So no one was surprised when she grew up to become an author.

Believe with me for a moment that
she tried several times to write an autobiography
but it was too painful to share.

So instead she created Roald Dahl,
wrote his autobiographies “Boy” and “Going Solo”
which of course were realistic fiction.

Next she tried to reach out to her younger self,
With stories of villains vanquished by children.
Stories with lots of funny bits, like children’s books ought to have.

But when a boy came over for tea
from what she would later call Crunchem Hall Primary School,
She realized children needed to hear her story.
She decided to write fictionalized reality.

The headteacher who tested students on their times tables
And insisted on perfect cleanliness
would be called Miss Trunchbull.

Yes, people would be caricatures with labels for names
like Miss Honey the teacher and Mr. Wormwood the car salesman crook.
The kid readers would never wonder who was bad or good
Because Miss Trunchbull would never put on charity fairs or give scholarships
and the parents would be nasty and dumb.

The horror of the headteacher’s office
Would not be rumors of what he did to little boys there
It would be something concrete,
a cement cupboard lined with objects that pricked you.

And since teachers couldn’t stop the menace,
Matilda’s burning anger would become a magic power
She would save the kids and send Miss Trunchbull away for good.

Of course, in real life there was no magic.

Just because Matilda could read books on the top shelf
Didn’t mean she could reach them.
Even as the cleverest student in the class
Her brainpower produced no miracles or even cunning plots
Only test scores that made Crunchem Hall look good
And a tendency to distrust her feelings.
And no matter how her eyes burned with anger
She couldn’t lift a finger,
much less levitate a piece of chalk to write threats from a ghost.

But write…
maybe she could write
words powerful enough to right wrongs.

Miss Trunchbull got away with outrageous evil
Precisely because parents found it unbelievable
Truth is stranger than fiction, Matilda learned,
So call it a story if you want people to listen
Peddle lighthearted darkness.

Yes, she could write a comedy
where everything was obvious
and the vulnerable were protected by mysterious forces beyond their control
she could write it for the children
perhaps not an autobiography, strictly speaking,
but it’s what she would have wanted to hear.

She hoped
that some precocious child who escaped to the library
would find her book on the shelf
would laugh at Matilda’s pranks
would know that justice wins in the end.

What if Matilda could save some kids yet?
Invite them to believe something so strange it might be true
That life is a comedy
That children’s books always have a happy ending.

… or in that case, what if Matilda wouldn’t have to save them?
Characters are not responsible for meting out poetic justice.
The author of the children’s stories would give them happy endings.
Mysterious forces protect the vulnerable
And I hear God’s in the business of saving.

What if I told you
the story isn’t over yet
but I know it will end well.
Believe with me for a moment.

What if I told you
The truest fiction I know how
Would you believe me?


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