When I was a kid we had a retort
– it was a lie –
but a reply we could use to respond to any verbal taunt
we said, “sticks and stones
may break my bones
will never hurt me.”
It made us strong
but we’ve always known
that words cause harm in other ways.
Those bones you broke in fights
or falling off the jungle gym
were set in cast and sling
A plaster cast
Graffitied with good wishes from your standard four class
and those bones healed.
But souls and spirits and a small person’s sense of self worth
can be worn away by unkind words.
And it’s not that we were wrong
to use an adage to feel strong
but the comeback
A force field of our own words
to repel attacks.
Words have always been my tool
but a tool can be turned around
its handle used as a weapon
or even the end designed to fix, create
to join two things together
with a different motion
and in different hands
can be deadly.
But then, your words can’t hurt me
because I’ve learnt of strength
not in muscle or size
not in an intense stare from dull eyes
not through volume, curse, anger
I’m not strong because I stride through life fists clenched
ready for a fight at the first sign of danger!
Strength is integrity.
The way things hold together.
You might be tough with battle scars
lines on your face that show me your life’s been hard
you may be hard
but be strong.
Use words with gentle intent
speak calmly and know yourself
again through your own words
your own way to discover truth.
Choose words carefully
Don’t shout me down
firing off a poisonous round.
Then I will speak to you with respect.
and I’ll hand you my tools
handle towards your open hand
so you can use words too
not like sticks and stones
but as sling and cast to healing bones.