With hands on hips and a bit of a sister sway,
she told him one day, “Sticks and stones may
break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
The defiance of her stance grabbed him up &
tossed him to the side like a forgotten paradise.
He got up, brushed himself off & walked away,
slowly, because he didn’t really want to go.
But what choice did he have once he realized
she’d forgotten. Because how could he explain
to her that words were the lifeblood, blood with
power to heal or power to kill, destroying from within?
Words, he wanted to tell her, sit on my tongue
waiting to melt into meaning like homemade
Words build bridges over which we travel
to find one another and bind ourselves to
Will you be my friend?
Words pull people close, hold those important
to us, tighter than the tightest embrace,
the one where she let go first. You didn’t want
to let go.
I love you.
Words brush the lips like the sweetest of kisses,
sending shivers up & down the spine.
How can I make you mine?
Words can build walls, better than any other
material, walls so tall they are impossible
I love you, but…
Words fill my throat, hesitant to show their face
like a young girl performing on stage for the
What if she doesn’t love me in return?
Words break down men & build up
Words can destroy communities &
create men, not niggas.
You ain’t shit. Why are you even here?
Words show that you think you can
play with my heart & that you believe I’ll
one day decide to play along.
I’m not ready yet. I’ll be ready one day.
Words, if spoken loud enough, can carry
toxins out of a bitter & battered soul.
I want to change.
Words can haunt a soul, a place,
a home, a love, long after the speaker
is gone. They linger like the fog
after an unexpected rainstorm.
Who will carry me home?
Words have the power to keep me from
returning to where I escaped from, but they
can also keep me from moving forward.
What if…? I’m scared.
Words have power and it seems that those who don’t realize this seem to wield more power with their words. Maya Angelou famously said, “I may forget what you say, but I will never forget how you made me feel.” This is true. But think about the kid growing up hearing that he is nothing and never will amount to anything. Words. And think about a woman telling a man she’s pregnant. His actions will be dictated by how he feels about hearing those words. Or think about the young girl who is told that she is beautiful, that she’s a queen. Words. Think about the young man who’s called a nigga and the one who is called a god. Words. Think about young ladies who are called ladies and the ones who are called whores or bitches. Words.
Words have power because they have the power to make the listener feel some type of way.
This poem was inspired by a conversation I had with my son James last night about why I loved a passage so much in Cynthia Bond’s novel Ruby, which I’m currently reading. He said, of that passage, but she could have just said….And I responded but she didn’t and that’s why I love the passage so much.
Peace & Love,