Lasting Words

Sometimes—too many times—we say things we don’t mean, or say things we do mean, but say them in a very wrong way. We use words like weapons, and often times think nothing of the damage we’ve done. The saying is: “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything.” Too bad it never caught on.

Lasting Words


Weathered face behind a graying beard

A man shuffles down the sidewalk

Guiding a rusted shopping cart

One broken wheel clunking dully


An object in the gutter catches his gaze

The hint of a smile glints in his tired eyes

As he stoops and retrieves the dirty baseball

Its cover peeling at one broken seam


Thoughts flash—memories of long ago

A voice—angry and violent—screaming

Use both hands! Both hands, damn it!

Why won’t you listen to me!


The ball slips from his grasp, rolls in the gutter

He lets it remain there—stares

The twinkle gone from his eyes

As another voice shouts from the past


Use your head! You’re gonna get us all killed!

As he stands in the darkened doorway

Grenade in his hand, listening to a baby’s cries

Realizing… too late… he’s armed the device


He raises his right arm and stairs at the filthy nub

Where his right hand used to be

The one that threw fastballs, curveballs… and grenades

Then was gone in a flash of noise and blood


His father’s voice then—snarling and slurred

You’ll never amount to anything… you’re worthless

He moves on; pushing all he owns in the limping cart

As a car full of sullen teenagers slows—they stare


One of them hurls words like bullets; Get a job, ya bum!

Raucous laughter erupts… then the car speeds away

Eyes that sparkled moments ago now fill with watery sadness

He wonders why words… are used like weapons


Copyright © 2013 C  Mashburn

Sharing this on dVerse Poets Pub’s Poetics: Negative Capability


  1. dang…i bodily felt those words hurled at him…from the past…and from the current situation…so sad man….if we just realized we are all one step from it you know…our words have such power as well…vivid in how you play this out man…great story telling in it too…

  2. claudia said

    oh heck…we should never judge…and even more not if we don’t know their story…ugh…you made us feel him charles…

  3. Oh, Charles. This hits me in the solar plexus. So well done.

  4. A very compassionate and revealing poem. You tell a compelling story. I see exactly why you thought it would fit with the prompt. Thanks so much for joining us today.

  5. Words, specially unkind, can hurt as bullets ~ Like the metaphor here of “bullets” to his former life, and now as an old man ~

    • Interesting that you see him as old. I suppose the graying beard led you to that conclusion. I had him pictured as not really that old at all–maybe late forties, early fifties.
      Thanks for the visit and comment!

  6. Tino said

    Words are weapons, sharper than knives, makes you wonder how the other half die. Devil Inside, INXS.

    Such a sad write, very reminiscent of a piece I wrote a few months ago. Homelessness is the scourge of a so called civilised society and that message is loud and clear in this.

    • There have been homeless people since the beginning of time, I suppose. But it seems to be getting worse all the time. A terrible thing in any case.
      Thanks for the visit and comment!

  7. gar08 said

    this was touching:) THANK YOU!   Peace   Cheri Gerulatt 512.227.5533  

    ________________________________ From: “Marbles In My Pocket ~ The Official Blog of Charles L. Mashburn ~ Poems, Short Stories, and random thoughts from the author of Be Still… and know that I am God” To: Sent: Thu, March 21, 2013 2:08:45 PM Subject: [New post] Lasting Words

    charlesmashburn posted: “Sometimes—too many times—we say things we don’t mean, or say things we do mean, but say them in a very wrong way. We use words like weapons, and often times think nothing of the damage we’ve done. The saying is: “If you don’t have anything good to say, do”

  8. T
    his is so tragically sad, and sadly so real excellent excellent job. I’m very touched

  9. Oh this brought tears to my eyes, so much anguish here. You convey the emotion strongly in this one Charles! An awesome poem!

  10. Intense, Charles, intense. WoW. It read so alive to me.
    Thank you

  11. Rowan Taw said

    Such a sad poem – I just want to make things better for him..

  12. You’ve done something special here and that is to get inside the heart and head of someone else..and allow the reader to understand that perspective for the duration of the poem. In fact, for longer… nicely done Charles.

  13. ah you captured this so beautifully… so sad… usually it’s the ones that are suppose to love us the most

    • Yes, sadly true regarding who should love us most.
      Thanks for the visit and kind words!

  14. Tony Maude said

    Dark, intense, tragic – it would also make a brilliant ending to one of the too many war movies. Brought tears to my eyes, Charles, and shiver down my spine.

  15. kkkkaty1 said

    Great story of empathy and putting ones self in another’s shoes….a hard life …and we can;t look the other way…

  16. hypercryptical said

    The destructive effect of cruel words perfectly illustrated here Charles. Sad tale my friend.

    Anna :o]

  17. Truedessa said

    Charles, another great piece and your message speaks loud and are great with the pen..

  18. kaykuala said

    Words can be so damning not just to the vulnerable but everyone else.How cruel can that be. Nicely Charles!


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