Words That Tie

Words That Tie

I need to tie my tongue

To my heart

Speak words that tie

Not tear apart

 

Of spirits born and spirits sent

Forgiveness in the hearts of men

Hope is ever born again

Hope is born freely spent

When we show love to one another

 

I will tell you, my friends

I believe in better times ahead

To leave past pain as quiet dust

And in the source of spirit trust

 

Words are such a powerful thing

I fear I’ve used them carelessly

Talk of God of hate of love

Things I know so little of

 

Speak ideas without second thoughts

I fear I may have done some hurt

Perhaps just hapless

Perhaps to a purpose

I need to tie my tongue

To my heart

Speak words that tie

Not tear apart

-Tom Pirozzoli, 2013

Tom Pirozzoli is a generous soul, a talented musician and writer, and an extremely gifted painter. I am lucky enough to call him friend. Not long ago he sent me a few poems, as in came-by-post and everything, like, for reals. First, if you’re lucky enough to have someone in your life who writes poetry you’re lucky enough. Second, if that same person helps keep the post office in business by putting pen to paper, affixing ye olde stamp, and hitting “send” the archaic way (open mailbox latch, insert) then you’ve pretty much hit the humanity jackpot. Tom Pirozzoli is one such person and just because you don’t know him, don’t be fooled for a second that your world isn’t a little better for him being in it.

When I read this poem, it practically scrambled up into my lap and demanded to be fussed over. Anything that elevates language, anything that honors the importance and necessity, the life force of words is my jam. Words are often the only things that come between us and some scary ass dragons in this world. Is it possible to fist pump a poem? Trick question: count on it.

When it comes to the acrobatics of words, the page is my arena. It’s not that you can’t be raw and vulnerable and a bleeding mess typing or scribbling away in the same way as when language hangs in the air between you and another human. It’s just that there’s this delete key, you see, that doesn’t quite translate to real life—much to my profound dismay where my ruinous dating experiences were concerned. There’s safety (sometimes) in editing, in rounding off the corners of words that land hard.

It’s not until I leave the café and am driving home that I think of Tom’s poem. New Englanders are notoriously and proudly salty, uptight, a little repressed, and completely devoted once you’ve breached the alloy-coated exterior. We are not, for the most part, keen on casual chatter with strangers unless it’s about the suck factor of whatever sports team is currently in season. I am not an exception. I lived in Chicago for four years. An earnest, friendly “What are you reading?” directed at me as I traveled on the El was enough to make me sink my neck further into my twelve scarves (Chicago winters are rill serious) like a turtle and pretend not to hear. I realize that being connected trumps being siloed every damn time. I’m trying. I am.

The woman sagged into the empty chair across from me in the bookstore café.

“Can I sit here? Do you mind?” I looked up from my book. My nice, middle-class upbringing would never allow me to refuse even if I wanted to.

She was in her forties, maybe, or in a very hard slog of thirties with brittle blonde hair doing its best to escape from whatever accessories were trying to keep it tamed. She looked weathered, tired. She looked like we all felt in the midst of a winter that decided to roar to life with punishing snow totals.

I smiled. “Of course, sure.”

She pulled up the other small, café table closer with its three chairs.

“My son,” she said, nodding behind her at the counter. I noticed three kids, two boys and a girl, who looked to be between the ages of 6 and 10, clumped awkwardly around the counter waiting for their pastries. “He would die of embarrassment to have to sit with a stranger.” She sighed and ripped open a small container of strawberry yogurt, shoveling it in quickly like she was a kid herself, afraid an older sib might smack it out of her hands.

“Oh sure,” I said. “It’s the age and everything.”

“Yeah,” she said between mouthfuls, “but it doesn’t make things easy sometimes.” There was a lot packed into that statement; it sat on the table along with my books and coffee.

“God, if that’s his weirdest thing, he’s not doing too bad. We did way weirder things at that age, right?” She laughed. Just then the kids clomped over to where we were sitting, each carrying a plate with a cookie or cupcake. They slid a little shyly into the empty seats. I smiled at them even as they refused to notice the strange lady talking to their mom.

The youngest went right for the frosting on his cupcake, all fingers, no finesse, a little dude after my own sugary heart. The two older kids scarfed down their treats and started bickering in that secret code that all brothers and sisters have, all “Nuh-uh” and other broken syllables.

Mom sighed again. “Okay, okay, that’s enough. Let’s go.” The herd called to migration. “Sorry,” she said as she gathered up their plates. The little guy frantically smashed the rest of the cupcake into his mouth.

“No worries!” I said and would have typically left it at that, but I found myself adding, “You have a great family, they seem like really good kids.”

She paused in the midst of crumpling up their napkins and nodded. “Yeah,” she said. And then as if she was saying it again to herself, “Yeah, they are.”

Words that tie. In the big moments we’re hyper-aware of the precision of our words—it doesn’t take a sniper to know where an ugly phrase must pierce to cause the most amount of damage; it shouldn’t take a lot of effort to bind up and soothe with the same vowels and consonants. It’s a miracle every time we know how.

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