sticks and stones

Her name was Natalie.
And most people didn't know her name
because they never got that far,
for she wore a scar
that severed the middle of her nose.
Before she learned how to speak,
she'd been given the nickname
scar face.
And as she grew old
she found herself starving down to skin and bones
just so she'd have a body worth envy
for her face had been labeled ugly.
And it doesn't matter now that she has a husband who loves her,
and tells her every day that she is beautiful.
It doesn't matter because her image of perfection
is a funhouse mirror,
and in it, she sees a circus freak
all because of a whisper
she believes she's less than pretty.

These aren't just names,
these aren't just words,
we all say the chant about sticks and stones
but don't tell me an insult
hurts less than a broken bone.
Those who know, we grope together,
hoping to find shelter from the spitballs
and catcalls
as we clutch each other in hopes of surviving
our adolescence.

His name was Dan,
and he was the man you could count on
to get a job done
without a second word
because in second grade
a girl told him his smile
made her want to throw up all over the place,
because his teeth crowded each other out of his mouth
like all the words he's been longing to shout
but he can't.
He can't even smile back,
for fear he'll frighten or make someone mad
he wanders through life a mute
though he writes songs so beautiful
they would make angels jealous,
he relapses into silence
as if his talent
is an odd addiction he must stifle.

These aren't just names,
these aren't just words,
they are proof that the pen
is mightier than any sword.
These aren't just silly games kids make
to invent new ways to label ourselves.
Because we are all born beautiful,
and we leave it to the world to tell us we're not
when really, we are all we've got
so how could we be anything less than perfect?
We have to believe we are worth it,
that our bones are more precious
than sticks and stones,
and that those words thrown
were only from frightened children,
suffering the same uncertainty
everyone goes through.

And so, I give all these words to you,
as something in the way of proof
that when someone tells you
you are not beautiful,
that you are less than the best,
that you are not a gift we have been blessed with
just to sit in your presence,
you'll remember there are words more powerful
than the ones that wound,
like "I love you"
and trust me, I do.

The End

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