Breath of Fire

Just me and all those words,
one day I gathered them all up.
The words that had penetrated
my head and burrowed inside
deep, worked their way
around my common sense,
through my rational mind
and moved straight into
my doubts and all the ways
that I felt “less than” about
myself–just like you intended.
So at last I said, no more!
To all you words that I had given
power to, to swallow me up
and cut me down to size,
to niggle in the back of my mind
and make me wonder…is it true,
does he really know what’s
best for me and I don’t
have a clue? But finally I knew
the truth and I understood what
I had to do. You all had to go.
Just me and you, I took the
upper hand and lit that fire
and watched you smoke and
then the embers flew and the
edges of the paper where you
were placed singed brown
and eventually was consumed
by tiny flames eating their fill.
The letters swallow themselves
in seconds and just like that
my heart felt lighter, my body
let out a sigh of relief and
my soul smiled and was proud of me.

Mary is our host with Poetics today at 3PM EST at dVerse Poets and introduces writer, Naomi Shihab Nye, and asks us to choose one of her lines from her poem “Burning the Old Year.” I chose the opening line, “Letters swallow themselves in seconds.”

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  1. I really like what you did with the words…both as you wrote them poetically and also the message you portrayed. I think it is important to burn the negative words that others try to impart to us. WE need to choose our own words and make our soul proud (as you expressed in your last line).


  2. I like the idea of burning away those deep words that have hurt us for so long ~ Good for you to take out all that negativity and “less-than” talk ~ I believe we need to be kind and forgiving to ourselves ~


  3. If we could do that.. burn the words that singe us… and have them be consumed in flames… really like the notion of getting rid of the negativity and move on.


  4. Glenn Buttkus

     /  March 8, 2016

    Self-love is key, reciprocal, integral, essential before reaching out to others; hugging without arms is difficult. We chose the same Nye line, used “words” as impetus–yet had such different journeys; ain’t it grand?


  5. Gayle, wonderful. “my soul smiled and was proud of me.” I love the lesson in your poem.


  6. Powerful piece, Gayle. I like the idea of a smiling soul. 🙂


  7. You paint a powerful picture of the journey from allowing abuse to the realization of your own goodness. My heart aches when I think of so many who can’t quite make it there. I would guess the power of poetic words has a profound therapeutic effect on someone who has been there.


  8. Great and powerful message!


  9. The message so effortlessly portrayed..!!


  10. Such a great image – gathering up words, like they are things that become a burden and, eventually, must be destroyed. Purifying.


  11. Moving on…such a brave and difficult thing to’ve used the prompt here beautifully.


  12. I love the phrase that inspired this poem. I love the idea of burning all the negative words.


  13. Great description of the power of other people’s words to cut us down, but also a very inspiring message of burning the past and the sense of liberation. Just what I needed to hear today, thank you!


    • Marina, I’m glad these words were what you needed to hear today. I actually took my exes notes and letters to me and torched them! I had heard that it could be therapeutic to literally burn them in a ritual, so I did. It helped. 🙂 My best to you!


  14. I love the tiny flames eating their fill.


  15. If only we had the courage to burn the words… A terrific poem of self-discovery.


  16. Such an interesting concept to burn away the pains of words


  17. That kind of passionate resistance to the negativity of others is what we need. So often I’ve wanted to burn their words!


  18. A cleansing fire. So necessary at times. Been there.


  19. A passionate plea for freedom! A release in heated vapors, lift up expanding, becoming universal! Great work, Gayle.


  20. Hooray for you! this is a powerful message


  21. Enough of the “less thans”…false words deserve to go up in smoke!


  22. What a great way to get rid of those words in our hearts and minds that tell us what simply isn’t true. Just burn them up. Love this!


  23. Before i fell deathly ill back in ‘o8..
    starting even before that in ’06..
    i never imagined i would
    write anything
    of substance
    other than
    what was
    required in
    Official E-mails
    at work.. only down
    time in video games..
    TV.. and then bed..
    and monthly
    mowing grass..
    but after losing
    my Father..
    and two
    beloved cats..
    i finAlly have a way
    to express grief and
    truly let go.. in fact
    even a first Love from
    decades before.. where
    truly i never had closure until
    i put iT all down iN writing.. sealed
    the envelope In bLog way and let it go..
    yes.. it’s more than writing it is for the sOul..:)



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