Poetry / Uncategorized

Words on Paper

Shaky hand

grasped pen

pressed to paper

signs an X

by the word


The words dancing

like glitzy little


on white paper

a minefield of the unknown

made by office men

wearing office suits

But the man

with shaky hands

has more

in his steel wool mind

his lanky frame

molded to tractor seats and terrain

a soul fed

by the combustion of grief

and cotton gins


he looks down

at age-spotted hands

hands that learned by

holding wrenches and barbed wire cutters

I didn’t get much schooling

he offers an apology,

a sorrow that drifts through

the air

then hangs

like a torch

waiting for


morphing into light.


25 thoughts on “Words on Paper

  1. Lana, I could feel the sadness and shame of this man with shaky hands and a “steel wool mind” unable to decipher “the words dancing / like glitzy little / spiders” across the page. Heartfelt. Imaginative. Good word pictures. This makes me want to volunteer with an adult literacy program. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Joan. I have known men like this….especially growing up in a rural community where many of the older generations were pulled early from school to work in the fields. It is sad. I’m so glad we have literacy programs!

  2. I love this, Lana, and yet it’s so sad, not only the lack of schooling that his man feels so deeply, but the true shame that his worth is defined by that, by himself and by others. I get so tired of seeing human beings treated like their lives are less valuable because they’re not rich, powerful, endowed with opportunity.

  3. Oh I loved this – despite the gut wrench of his shame – All because it is assumed we all have the same opportunities and abilities and to fall short is indicative of idleness, or worse ….. You expressed his life and his pain so well – and wouldn’t it be grand if the world had more folk like your friend JIM who knows exactly how to respond!

    I do love The Band still – it must be time to haul out The Last Waltz again πŸ™‚

    • Hi Pauline, thank you so much. I have known a few men that fit this mold. Growing up in these little southern towns, there were those of the older generation who were pulled from school at early ages to work in the fields. Really sad, the parents were definitely not counting on the world to change. The Band is awesome!

  4. Lana, this is so moving and pulls at my heart…I just want to protect this man from the judging gaze of the officials…shout out to them about his life-time of hard-work, that not everyone had the chance of an education. Wow! Brilliantly written and capture so much of a man’s broken spirit and shame in just a few words.

  5. Very emotion-filled, Lana. Some things can’t be taught in school, though, and I imagine this old guy had a wealth of common sense and world-learning. Reminds me of folks in my grandparents’ generation who often had to quit school early to go to jobs to help support their big families.

    • Yes, I think many people feel empathy for this poor guy. It speaks volumes about the importance of adult literacy programs. Can you imagine learning to read later in life then having the gift of books, news and magazines?

  6. There are more of these older man around that people would imagine who managed perhaps to write their name but could not read. We have a local county literacy council that I have been involved in. Your words illustrated it beautifully or perhaps sadly. The picture was there. And they were sometimes taken advantage of. Still happens today when people don’t read or really understand.

  7. I love your poem Lana, it makes me realise that we are all born on different sides of life, but there are still a lot of people in this world who still think that if you did not get a chance to be educated you are nothing or you cannot do anything. How sad to see that many people have forgotten their pasts, we all have ancestors who did not know how to write, but eventually we are their descendents, and we had the chance to be who we are today, but without the uneducated, we wouldn’t have been here – and lots of us don’t think wise about our own story.

    I have a friend who studied until she was 15 years old while I continued my studies. By the time I graduated from all the stages of my education, my friend had set up her own business, self-employed and she was many years ahead of me. She was an inspiration to me. A University degree has never dictated that life would be fair. When I was studying, I always thought of her and how she was doing. But eventually I found out. Until today we are still in contact and she is still doing well.

    Life is not about who is more educated, but knowing that we all come from different walks of life. Thank you for posting Lana, it was very interesting!

  8. Wonderful and captivating poem, Lana! I’m always so grateful that I had the chance to learn as much as I did. The written word opened endless worlds to me. And I admire all those people who somehow manage their life without, who try so hard to blend in. And I admire them even more when they finally find their way to programs such those you’ve mentioned. It takes a lot of courage to do this.

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