The Stick and The Stone

It’s not the words that hurt,
it’s looking in the mirror; 
The daily call to self-scar or curse,
Meeting the same cold loathing in the eyes
Every day of your diminished life.

That’s when you need to cast around
For the tiny, two-leaved seedling in the soil,
That emerald shoot of determination ―
Forcing its way up, drawn by the light:
Rained on, blown down, trodden in the wreck
But still there, holding on ― a little green god
That pipes up for living, that carols the spirit,
That insists upon life in its every increase;
Blessing all things ― including itself;
Opening its boughs to the wind and the sky,
Plunging its roots into ever-deeper darkness,  
Singing into being the great tree of soul.

No, never the words ― 
But the daily struggle at the mirror:
The unavoidable seeing of one’s self,
The turning of old scorns into tolerance;
Of tolerance into lenity, of lenity into joy
The slow internal alchemy that is love.

William Ayot
May 2020