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The Power of Words

OK, today is Thursday, and I have decided Thursday is for Thoughts on vaguely bookish things. Last week I posted a picture of a bookworm. This week it’s a poem by Carl Sandburg, Little Girl, Be Careful What You Say, because I love the way he uses language to show the importance of words, and the way they can give us the power to be free.  I first read this in A Flock of Words, an excellent anthology edited by David Mackay and published by Bodley Head. My edition is dated 1969, and I have no idea if it is still available, but it really is a wonderfully eclectic collection which you can dip in and out of as the mood takes you. Read and enjoy!

Little girl, be careful what you say
when you make talk with words, words—
for words are made of syllables
and syllables, child, are made of air—
and air is so thin—air is the breath of God—
air is finer than fire or mist,
finer than water or moonlight,
finer than spider-webs in the moon,
finer than water-flowers in the morning:
     and words are strong, too,
    stronger than rocks or steel
stronger than potatoes, corn, fish, cattle,
and soft, too, soft as little pigeon eggs,
soft as the music of hummingbird wings.
     So, little girl, when you speak greetings,
when you tell jokes, make wishes or prayers,
     be careful, be careless, be careful.
     be what you wish to be.


I'm a former journalist and sub-editor who loves needlework, reading and writing, and is still searching for the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Until I find the answer I'm volunteering at an Oxfam Book Shop and learning about Creative Sketchbooks!

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