The Man Who Wanted to Change the World

When sticks and stones break our bones, we’re pretty sure they will mend. However, words can hurt, and the hurt often lasts. Of course, words also can comfort, sustain, understand, lead to healing, to change for the good. I’ll stop there and invite you, if you want, to add to the list.

Here’s a guy who tried–

The Man Who Wanted to Change the World

He thought changing the nouns
might help. No one could say
“gun” in the same old way. You
would have to pause, say,
“What’s the name again? Oh,
yes, sassafras.” You would hear,
“Give me the wisteria to the car,”
or find yourself asking, “Why
don’t we add some whispers
to the bottom line?” He realized
this one long, hazy afternoon
while staring up into the trees,
into the wild acceptance
of their branches’ tangle. He
watched the light settle on
the leaves. He believed
the robins, vireos, and
nuthatches could see it.
Later, that evening drying
his dinner plate, he felt everything
around him leaving, felt himself
alone amid the sparkles of dust.
Before bed, he addressed, sealed,
and stamped a stack of empty
envelopes, one for everyone
he loved. The next morning
he made his first list: bread dough,
lightning, salt, candle, mourning dove,
while he thought of last laugh,
coffin, profit margin, highway, fact.

–Jack Ridl

From Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

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8 thoughts on “The Man Who Wanted to Change the World

  1. sooo timely! I have been obsessed lately with names and naming, and keep finding myself in conversations about the power of syllables … this poem gives me chills, both good and bad.

    • Yes yes yes, the power of syllables. Thanks for responding when for heaven’s sake
      you have no time to take to do that. So kind.
      I like chills!!!!

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