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I’d like to share another prompt recently used in one of my creative writing circles. We warmed up with ‘what’s in a name?’ I’m intrigued by the power of the word, but also by its limitations – for there are some things we can’t put words to, no matter how rich our vocabulary. I believe that’s one of the beauties and strengths of poetry, for it plays with words and uses them in non everyday ways to hint at a truth that evades logical description. The best poets lay pathways that lead us into a new we can not turn back from, because we’ve felt a truth, and we can’t undo or unknow wisdom that’s touched at a cellular level, however much we try to deny.


Anyway, I’m going off the point! So then we did one of our ‘gathering’ exercises, sending out sticky blank pages to collect thoughts like a bee harvests pollen. On one side – images of fragility, on the other, images of strength. When it came to reading the lists aloud, a couple of people were unsure whether they were on the correct side, a beautiful illustration of the fact that these two qualities are deeply interrelated. It is sometimes when we are at our most fragile and vulnerable that we discover or demonstrate our strength, and it is sometimes in intentional displays of strength that we reveal our fragility.


Anyway, I digress again! After sharing and digesting this image gathering I asked each person to write a poem exploring that edge, that threshold, that mingling, that inter-relatedness between strength and fragility. This is what I wrote:


You held me

stroked my hair

lifted me

with my hands in yours

you guided, taught, shared

hands full of strength

who’s palms against my being

were like roots and rocks all at once

now have skin that cracks

spots of age that can be read

like the circles in a tree trunk

enough to play join the dots

and draw out the story

of these hands that carry love

invisible and unseen

unspillable in their warmth and responsiveness

that now shake when life’s storms hit

and I hold one

in both of mine

and know myself as root and rock

in hands that stir and lift and chop

to serve and nurture

I hold your hand

in both of mine

and in your eyes

see the strength that hasn’t left

it’s just moved home


It’s a tender sweet spot, isn’t it, that meeting place between these two? How would you describe it?


If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here:


and here: