© Kym Eitel

Winner, 2009 Charlee Marshall Festival – Golden Cockatoo Award, Banana Shire, Queensland.

Beneath the giant mango tree, a young boy sadly stood.
A patch of shining nail heads scarred the mango’s trunk of wood.
The young boy held a hammer and a single, silver nail.
He added one more nail head to the bumpy metal Braille.

He dropped the hammer to the ground and stared at what he’d done.
A hundred times at least before, he’d struck the nail, then run.
He’d run till he could run no more, with tear streaks down his cheek,
then hide beneath the ghost gums, throwing rocks across the creek.

Today though, he felt calmer and he didn’t want to hide.
He stood and studied all those nails, felt sadness deep inside.
Each nail had been his punishment.  Each angry, hate-filled word
resulted in a hammered nail through vision teared and blurred.

Behind the boy, his Grandad stood.  The young boy slowly turned.
“I’ve said a lot of hurtful things.”  At last the child had learned.
The old man nodded slowly, he had waited for this day.
Perhaps the boy would understand the words he had to say.

“Angry words are weapons, son, they’re poison, they’re a knife.
They hurt your loved ones’ tender hearts and leave them scarred for life.
See, words, they are invisible, just sounds that we can hear
and though they are intangible, we feel them, right in here.

Harsh words become indelible when placed inside a heart.
Those hateful words can grow and spread, rip friendships right apart.
Once spoken, words are permanent.  They’re etched on someone’s mind –
eternal scars you can’t erase, so always, son, be kind.

Apologise.  They might forgive, but never will forget.
Cruel words will haunt the two of you.  You can’t undo regret.”
The old man hugged the young boy close, then touched each shining tack,
“Be sure to think before you speak, you cannot take words back.”

The young boy made apologies to Grandma, Mum and Dad,
the kids at school, his teacher and his brothers, Greg and Brad.
For each regret and insult, each offense and tattle-tale,
for each and ev’ry “sorry” said, he pulled out just one nail.

Yes, Grandad’s patient wisdom helped that very angry boy
to turn his gloomy life around, find laughter, fun and joy.
He’s grateful for that lesson, treasures ev’ry memory,
but knows there’ll always be those scars on Grandpa’s mango tree.

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