Julianne Palumbo


“Gracious words are a honeycomb,

sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)

Words fall sharp against raw skin
like pinpricks of rain
on a cold day.
In my youth such words fascinated me—
how when people played with them
I got burned.

Sometimes they’d unearth that special word
that dug you open
and tossed your insides
like a handful of dirt
on a bed of dry seeds.

I never understood why people
wanted to play with matches.

When I became a mother,
I watched my children bend
to brush off the words
that henpecked their shins—
words of their friends, their teachers,
their coaches.

I never wanted to be those words.

Some pray for bountiful harvest,
fertile soil.
I pray to stifle words that stomp
like boots over tender sprouts,
pray to lessen their earth print.

As farmers raise barn side
to the waiting sky,
I raise my prayer to heaven,

Lead me to a place
where my words don’t sting;
help me pick them
with a harvester’s hand,
press them gently into the mud.



I want her words—
the way they slide off her pen
and pierce my heart
the way they fit together like delicate layers
of colored sand.

I want to know the poet as I know her words
dissect the life that shaped them
hold her muse in my hand
and study its inner workings until I grip
the gears that turned the phrase.

The best lines spawn
from the heaviest suffering,
how a new root sometimes plants
itself in dry ground,
how adversity breeds resolve,
how the sun does climb.

I want to borrow her muse
but not owe a ransom
not taste the bitter brew of her sorrows
nor bloody my hands in the wounds
that birthed this most stirring verse.

Julianne Palumbo’s poems, short stories, and essays have been published in Literary MamaIbettson Street Press, YARN, The MacGuffin, The Listening Eye, Kindred Magazine, Poetry East, Mamalode, and others.  She is the author of Into Your Light (Flutter Press, 2013) and Announcing the Thaw (Finishing Line Press, 2014), poetry chapbooks about raising teenagers. She is the Founder/Editor of Mothers Always Write, an online literary magazine for mothers by mother writers.


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