What He Writes by Birdice I. Lott (September 9, 1947)

My grandmother wrote,

Know a man by what he writes.
Know his heart through every word.
Know the thoughts that he must have,
though so often they are unheard.
Know not by the words he speaks,
they may be hard as stone.
Know him by the things that he,
puts on paper when alone.

This poem moved me to tears when I first read it at the age of seven because the words brought to my mind my grandfather, and even at the age of seven I wondered if this poem was written about him or with him in mind, and if my grandmother was happy.

I wondered if it was about him because grandpa was a terse, gruff, quiet man who would sit and watch baseball or football when he wasn’t working at the auto mechanic’s shop he owned. He would speak if spoken to, but in later years would feign deafness and would only speak if the person doing the talking was persistent enough to ask the question three times, or yell loud enough to be noticed. You couldn’t carry on a conversation at that volume, but might get a question answered. He loved us, but was not very demonstrative.

I wondered if my grandmother, or granny as I called her, was happy because she wrote in her poem that the man’s thoughts are unheard and that when he speaks his words are hard as stone. I never came right out and asked her that question. I would only talk to her about her life, what she remembered from her childhood, what was expected of her in the home, etc., and her happiness or unhappiness would never enter into the conversation.

I loved the poem when I was seven, I love it still many years later. It rings with a truth that is haunting and brings to mind an author, hunched over a finished writing project, ready to unveil to the world the deepest thoughts and ideas coming from within. 

Granny died in 2001 but she continues to serve as my writing role model through her poems that were so heartwarming and real. Before she died, some of her poems were posted on the Poetry.com website. She influences my attitude because she was always a positive, no nonsense personality who never gave up. She had a wonderful sense of humor, and was quick-witted to the end. She was, and will always be, a person who inspires me.

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