Poem: War and Peace

A man looking at the camera, smiling

23rd June 2022

Tim Shanks' powerful poem about learning to accept his stammer.

War and peace

By Tim Shanks

I was a child soldier when I enlisted in the war
In terror of my stammered words
Those broken sounds wounded me
It was painful for them to pass my lips

With my dysfluent speech
I was scared to go 'over the top'
Across the dangers of fluent man's land
Into the battlefield of life

I fought the battle for fluency for over half a century
With the therapeutic weapons of mass destruction —
Slowed speech, block modification and avoidance reduction
But my stammered words refused to surrender

I thought my careless stammered talk
Would cost me my life
But it only rendered my feelings comatose
when I really wanted to be more bellicose

I was scared of my stammered talking that I didn't want to hear 
So I attacked, captured and incarcerated it
My stammers were now silent prisoners of war in my mind
— from where they imprisoned me all my life

I became a stammerer who does not stammer
An imposter with a lot to hide
However my stammers continued their covert operations
An underground resistance that continued to sabotage my peace of mind

I have now recognised the miscarriage of justice
My stammered words were always innocent
They died imprisoned inside me and
Gave me an 'interiority' complex

I have learned to communicate more by writing
I have wanted my words to have the right to be heard
My thoughts and feelings have managed a great escape…
There is no stammer in a written word

If I had my time again I would want to be friends
With my stammered words and feelings
They would not be enemies in my life
I would not be at war with my words

I would be a pacifist regarding stammering
And conscientiously object to fighting for fluency
I would be a deserter and face the firing squad
A stammering war poet who found peace.

Tim has also written articles for Your Voice about his long journey towards stammering acceptance: 
'I have stopped trying to be perfect'
'Say no to fluentism'

Do you have a poem about stammering you'd like to share? Or would you like to write about your experiences? Email editor@stamma.org or visit our Share Your Story page for details.