The Art Of Survival

Learned the art of survival
from father, a commando-
trained warrior, never able
to leave the battles behind

A sharp-shooter, whose
expert eye tracked our
every fault, with sniper
precision, shot us down.

Innocence has no place
when the enemy resides
within; when trigger lines
are camouflaged by wall-

to-wall carpets, and young
minds, craving exploration,
are imprisoned by acts of
terror; the only conclusion

survival’s impermanence –
hostility lurking in every
shadow, caution instilled
by the omnipotent legacy

of father. Tried to reach
him in the end, touch his
humanity; his shell-shocked
glaze paused for a moment,

he focused, broke through
the fury, seemed to remember
we were his daughters – was
that compassion lighting

his expression? Take cover,
he cried, get as far away as
you can, save yourselves, I
cannot sway my path, too

committed to this private war,
there is no mercy for me – but
you, you can be saved, save
your children.  I turn and run

with all the certainty that this
is life and death and embrace
the little ones, praying to lift
them out of the ashes, give

them new life, but it seems
they learned the art of survival
from the daughter of a father,
conditioned to the state of war.

(Submitted for dVerse pub Open Link Night.  This poem first appeared November 2016.  Video is a reading by yours truly at an Open Mic night.)





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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

84 thoughts on “The Art Of Survival

  1. I admire your bravery…at posting the video and the poem of such raw emotions. Such a painfully difficult subject to revisit and then share. It resonated with me. And I’m sure others as well. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Recently, as I once again considered writing my “real” story, I began with the child’s fantasy of running away into a Minnesota blizzard one night… I often wished I’d had the knowledge and courage to do exactly that. But being psychologically imprisoned, I didn’t believe I truly had any options. So I have immeasurable empathy for you, hiding in corners or woods.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, it is both sad and powerful in how the art/need for survival has been passed through the generations because of the impacts of war — the battlefield scars are palpable here. A gripping verse! The complications of this scenario are so well represented in this bit: “hostility lurking in every/shadow, caution instilled/by the omnipotent legacy/of father.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So happy to see and hear you! It adds to one’s perspective. This poem is so telling. You learned survival, something we must all learn. So sorry your father suffered as he did. Who knows, mercy may have found him. My father was a prisoner of war and never could speak of it. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You had me at /he broke through his fury/. As noted above, this piece is powerful and so very personal; so fitting for around Veteran’s Day. The video added many layers of depth as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Although it breaks my heart to think that this comes of your own experience, it’s one of my very favorite works of yours so far, VJ. It really speaks to how the ripple effects of war can last for generations.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. V.J., this left me stunned. I’ve dealt (in my nursing career,) with Vets who had PTSD, but this presents it to me in an entirely new way. My own father was KIA when I was only 3 months old, and from what I know of his crew (he was the pilot of a B-24) they had difficult lives. I’ve thought sometimes that what happened to my dad was the more merciful thing, though so sad. This rather confirms it. The effects of war are disastrous.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. VJ, this captures so well the implications individual personal dramas have on others in the afflicted’s range of influence. Your father unable to abandon his struggle even at the end is very sad … for all concerned, not just him. The video adds emphasis – nicely done. Did your father know you as a poet? (Bot of my parents were gone before I began.)

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Sounds like he would’ve encouraged your poetry. I never heard my dad mention poetry at all – nor my mother until one day she sent me a poem she’d written “a long time ago” that perfectly matched what was happening to me at the time (lover walked out on me). And then after her death, my sister and I found quite a few poems she’d written in her young adult days before meeting Daddy. The one Mother sent me was written after Daddy’s death.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Powerful and poignant. My father was a Veteran of WW2 and returned without his older brother/best friend (killed in 1945 when a munition ship blew up accidentally in Bari, Italy). He was changed and never talked about the war but depended on the Legion and alcohol to get by.
    You are right – PTSD was not given the attention it deserved. But I was happy this year to hear of the awarding of the Memorial Silver Cross to the mother of a young Canadian Vet who killed himself after returning from war in Afghanistan with grave emotional wounds.
    You are quite amazing to have bounced back from those grave wounds your father passed on to you. Thank you for sharing this poem, made even more powerful by your reading of it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think so many of us, children of soldiers, have been touched by the effects of war. Thanks for sharing your story Sarah. I am still a work in progress, suffering PTSD myself. I search for understanding and release through writing. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a powerful share and breaks my heart at the thoughts of that inner war raging in the minds of these fathers. You are a brave daughter and woman to your family. I salute you!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. A very strong and powerful poem..sometimes dad can be dads but little do they realize that they have already lost the love and compassion needed by their children only because of wanting so much security for them.

    P.S. i salute you..

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Just read your poem, then watched you read it. Reading it, the stanzas remind me of steps, where you are going somewhere. I can relate to: “A sharp-shooter, whose
    expert eye tracked our
    every fault, with sniper
    precision, shot us down.” but it was more my mom than my dad, even though my dad had more than his fair share of issues. When your dad’s, “his shell-shocked
    glaze paused for a moment,” and he had the presence of mind to warn you away, it is such a powerful moment in the poem. it couldn’t have been easy to pull those memories out. {{{{{HUGS}}}}}

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You are welcome. Yes it can be such a release to get it out, and having “witnesses” to our stories also helps dissipate it I think. You have a good husband who cares to hear what’s inside of you.

        Liked by 2 people

  12. As I read this poem, found myself being dragged backwards, into my own abusive past. I told, as a child, not to tell anyone about the things that my younger brother did to my mom and I. And yes, he has tried to kill me, numerous times, only to be blocked by mom. From childhood and into adulthood, I have suppressed these memories, until they can rushing back.

    During a brutal 26 hour panic attack, in August 2007. When my mental defenses collapsed. Have since been diagnosed with chronic depression, various anxiety disorders and PTSD. I wish you well, in your healing and poetry.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am sorry if this triggered anything, Theresa, and to hear of your past. How can we not suffer PTSD, anxiety and depression, when the very place that is meant to support and nurture us is the cause of our strife. I write as a means to heal myself and also as a hand extended to others to say: “you are not alone”.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. My father was a very gentle soul. My step-father not so much. I knew exactly what you were getting at when I first started reading your poem. “A sharp-shooter, whose/ expert eye tracked our/ every fault, with sniper/ precision, shot us down” sent long-forgotten chills down my spine. My step-father had not been to war. But his father had. He’d left an arm in the war. The other one, the one that was left, he used to beat his two sons. Badly, I suppose. My step-father passed it on to my mother and my little sister who’s never recovered from the damage to this day. Four generations falling victim. As you wisely say, you don’t blame your father, you just recognize the damage. Same for me. What a tragedy for all involved…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is such a tragedy, and so unnecessary, if we only knew better. Thanks for reading and commenting. I am willful enough to try and recover and break the pattern, but like your sister, many of siblings are not.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I couldn’t agree more. And yet, it’s so hard to break the pattern. My sister was too young to be able to fend it off. I could leave home before the worst damage was done. Yet to this day I fight the after-effects. “The enemy resides within” is so true, too, when it comes to my own inner critic, the internalized brutal voice I’ve heard so many times and that I sometimes tend to direct at myself now, three decades later. Still, just like you, I want to break the cycle and working on it, very gently.

        Liked by 2 people

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