I Am Listening, Child

Child of mine,
what rage is this
that sets you against
a younger brother?

What discontent stirs
so deeply within that
you would lash out
at me, your mother?

Let us sit a moment,
and let me, with tenderness,
listen, for your anger masks
pain, and I am not so far
removed from childhood
to recognize that tone.

If I have wronged you,
speak; I need to hear it.
If peers are pressuring,
or bullying, or you feel
betrayed, lay it here
in my hands, and I will
comfort you, and offer
what wisdom I have.

Your well-being is sacred
to me; let me hold you –
you’re not too old – linger
here in my embrace until
the tears come, and the storm
passes; I will hear your fears,
frustrations, and disappointments,
and together we will figure it out.

Child of mine,
I am here for you,
no matter the reason;
your pain is my pain,
talk to me; I am listening.

(This poem first appeared Dec, 2019. Image my own)

The Wink

Father’s scrutiny
inspired terror,
but that night,
catching the whiff
of alcohol on
underage breath,
I spied a hint
of a sparkle –
dared say so

“Chip off the ol’ block, eh?”

“Don’t you know it,”
he winked back.

(Tuesdays, I borrow from Twitter @Vjknutson.
Image my own)

Sunday supper table (sestina)

Two at the ends, two at the back
one for the cook, one for the help
this was the way of Sunday’s table:
hungry tums anxiously waiting,
family dog glued to the floor
lest any scrap should need saving.

Father would pray for all our saving;
serve himself before handing back,
while Mother paced the dining floor
ever offering us kids some help
till dishes, her end, piled up, waiting –
always an imbalance at our table.

Silence was the rule of the table,
stories and anecdotes were for saving,
politeness called for patient waiting –
chairs tucked in and shoulders back
and no cutting the meat without help,
cold potatoes slyly sloshing on floor.

Youngest feet not reaching the floor
tended to swing beneath the table
kicking knees could not be helped;
from fiendish scowls no saving –
Father’s hand flashed a wicked back,
scolding sermons he kept in waiting.

My tongue would tire of the waiting
no matter how I focused on the floor
and if a sister should glance me back
that would be the end of a quiet table,
giggles nervously emerging from saving
any hope of control beyond our help.

Mother’s good nature was seldom help,
nor Father’s silence as he glared, waiting,
for the situation was far beyond saving,
and his chair angrily scraped the floor
as his storming presence left the table
we happily waved at his regressing back.

***

All the stories we’ve been saving –
childhood foibles we couldn’t help

Days and people we’ll never get back
hoping that somewhere they’re waiting

That one day we’ll meet, share the floor
minus the hurt, forgiveness at the table.

(My poetry circle tried their hands at a sestina.
This is my attempt. Another tale from dinner
with Dad. Image my own.)

Survival of the Wittiest

Father demanded first slice of pie
doled out with high brow perfection
anything less unacceptable

Crumbly bits unleashed a tirade
the shame of incompetence
crushing the reluctant server

Oppressed as we were
we children plotted,
sought a suitable revenge

He got his just dessert
cherry with a subtle trace –
scent of satisfaction.

(Note: no parents were killed in the writing of this poem. Image my own.)

Where Ignorance Leads

Quest for independence
born of familial dysfunction
led me down a path of dissent

Compromise, I believed
was toxic, swore against
the brutality of submission

Need no one,
depend on no one
have nothing to lose

Overlooked the joy
of interdependence –
an alien concept

Chose a lonely path,
a straggler destined
never to belong…

(Image my own)

Sisterly Love

It’s just a moth, I offered
that blue moon night
rattling windows
chafing nerves

We’d chosen exile –
sister and I – refuge
from family demons,
not ours to claim

Innocence borrows
responsibility – I bore
it like a badge;
she shattered

Could not discriminate
darkness from her own
inner light – sought
to end the fury

I’ll carry us both,
I murmured, too young
to recognize the magnitude –
altruism destined to fail.

She’s buried now
beneath the madness
her mind the moth
slamming against my pain.

(Image my own.)