The Last Train (Sonnet)

We wait at the station, Mother and I,
one final stop for her – painless she prays;
I busied at bedside – prolonged goodbye –
memories and regrets filling our days.

“We live too long,” she wearily proclaims
“Why must suffering linger till the end?”
I plea and bargain, call angelic names,
yet the will to survive refuses to bend.

The urgency builds as my time dwindles;
must I leave her in this compromised state?
She rallies and stands on wobbly spindles
dismisses fears – has accepted her fate.

Some destinations are clearly defined –
Death is a train whose schedule’s unkind.

(The Last Train first appeared January 2019. Image my own)

Talk

Mother said: “Look after your sister!”
What she meant was: Take this burden
off my shoulders; I am no longer able to cope.

Father said: “Do as I say, not as I do!”
What he meant was: I don’t have the wherewithal
to deal with my own problems, so don’t bring me yours.

Sister said: “Be a good auntie!”
What she meant was: I am too young to be a mother,
and you are much more responsible, so take care
of my consequences.

So I ran away to build my own life:
met a man and married, bought a house,
had children, and dreamed of a future
that would erase the past… but

Husband said: “If you really loved me,
you’d lose weight, be less effusive, control
your temper, and be more supportive of my choices.”

What he meant was: I’m going to grind you so far
into the ground and then I’m going to cheat and cheat
and you’ll have nothing left inside to do anything about it.

And without a word, I left.

What I meant was: I am a real person
with needs of my own, and despite my faults
or limitations, I deserve better
.

(This is an edited version of an older poem by the same name, December 2018. Image my own)

No Idea!

Girls are lucky:
just need to find the right man –
looked after for life.
Advice from a teenaged brother.

Right! I yell back,
fifty years later.
It was all a vacation –
raising the children on my own
looking for God in the midst of chaos
partners with wandering eyes
or absent…always absent…
still waiting for that “looking after”

And how did you make out, Dear Brother?
Oh, that’s right…married…
woman with a good job
willing to let you putter in the background

Guess we were both misled.

(No Idea! first appeared here November 2020. Image my own.)

Chasms

Old friend, I would visit you
but this compulsive state of
martyrdom delays our reunion;
then you slip my mind.

You wouldn’t recognize me –
this mask I wear, a product
of the toxicity that I play host to,
puts a life on my kind-heartedness

I want to be helpful
but carry a burden of failures –
ghosts from childhood home
that plug my memory

I have hurt so many,
neglected, now lost; family –
these useless ties are shadows
lurking, directing me –

I am sensitive, wanting
to exile the negativity, have been
taught to be considerate, but
cannot erase the inconsistencies

Spend too much time
browsing, delivering a fragment
of the torment that lies within;
am over-involved with self

Really want to be my best
in search of something greater
but today the frustration
is too raw, am at a loss

Old friend, I have reverted back
to dependence, manipulating,
am mentally unstable,
cannot find closure

in all the scattered pieces –
all I have to offer are bit,
disappointing, really – stored
memories that menace

Believe me when I say
I am working hard; want to start
fresh, have a goal in mind,
have not forgotten you

but am running out of
options, frustrated, can’t catch
a break, as the distance
between us widens.

(Chasms first appeared here October, 2106. Image my own)

Most Saturdays I include an audio recording, but this week my voice is not cooperating.

Is Progress This?

Is this progress,
this decision to uproot,
cast possessions aside,
free ourselves of ties?

Can his dependency,
my dependency, endure
the transition, released
from former justifications?

We are companions
embarking on adventure,
companions retiring past
lies, redefining possibility

Or, is this more of the same,
artfully camouflaged –
a continuance of flight
from tyrannical origins?

The paths behind are jagged,
wrought with rocks and crevices
and scarred riddles, and yet;
have we not survived? Thrived?

The road ahead is expansive,
our home an ever-changing
landscape, as wide as a continent –
our minds eager to absorb…

This is progress;
we are unburdened,
free spirited, submitting
to new tests of truth.

(Poem first appeared in October, 2017. Image my own)

Strategy

One more train
and she’d be away
far enough
to lose him

Scavenged in her bag
searching for a ticket
and courage…
could use a dose of courage

Thought of her mother
how torn up she’d be;
of her sister, confined
to long-term care

Call for boarding
and a decision –
neck smarting from
last confrontation

He wielded his hands
like weapons. his words
like knives – her heart
a mass of bruises

What choice did she have?
Surely staying meant death,
but could she run forever?
Rage found new footing

Picked up her bag
hustled out of the station
Why should one man destroy her –
She needed a better strategy.

(Image my own)

Distorted Lenses

My memory of you –
distorted by childish exuberance-
distant and disinterested

Translated vacant eyes
through the lens of my needs
child that I was.

Failed to notice
the aura of defeat,
the battered heart

the robotic responses
masking unbelievable sorrow
missed it all

Till death knocked
and I saw you anew –
adult lenses now fully secured.

Wonder at the fortitude
that kept you upright
the love that served us both.

No fault here –
on either side –
just a bittersweet understanding.

(Distorted Lenses first appeared here August, 2019. Image my own)