They’re Just Family, After All

In anticipation of guests,
the hostess – always bent
on pleasing – carefully selects
the script, ascribes roles,
envisions an afternoon
of light repartee, peppered
with philosophical pondering –
satisfactory entertainment.

They’re just family, after all,
she tells herself, confident
in the outcome, fatally smug.

Crowd arriving, she fails
to read disinterest in eyes,
politely attempts to orchestrate
interactions, while they cast about,
calculating, shunning protocols
of etiquette, dispersing in
an unsettling way, then returning,
savagely encircling their prey.

They’re just family, after all,
she tells herself, panic rising,
confusion overriding confidence.

Unprepared to defend herself –
bears no arms but the giving type –
she ducks, grasps, attempts
retreat from the onslaught
of vindictive agendas, but the wall
of stored grievances, spotlighting
a history of injustices, corners
her, hopelessness in its wake.

They’re just family, after all,
she tells herself, knowing
full well the legacy of pain.

It’s friends, in the end,
who save her – a surefooted
cavalry, bearing the swords of
understanding, compassion
their war cry – reigning in the
once-invited, now betraying
guests – objective hearts
demanding an end to the fray.

They’re just family, after all,
she tells them, tells herself,
composure a mere thread.

Tables turned, the offenders
now plead for forgiveness,
beg for help, pretend the slights
were unintentional, harmless,
expect their hostess to step
over the bloodied and slain bits
of herself, and with benevolence,
restore her love for them again.

They’re just family, after all,
she says weakly, the torn script
of her expectations scattered.

(My art, entitled She Stands In the Middle of It All. This poem first appeared May, 2016)

Perfect

I’m being a good girl, Dad
Staying out of sight
Keeping my needs to a minimum
Promise I don’t cry, Dad.

I’m being a good wife, Dad
Cooking all his favourites
Letting him walk ahead
Never uttering a peep, Dad

I’m a perfect background wife, Dad
Just like you taught me; just like Mom
Only no one has to hit me to make me
behave, Dad; I learned it good from you.

(Image my own)

Mental-Pause

Where do the words go
when they slip through the cracks
of my mental filing system?

And where is recognition
when words reappear,
no longer categorized
or referenced –
out of alphabetical order –

not even an inkling of recall
as if our acquaintance
is akin to discovery?

(Mental-pause first appeared here January, 2018. This version edited.
Image my own.)

Birthmark

Shunned for her sin
a young figure
rubs her swelling belly
compulsion driven by fear

Tremors from within
stunt her movement
uncertainty paralyzing
her words…

She is unwed,
repulsive to a society
reeking with ineptitude –
righteousness negating action

Unsuspecting, the baby arrives
emits a scratchy cry –
filling her lungs with hope
and anticipation, trusting

Does not know
in her stark nakedness
that her tragedy is set,
life will not embrace and provide

Poverty has marked her
for a life of hardship –
the pious turn their backs
she is, after all, born of sin.

(Image my own)

Wounded Feminine

On entering the tunnel, I see her –
pallor a notable shade of ghostly

Tattered, her dress hangs in billowing
folds of transparency; she beckons

No words pass between us, but
her haunting gaze begs audience

So, I bear witness to her tale –
a gruesome re-enactment of her death

Slow and agonizing, her femininity
scalded and tortured till flesh festered

and infection drove her to madness –
no solace offered, no medicine rendered

No more than a child, I now see –
a tragic retelling of innocence turned victim

Do not look away, her spirit commands,
the suffering continues, and I will haunt

Till justice recognizes the crime
and restitution restores balance.

(Reena’s Xploration offered the opening line, and Eugi’s Weekly Prompt – notable– added to the narrative. This apparition appeared to me in that tunnel between waking and sleep, begging that I share her story. Image my own)

The Cook

She’s in the kitchen
cleaning, prepping
sweetness, wishes

to nurture childlike
longings – sugar laden
gifts, honeyed chops

hooks her men with
culinary preciseness –
as legend prescribes

wants a strong, reliable
type to stir her ovaries
keep her dishing up love

Disappointment, like raw egg
drips off china plates –
shame of misadventures
she cannot scrub away

only serves tea now –
the smell of liquor
mingled with cigarettes
in lecherous calloused
hands turns her stomach

avoids the coffee maker
in the same way, despises
the way the bitter brew
makes her head spin –
wits need to be in order

has settled now as hostess
caters to near strangers
whose attention, riveted
by television screens, are

lulled by the rhythmic
sounds of her sanitizing
while stew simmers in pot,
dreams of romance shelved.

(Originally titled “Hatched”, this poem first appeared here in July, 2017. I am submitting an edited version for Reena’s Xploration challenge: Stranger in a strange land. Image my own)

Who Am I, If Not Responsible?

This pedestal of responsibility
has elevated me, out of reach,
out of touch – lumps together
children, mate, mother, sister…

Caregiver extraordinaire
present overcrowded by
obligations…am unwell,
off topic, fed up, surely…

I am other abled, have room
for more – not martyr related –
hesitant to plan, my purpose
for being so intricately tuned

to the needs of others, should
quit while I’m ahead – silence
the inner nag – free us all
from this unhealthy game.

(This poem first appeared on One Woman’s Quest II
in September, 2016. Edited here. Image my own.)