The Photo Album

Adolescence doesn’t wear a smile
in our old photo album –
stares fixated on unseen lint –
distracted, we three sisters,
all reeling from the cold,
unwell, immobilized…

What is absent is the photographer
whose pointed directions critique
each decision – a derisive repetition
that eats at our souls, each girl
wrestling with self-nurture vs
self-annihilation, landing somewhere
in between – mannequin targets
for male abuse…

Oh, I tried to take up arms, rail against
the dominance, the oppression, but
only succeeded in settling for disconnection,
while one sister turned tricks for attention,
the other retreated into full dependency,
her madness, out of date, nevertheless
relevant – despite our tormenter’s death,
the images are permanently recorded
in that old photo album.

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)

End Suffocation

Too much black
Too much colour;
Fashion out of sync

Too many calories
Extra weight a turnoff
Comparisons cut deep

Stay close;
Stop being anti-social;
Friendliness invites abuse

Children need their mother
How do you plan to pay?
Better find a job.

Never enough
Beaten by criticism
A lonely marriage

Control suffocates
Narcissism cares not
Road is dead-end

Break free
Take the leap
True love begins with self.

(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.)

Wayward Daughter

(Warning: this poem discusses the effects of sexual assault, and may be disturbing to some readers.)

Back and forth I travel, searching
for her – retrace every bend, curve,
detour – back to the water, the sand,
the beach where I lost her…haunted

by velvet brown eyes – bedroom eyes,
they told her, men with greedy loins,
calculating – I lost her to the lure of
alcohol, to the pounding beat of drums
in those smoky corners so far removed
from the purity of our dreams…

It’s been an arduous journey, some days
so lost in the daze of forgetting; I cycle
back, memories of manhood exposed
egos craving stroking, learning
what men wanted, learning to numb

disappointment with fast-talk
and all-nighters, suppressing tears
discovering that words hold no promise
and water is deep, and going within
is a dark, foreboding place, and worth…

is shrouded by the discovery
that the father she adored was not
as we’d thought, and that this primal
urge for mating was a trap….
designed to eradicate beauty,
not enhance it…

I need to find her,
hold her afloat in sacred waters,
help her feel the healing light
of a thousand women’s hearts
all bleeding as one,

all tainted by the same
convoluted messages –
that lust is sinful and copulation
a man’s domain, and that in order
to be espoused, she must forgo
her nature – tame the wild
settle…

but as much
as I travel these lonely roads,
I cannot find her, the traces of
her innocence washed away
by the tides…lines now
on this aged face

If you see her, please
hold her close…
hold her until the beauty
of her being is solid knowing
and the shame vanquished
Hold her till she understands
the light she was born to be.

( Wayward Daughter first appeared here in February, 2017, and was published in the anthology: We Will Not Be Silenced: The Lived Experience of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault…, by Indie Blu Publishing, 2018. This version is edited. I am submitting it for my weekly challenge: roads. Art my own.)