culture · Family · poetry · women's issues

The Standoff

Men prefer a reserved lady,
Mother was quick to admonish,
ashamed of my hot temper,
the tear in mud-soaked stockings
the call that came from the boy’s mother.

But I was born with a fervid passion,
a sense of justice igniting a fire within –

Women need to stand up,
I lectured her, to declare our rights
a concept that fell on closed ears.

She’d continue to take father’s abuse,
apologize for under-salted broth,
or too thick gravy, for lingering
too long in conversation at the market,
or letting us kids dare to raise our voices.

And I’d continue to clock any boy
who dared to say that girls can’t….

Neither of us able to reverse
the inequity we suffered.

(For Ragtag Community’s challenge: fervid; and Fandango’s, reverse.) Image from personal collection.

Family · LGBQT · life · memoir · poetry · relationships · women's issues · writing

A 60’s Childhood

Formative years were more destruct
than construct; contradictions riddled

the foundation of our familial structure:
one man tyrannized five females while

in the news, women marched for equality;
called the likes of him a male chauvinist.

Aunt drove a forklift truck, looked like a man,
chalked one up for women’s liberation, didn’t

talk about her sexuality; shadow of illegality
hovering around her – no one dared to ask.

At nine, I questioned the fairness of being
born a girl in a man’s world, felt impassioned

by feminist cries, yet feared my mom would
leave the nest, abandon baking, domestics;

leave us to fend for ourselves – the warm waft
of fresh-baked goods greeting us each day, gone.

Watched my sisters flaunt their womanly ways
for virile young men who flocked to see bikini

clad bodies, ripe and tanned by the sun – who
was reducing whom to sex objects? And when

my mother’s family came to visit, why were the
men’s hands so invasive, their tongues equally

misplaced, and was this what women in the streets
were crying out against? I wanted to be free, explore

my future prospects – open road ahead – but Mother
said boys will be boys, and men don’t like smart

women, and better to drop out of school at sixteen,
get a secretarial job, and be ready when your prince

arrives – so I rebelled, cut my hair, flaunted my
intelligence, spoke up about inconsistencies,

such as why is a God a He, and why Aunt didn’t
ever date – did feminist mean celibate? and why

when women were so oppressed and men had
all the power, did my father wish he could be one?

Formative years more destruct than construct;
a deviate imprint tainting normalcy’s prospects.

(A 60’s Childhood first appeared here in September, 2016.  My challenge this week is story.  Click on the link to join in.  Computer is currently in the shop – so I have set this post up in advance.  Sorry if it takes me a bit to get back to you. Image from personal collection.)

abuse · Family · poetry · writing

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.)

 

 

 

 

aging · Family · Grandparenting · life · poetry · women's issues

Mothers and Daughters

A child hides
tricks her mother
into believing she is lost;
This is not a game, Mother says,
panic still coursing through veins,
visions of abduction blinding reason.

Mother knows
what six-year-olds cannot:
that simple outings can turn –
unexpected loitering around corners,
the certainty of menace; she is wide-awake
cautious, protective of innocence in her charge.

Where was my mother,
she wonders, when I wandered away,
younger even than this one, when unattended
I roamed the neighbourhood, left to my own devices,
did she not know about danger, about shadows lurking,
and how did she not feel the tug of fear for a child’s loss?

Cannot remember
a time when she felt anything
but mature, responsible, forgot
she was a child, seldom felt alone
and yet was she too not vulnerable –
ponders the conditions of parental love

She’s a grandmother now
watches as another generation
of mother and daughter negotiate
the parameters of independence,
feels the same lurch of terror for
the precariousness of youth

eyes the preciousness
of childlike wonder with appreciation,
recognizes that one cannot bear responsiblity
for the endurance of such an elusive quality
that in all things, loss gives over to rebirth
and in the end, reverence settles back in.

(Photographer:  Sylvie Salewski)

 

 

dreams · Family · life · memoir · poetry · Uncategorized · women's issues

A 60’s Childhood

Formative years were more destruct
than construct; contradictions riddled

the foundation of our familial structure:
one man tyrannized five females while

in the news, women marched for equality;
called the likes of him a male chauvinist.

Aunt drove a forklift truck, looked like a man,
chalked one up for women’s liberation, didn’t

talk about her sexuality; shadow of illegality
hovering around her – no one dared to ask.

At nine, I questioned the fairness of being
born a girl in a man’s world, felt impassioned

by feminist cries, yet feared my mom would
leave the nest, abandon baking, domestics;

leave us to fend for ourselves – the warm waft
of fresh-baked goods greeting us each day, gone.

Watched my sisters flaunt their womanly ways
for virile young men who flocked to see bikini

clad bodies, ripe and tanned by the sun – who
was reducing whom to sex objects? And when

my mother’s family came to visit, why were the
men’s hands so invasive, their tongues equally

misplaced, and was this what women in the streets
were crying out against? I wanted to be free, explore

my future prospects – open road ahead – but Mother
said boys will be boys, and men don’t like smart

women, and better to drop out of school at sixteen,
get a secretarial job, and be ready when your prince

arrives – so I rebelled, cut my hair, flaunted my
intelligence, spoke up about inconsistencies,

such as why is a God a He, and why Aunt didn’t
ever date – did feminist mean celibate? and why

when women were so oppressed and men had
all the power, did my father wish he could be one?

Formative years more destruct than construct;
a deviate imprint tainting normalcy’s prospects.

(Image: retrochick.co.uk)

Family · memoir · new project · nonfiction · writing

Four Voices

At the age of four, I moved with my family into a new house that my father had built, on the outskirts of town.  The day of our move my mother disappeared, and left to my own devices, I defied my father’s rules about staying out of certain parts of the house and discovered secret places, the beginning of my awareness that all was not as it seemed.  When my mother returned, she was carrying a new baby sister, and all was seemingly well, until one day she too discovered that the walls had secrets.

Four Voices tells the story of growing up in a family where secrets defined us; and examines the relationship between a daddy’s girl and her father, split between two worlds.  All names have been changed for this story.  Part I, starts at the end of seventeen-year-old Betty-Ann’s home life, and can be read here.

I have attempted to write this story for most of my life, however; I was always missing an essential piece – my father’s perspective.  Now, armed with new understanding, I offer you a tale of tragic misunderstanding and hope for healing.

Feedback is deeply appreciated.

 

adversity · disability · dreams · health · life · poetry · recovery

Leap-Froggin’

Always wanted to travel,
dreamed of exotic places,
thriving metropolises,
worthwhile destinations –
where I’d be
a somebody,
make a difference,
excel.

Aptitude tests proclaimed proclivity –
candidate for leadership –
confidence to reach to the top,
know-how unnecessary,
if the hat fits,
I’d wear it –
ambitious.

Wasn’t prepared for the halt
in progress – ending up
in rural Ontario, nothing
but a mall for entertainment –
told myself life is what
you make it –
keep your chin up,
and all that.

Let a few of my dreams slide,
convinced
they’d be better off
without me, moved on
before I could reclaim them,
abandoned common sense
for irrationality; a call
for help

Assured others I was all right,
not to worry,
swallowed anxiety,
choked on my confusion,
broke down when the road
ended again,
realized
there is no control center,
only ability

to respond,
and that sometimes
life leap-frogs
and sometimes
backwards is forwards;
reality
is topsy-turvy
and not a well-oiled machine,
and no matter the direction,
the journey
will be
trying.