Glass Caskets

What mysteries lie in ancestral roots,
what clues to illuminate the dysfunction
that permeated our familial ties, cursed
us with a pervasive sense of perversity?

We are a portrait of deviancy: still life
torsos, dismembered from birth, non-
conforming hormonal structures denied
reception in the aftermath of Victorianism.

An aunt, who despite her outer female
attributes earned the nickname Billy,
tried her best to acclimatize to girlie legs,
distracted herself with industry, could not

bear the swirl of dresses, nor the reek
of men’s cologne, banished herself to
far off lands, followed a brother – also
optically illusive – knew himself as Liz,

adapted arms and legs of steel to bury
his essence, donned military rags, and
macho outbursts, failed to escape his
inner truth.  Raised by this disembodied

woman, whose embittered cries echoed
through our hollow chambers, shattered
any attempts at compassion, we were
observers at a funeral, where the casket,

made of glass, held a lonely figure – head
and shoulders solely visible – all but dead,
suspended, like a science experiment gone
terribly wrong, abandoned in a gel-like bath –

embalmed dysmorphia on private display.
Lacked the resources to understand the
complexity of their sufferings, too entwined
to be rational – ignorance blinded by shame.

Only now, in the light of current revelations,
is the depth of our misguided conclusions
made tragic – with I could reach back through
time, adjust the settings to acceptance, but

lack the currency, have no recourse, other
than these words, to communicate the sheer
brutality of discrimination – have witnessed
the bloodied carnage of authenticity oppressed.

(Glass Caskets first appeared December, 2016.  It was published in Little Rose Magazine, March 2108.  I submit it here for my weekly challenge:  deviation.)



The History Lesson

“Why do we have to learn about something that doesn’t effect us?” the small, blonde student asked me. “I mean, it was ages ago, and not even in our country.”

She might as well have run me through the heart with a stake, the pain of her words struck me so deeply.  I considered her:  an average student, indulged, youngest child, modestly dressed, like many of her age. Disinterested.

Because without our awareness, and interference, history repeats itself, I wanted to say.  Because nothing that happens in the world happens in isolation; we are not immune. Because ignorance makes victims of us all.

Instead, I sent the class home with an assignment:  ask questions, call your grandparents, find someone who remembers, and be prepared to share what you have discovered.


History foretells –
casts eerie shadows over
disregard’s future.

(dVerse’s Haibun Monday is hosted by Frank J. Tassone, who challenges us to write a piece for Hiroshima Day.)


History Lesson

Adolescence holds lessons,
I failed to absorb, the leap
into adulthood premature.

Have a son of my own now,
wish to guide him to solace,
help him to settle into a place

where the sky is prominent,
teach him to live without
walls, proud and confident

but I fear the price is too steep
that he will not manage the cost,
recognize that the legacy lives on

that he too has been thrust into
adulthood, a product of his mother’s
failure – an example poorly set.

Calm Yourself, Woman

Circumstances shift –
breath the fertile air –
let dreams fly, expand,

embrace change – hope
now winged, an explorer
bursting with possibility.

I would move this old
body, relocate to new
beginnings, be reborn

but for these internal
trappings – begging for
extermination – retro

shaded memories –
long past expiration –
skewed accessibilty,

stretched without purpose,
reconfiguration required –
history a real estate, I need

to unload; who will buy
a drama-laden, single
story alcoholic’s haunt?

Circumstances shift –
sniff the fertile air –
guard forbidden dreams

change, like wings, unfolds
in its own time; be patient,
possibility is taking flight.

(Image from:

A Husband and a Son

Mistook a man for a boy
once – married, realized
error, buried self in misery.
We were just nineteen.

My son is quite athletic:
quarterback, downhill racer,
musical, too – we expected
great things – a doctor, lawyer.

He laid in bed till two, rose,
reclined on couch,  amassed
piles of litter around him,
while I worked two jobs.

Recruited by the drama coach,
he made a wonderful leading
man – handsome, rugged looks,
a certain charm to his smile.

We didn’t consummate – I’m
not sexy enough, he said –
although he seemed to eye
the friend that kept him up …

He met this girl – she was
a year ahead of him – leading
lady – suddenly, he’s going out,
needs a car, gets a job –

He bought a slot car – joined
a club, raced in our basement
till 3 am – men with tiny cars-
going nowhere fast, I reeled…

She was years ahead of him –
left home at seventeen, knew
independence, responsibility –
a go-getter, highly energetic.

He couldn’t hold a job – excelled
at failure – unwilling to settle for
second best – I took on a boarder
to maintain the status quo.

We liked her all right – fit in-
like the daughter I never had,
but when they said they were
getting married – what to say?

I booked us a getaway – plan
to reconnect, ignite a spark,
instead we fought – he said
it was so easy for me – what?

He dropped out of school, took
a job at a bank – would-be manager
– sounded promising -let go a month
before the date- unfortunate.

I started staying out after hours
hanging with men – platonic;
anything to avoid the coldness
of home – an emotional void.

We told him he could call it
off – wasn’t too late.  He was
still a child – so much of life
to experience yet – why not?

Tried talking to his parents,
they said he needed a career,
not just any job – wanted him
to be somebody – I exploded.

The wedding was extravagant,
such a waste of money, really –
an embarrassment for us, but
we smiled and acted pleased.

It’s okay for the slut to work
sixteen hour days, is that it?
Nothing’s good enough for
your son – but okay for me?

We had them for dinners
Sundays – a happy ritual –
kept our eye on them, could
see the tension building.

Kicked him out before second
anniversary – either work or
leave, said I – he left – home
to mom’s couch I assumed.

He’s really still a child, my son,
needs his mother, needs to
ripen, too young to be plucked
from the vine – give it time.

Half the furniture and all
the debt and I feel like a
failure – used, betrayed,
who’ll want me now?

I worry about him – never see
him – wonder where he spends
his time – is he warm, fed, is
someone washing his clothes?

Someone does want me –
shares my dreams, opportunity
for a new life – but I can’t find
ex – shunning divorce, he hides.

He comes to Sunday dinners now
with a new woman at his side –
a soft-spoken country gal, polite
enough – I somehow miss the first.

His parents won’t tell me where
he is – hire a detective – need
to serve papers – be free of this
blemish on my heart – move on.

I ask him what his plans are, he
shrugs, looks away.  Have you
divorced?  No, Mom – nothing is
settled – still just a boy, really.

I find him at his mother’s house –
Sunday dinner – the new woman
at his side – as if nothing happened
as if my life had not been destroyed.

She was big as a house when she
came – in a hurry, of course – getting
re-married, having a child, leaving
him behind – always such drama.

It’s an old story now, child’s play –
two not-quite adults making poor
decisions – no one to blame –
I had always like his mother.

She dropped by today, to say
hello, heard I was ill, wanted to
apologize – strange child really,
old in some ways, lost in others.

Can the past ever be undone?
They were good people really –
undeserving of my recklessness,
unwittingly caught up in my pain.

We didn’t know what hit us,
I laughed – you were so full of life,
but he wasn’t ready, timing was off
for the life you were craving.

Is he happy? I ask (not mentioning
the fraud charges – saw it in the news)
I’m glad he found someone (did they
find the love that we had missed?)

He’s fine, I tell her, had his share
of tribulations – as we all do – (don’t
say he was just here this weekend
thinking about divorce – still failing.)

I wonder that she’s never moved,
still keeps this house of empty rooms,
hollow dreams echoing in the hallway,
has she found contentment in her life?

She leaves, and the warmth goes with
her – always full of sunshine despite
the rain – I let her go – like I did before –
the tempest who changed our lives.