creativity · culture · poetry · writing

Spotlights Burn

She amassed children while
he pursued accolades

Family photos display
northern shorelines
tanned faces, white-toothed grins
parents not represented

Lost her childhood
at the bottom of a ravine
laid beaten and shattered
no one came to rescue her.

Guess that’s what drew her
the his light; money, she hoped
would not abandon her.

But muck tracks the same
and children need feeding
and absent a co-parent
she sleeps most days.

Offspring learn independence
a product of adults’ disarray
outlasting the fickleness of fame.

(For Reena’s Exploration Challenge:  prompt is the last line of the poem.  Image my own.)

art · creativity · poetry · relationships · writing

Story Worthy

Kindness encourages stories
from those too reluctant to share
from youth full of inspiration
from musicians just developing
even from the discouraged
unaware their tale lacks worth.

Each one a record-keeper
harbouring intricate plot lines
uniquely brewed, the telling
a revelation – find a good ear,
or a patient pen, and express.

(Image from personal collection, and available on Society6.)

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.)

creativity · Family · poetry · spirituality · writing

The Pact

“What happens after death?”
she asked one Sunday, her long, thin body,
stretched weakly across the settee, her cousin,
balancing his dinner plate at her feet.

Sundays they came together – all the family –
for Grandmother’s dinners – the warm waft
of fresh-baked pies, the clank of dishes,
and voices raised over the old farm table.

He shrugged, knowing it was an ongoing
concern – she’d been frail from birth,
this girl he loved – two years younger,
but in every way his peer – said nothing.

“Let’s make a pact,” she blurted with sudden
fervour.  “The first to die will leave a sign.”
“Grandpa’s bells!” They shook on it, and
then with a satisfied grin, she fell asleep.

A more sombre clan gathered mid-week,
eyes red and faces pale with the shock
of loss – no smells of warmth to greet them,
just cold platters prepared by church ladies.

Slumped bodies, heads leaning close,
sipped tea on the place where she’d lain,
that last day – no sound of children’s
laughter, just a hole too hard to bear.

And when the sound came, metal
clanging on metal ringing a joyous
clamour, she was the first to see –
Grandpa’s bells stirring  – her sign!

She knew then that he’d be waiting –
told me so before that last breath,
and as I watched her go, I swear
I could hear the far off ringing of bells.

(Bjorn is hosting at dVerse tonight and challenges to write narrative poetry.  This story of the pact was told to me by my cousin Caroline before she died.  The bells were not as pictured here, but were sleigh bells her Grandfather kept hanging inside the back door.)

 

adversity · Family · life · Love · mental-health · nonfiction · relationships

Three Sides To A Story

My first impression of Sherry was “Stepford Wife”.  A tall, thin, blonde, Sherry appeared to be the perfect wife and mother.  The stones in her garden coordinated with the ruffled awning above her front door, and accented her meticulously manicured lawn and flower bed.  Inside was no different:  her floors shone spotlessly, despite the presence of three children; and a smell of fresh baking wafted through the air.  Even though my visit was impromptu, Sherry was dressed stylishly in a crisp white blouse, and form-fitting skirt, complete with heels, and suitable accessories.  I was immediately intimidated.

My next visit to her home, this time invited, revealed much the same.

Sherry’s husband, Rob, was equally as impressive.  Also tall and thin, Rob was a quiet intellectual, who stayed fit by running marathons, and coaching his boys’ soccer teams.  He seemed to take his wife’s efficiencies into stride, and like her, was unruffled by his rambunctious young family.

Sherry and Rob soon became part of a social circle:  a group of ten couples that met once a month for dinners, cards, and sometimes, social outings.  They fit right in.  Once a year, we would all gather with our children for a large barbeque and fireworks.   Life was good.

Then, one day, I got a phone call from a mutual friend.  “Sherry is in a bad way,”  she said.  “Can you help?”

I knew something was wrong the minute I stepped in the door by the state of disarray in the house.  Sherry’s six-year-old daughter let me in.  She appeared frightened and withdrawn.

“Where’s your Mom, Sweetheart?”

She led me through the house to the kitchen, where Sherry sat crumpled in a chair, head down on the table, hair matted, and smudges of makeup streaking her face.

“Sherry?”

“He left me.”  She didn’t even look up.  Her voice, flat and lifeless, spoke volumes.

I spotted her two boys in the adjacent room, watching television.  I could see them glancing our way anxiously.  Please help!  their eyes pleaded.

I reached for the kettle.  “Have you eaten yet today?”  Telltale signs of kids preparing their own food and abandoning the dishes suggested she hadn’t.

Sherry was slow to respond.  “What?……um….I’m not hungry.”

I made her tea and toast and put it before her, and encouraged the children to go out and play.  Relieved, they complied.    “Tell me what’s going on.”

“He left me for another woman.”

I was stunned.  “Honey, try to eat something, and let me help you.”

She sat up, staring at the offering before her with complete disinterest.  She pushed the plate away, and cradling the cup, took one tiny sip, then pushed that away too.  Her normally thin frame appeared gaunt.

“Back up,”  I suggested.  “Tell me what happened.”

Rob had had an affair three years earlier with a woman from work.  When Sherry found out about it, Rob ended the affair and he and Sherry entered marriage counselling.  She had tried really hard to be the perfect wife and mother, so that he would love her again, and thought everything was going well, but out of the blue, he left.  He was now living with his mistress.

Sherry’s heartbreak was so intense, it threatened her life. Within weeks she was hospitalized because of severe malnutrition.

It was hard not to sympathize with her situation and write Rob off as a total jerk, but as always, there is another side to every story.

“I reached the end of my rope,”  Rob explained.  I love my wife, and I adore my children, but living in a constant state of perfection is exhausting.  Sherry has to be the best at everything, have the best house, wear the best clothes, everything is about impressing others.  There is nothing genuine about her, about us.  She is incapable of authenticity.  I tried to stay for the children’s sake, but I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I am dying inside.”

“So you left for another woman.”  I couldn’t keep the edge out of my voice.  I am, after all, a woman.

“If you met her, you would understand.  She’s so real! “

I wanted to understand.  I wanted to know what would drive one person to put his/ her family through so much pain.

“When two people divorce,”  a colleague told me, “there are always three truths:  his, hers, and a truth that lies beyond their stories.”

I tried to stay impartial, but supportive, and as I did, I began to realize the wisdom in my colleague’s words.  Once released from the hospital, Sherry became a woman obsessed.  She stalked her husband and his new lover, both at their home, and their places of work.  She was determined to get Rob back, and refused to see the folly of her actions.

On his part, Rob became more and more enraged, and retaliated with acts of violence against Sherry.

The scene was escalating out of control, until Rob’s therapist broke the pledge of confidentiality and advised Sherry her life was in danger if she didn’t back off.

Sherry did eventually let go of Rob, but only to rush head long into a tempestuous affair, with no regard for her children.  Rob withdrew from his former life, avoiding his friends, and maintaining minimal contact with his children.

Who was right, and who was wrong in this tale?  Like many conflicts, there are too many grey areas to tell for certain. Both his and her story made compelling arguments, but the real truth laid somewhere beyond all our comprehension.

One thing was certain, though:  the real victims here were the children.