Sunday, 29 March 2015

Painful poems about parents

This one isn't really about my own mother- my relationship with her isn't quite this, but I have many women friends for whom it is true. 


She’ll never give it back to you, your mother,
What she took for all those years.

You return in the hope, the belief,
That you’ll finally show her,
She’ll finally see,
Finally know….. you.

She will not wither you, this time,
You will show her your fullness,
Wearing the self you have gathered and woven
With your own work-worn hands.
And she will not pick at it and find
That loose thread you thought you’d hidden. 
She will not tug it into shape and
Flick away the speck that she can still see.

But she’ll try, alright.
You are still paying for the rental of her womb

And the interest never stops multiplying. 

This one is an answer to Stevie Smith - and is true. 


The only time he ever touched me
Was a blow.
A smashing hand
Crashing, crashing, crashing.
Or smashing words
Crushing, crushing, crushing.

I stand, small and determined,
Holding, holding, holding
Myself not to collapse,
Nor shed a single tear.
He WILL not win.
I will cow him into submission
By the look in my eye.

There never was anything else between us
Down the reverberating years,
Until you told me, near the end,
How you admired that small, defiant child
Who held her own against you,
And seemed to need no-one.

Yes, I recall that look in your eyes
As you raised your hand once more,
And I dared you, dared you , dared you
Hit me again if you can.
You said it was respect you felt.
My 8-year-old eyes saw fear. 

Welsh people may understand this last one. It refers to a story in the Welsh classical literature, the Mabinogi, where a man is rejected at birth by his mother, who curses him 3 times, that she will never give him a name, that she will never give him his weapons and armour, and that he will never marry a woman born of human kind. His name and weapons are tricked out of his mother by Lleu's mentor and guardian, Gwydion, and he is given a wife made of flowers. She is seduced by another man who is after Lleu's territory, Lleu receives a death wound in his heart and is transformed into an eagle and flies away, to sit, un-moving in a tree with a rotting wound in his side, until he is rescued by his mentor who is shown where he is by a sow. Eventually the wife made of flowers is transformed into an owl.  I identify with the shadow life a child is forced to live when rejected by her mother. And that only by allowing oneself to feel that, truly to know it and to suffer it, can one come into oneself and step into ones authority as a human being. The tale is complex and this poem probably only makes sense to me. 


I am the child of a woman
Whose mother turned her to stone
In her own womb.
That un-gift thuds on
Through my veins.
A skein of need
Looking for a final resting-place.

Children can be lost in time, you know,
And their ghosts inhabit others’ bodies.

I became lost Lleu,
Wounded, I could not fly,
Only cast heart-flesh and maggots
To feed creatures from the Underworld,
Wise creatures who led me back,
And called me three times by name.

Rescued, I rescue the princess.
She is faded, blind.
She has been sleeping too long,
Flying in the dark.
I take her hand
And lay her to rest on my own breast.
She is my mother, my child. 

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