Charcoal Portrait

You should have been a nurse--

It was what you wanted to be, but

Your father said he didn't want his daughter emptying other people's bedpans, and that was that.

Ever the good girl,

You hated teaching, but you did it.

You hated housework, but you did it, beating the bejesus out of your Eureka, against the moldings and corners.

Maybe you hated your late-life baby,

The damaged one,

The one trailing doctors and prognoses behind like smoke from a broken engine.

What will the neighbors think?

Oh, not about her.

About you?

What to do with this devil child?

Why, kill her, of course.

But slowly,


She's got the soul of your straying husband,

With all of his useless, impractical, damnable angels in her blood.

Questions are a fine place to start.

Why was this in your room?

Why was this in your pocket?

Where were you?

Who were you with?

They don't seem like they're going anywhere.

Why did you lie?

Why are you ugly?

Why do you hide things?

Why don't you even try?

Don't you want to drive a nice car some day?

Live in a nice house?

oh, how I want

more beer, more gin, more dope,


to make it so I can no longer hear you....

So wasn't it a bitch--

Wasn't it maddening for a respectable proper sledge hammer like you,

When your little bent nail

Wouldn't break?

I remember standing at the bottom of the front stairs,

Watching my soon to be departed father banging on the bathroom door, shouting,

"They're going to pump your stomach,

And you're not going to like it."

Then came the weeks when I lived with the neighbors next door,

And when you came back,

Christmas morning of that year you gave me a hug--

The first one I ever remember from you--

And I thought,

You're kidding, right?

You've got to be fucking kidding.

It has been many years since.

I drank for ten.

I married badly, and then not quite so badly.

I raised a son.

I came out.

You got Jesus, and your money saved me from sinking more than once.

And through it all,

It was:

Remember the tv you lost?

Remember the thank you note you never sent?

Remember that clumsy thing you said when you were 15,

or 20,

Or 45?

Oh mama dear,

It has taken all of these years,

But one of us,

Oh yes, one of us

Will finally die of this.



Holland said…
It takes guts to turn so much crap into beautiful words.
Riot Kitty said…
I agree. You will be the one to live and thrive, too.
Ileana said…
Wow, Shay! You painted the portrait of a daughter's nightmare! I know many families who would be able to relate to this one, Chica. Beyond brilliant!
mac said…
What a powerful dark portrait you paint.
From the ugliness comes a beautiful soul.
Mojo said…
Wow. The pain in this is palpable.

So is the triumph.
Lynn said…
I agree with Mojo - you have triumphed.
Daryl said…
And you not only survived but blossomed ..
Maude Lynn said…
I honestly don't know what to say.
Unknown said…
I read it. I took it into me. And then there was an unexpected visceral reaction - letting it out with a moan and rush of breath. That's what deep, true poetry does to me. Thank you.
ellen abbott said…
We survive, we flourish in spite of them.
cinderkeys said…
It's amazing how you can wrap up so much ugliness and build something beautiful with it.
Fireblossom said…
Thank you, each and every one of you, for your comments and friendship.
hedgewitch said…
Totally a neutron bomb of the soul.