Saturday, October 26, 2013

Hell Is Empty

You're right--
I failed to thank you for the pulsing crimson cancers you placed in little stiff formal envelopes
and then jammed into the heartwood of my bones.

I have been ungrateful
for your vigilance in doing surgery to my neck
with the sharp edges of your tiny Japanese fan,
that I might not succumb to pride.
How diligent you have been,
cut, cut, cutting just a hair's breadth each time,
but repeated so lovingly for so long
that my head now lolls 
and my new mouth is silent but lets my heart out in sprays.

I am abashed
that I have never properly expressed my admiration for your indestructible mask
that smiles within a flawless porcelain skin
while a roiling rot explodes underneath like a burst aneurism. 

All right. As you wish, then.
We shall pretend
that you do these things because you love me,
and that they do not murder my lit nerves with hammers and snake venom.
I will smile,
sick and struck with putrefaction,
lying worse than a waterboarded used car salesman when I croak out, "Mother,
yours is the very face of tender kindness."
You will blush and preen on cue,
but we both know you will never really be satisfied
with anything short of my complete demolition.
________

for grapeling's fantastic "masks" challenge at Real Toads.


 

23 comments:

hedgewitch said...

From first to last this is just leveling, Shay. The first stanza in particular opens door to the nightmare and sets it galloping, and every incisive image brings its own physical wince--but the most painful, tormenting and heartbreaking line for me is

We shall pretend
that you do these things because you love me

Oh yes. Says it all. Just devastating, and terrifyingly good.

Heaven said...

Complete demolition ~ Whew, a mother & daughter relationship exploding with hammers & snake venom ~ A face of tender kindness, I think not ~

Terrific story here Shay ~ Apologies accepted ~ Wishing you happy weekend ~

Grace

TexWisGirl said...

ow, ow, ow. but as the poem started, i knew it was 'mother'.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

No masks as mandatory or as horrifying as family masks, right, kiddo? I SO know!!!!! I was most impacted by the same lines as Joy.

grapeling said...

Smashing, Shay, and brutal - a perfectly twisted expression of the mini-challenge. Thank you ~

Sioux said...

You do sweet, you do sensual, you do hilarious, you do venomous...You do it all, Shay.

Lydia said...

On this, the 13th anniversary of my mother's death, and with enough years now to view the entirety of our relationship without the emotions of yesteryear, I read this with gratitude for the love that absolutely did exist -- but also with the realization that it was also hell at times (especially in the drinking years, which were vicious). And even with these many years separating us I feel real guilt writing this and clicking "Publish Your Comment."

Björn said...

Masked in relationsships is so common.. and this was really a bad case.. and between mother and daughter even worse.. but masks can be needed to survive anyaway

Marcoantonio Arellano said...

like Sherry and Lydia insinuated and stated respectively, I too am almost five years past my mother's passsing and can kindly reflect upon our relationship in a more expansive way. I know mamasita loved us/me but I bled with conflict of anger and understanding of her absence while holding two and a half jobs to keep us housed and fed. Needless to say my total disappointment my Papa's abandoning all of us.

This piece was so satisfying for me in a cathartic way

Gracias

Grandmother (Mary) said...

Look at all she missed, namely you. Glad her mission of destruction failed. This is so painful.

Marian said...

argh, Shay.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Such astounding imagery in this piece portrays the rawest of emotions. The first stanza is nothing short of amazing, especially the contrast between the stiff formal envelope and the cancerous contents. The addition of the "Mother" at the end just clinches the deal.

Sam Edge said...

I had to read this a few times but ummm .. yikes (me too)

Sumana Roy said...


this is the saddest masked relationship..........expressed so powerfully.......

Mama Zen said...

This is brutal precision at its purest. Incredible writing, Shay.

HermanTurnip said...

Oh, to be broken down so completely yet love unconditionally. Sounds like a relationship I was in twenty years ago...

Margaret said...

a raw, intensely written piece - it is hard to read it as it seems so personal - and the last stanza I find myself wanting to hide from such pain. Wow.

Susan said...

Ouch. Chilling irony of knowing but playing along with pestilence and abuse. Gorey. Favorite phrase/image: "my new heart is silent but lets my heart out in sprays."

sharplittlepencil.com said...

Shay, this is hell on a rectal thermometer. Set my teeth on edge because I've known mom/daughter jagged relationships like these. This poor woman has endured the worst of the worst, and then here comes Mommy Dearest expecting a smile. Screw her. God, this stirred stuff up for me, a supremely effective poem... that I pray is pure fiction. Amy

Kay L. Davies said...

I know a lot about love/hate relationships, and the mother-daughter one can be the most brutal, with the most devastating after-effects.
Luv, K

Lolamouse said...

The utter devastation and destruction that a "loving" mother can inflict is like none other. You express it horrifyingly well.

G-Man said...

Light and bouncy, and easy to dance to.
I give it a 7!!

cucumber sunrise said...

I love this line: "my new mouth is silent but lets my heart out in sprays"