I wrote this for my class as part of our poetry unit. The exercise was ‘tension.’ The poem itself is about a narcissistic mother from a child’s POV. It is longer than I meant it to be. I’m still tweaking it. Feedback welcome.
I am five.
Mother lies. I don’t know it.
Mother is my warmth, my light,
That which I base everything good off of.
She is beautiful and everything.
Her smile is my contentment.
Her attention is my happiness.
Her embrace is all I long for.
Hurricane Mother is active but I am not aware.
I am safe within the eye of the storm.
She tells me I will be as pretty as her one day.
Mother speaks and I take her words as Truth.
I am thirteen.
Mother lies. I still don’t know it.
I think it, but I do not believe.
Mother knows. Nothing is wrong, she says.
But I am haunted by a feeling.
Something is not right.
A storm is brewing but I don’t see the signs.
She asks questions.
I tell her the truth. She refuses it.
My answer is not what she wants to hear.
She wants the truth but not the truth.
There is a right answer but I don’t know it.
I lie. There is a right answer.
I lie. The answer is still wrong
and Mother catches me in the lie.
Hurricane Mother strikes without warning.
Angry words fly like shrapnel.
Disobedient. Ungrateful. Spiteful. Disrespectful.
I flinch. She doesn’t stop.
How dare I lie? she demands.
I try the truth again.
Stop lying! she howls. You’re lying.
I cannot give her an answer.
I don’t know it. She won’t tell me.
How dare I? How dare I?
I cry. Stop crying. Why are you crying? I’m not crying.
I knew better. She taught me better.
I don’t know, I don’t. She never taught that.
No, she did. I knew, I say. I did know.
I’m not crying. Nothing is wrong. I’m sorry.
I beg. Please, I say. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
The raging winds calm.
Mother forgives. She offers the comfort
of her embrace once more.
I wish you wouldn’t fight me,
I only want what is best for you.
She speaks and I cling to her words as Truth.
I am nineteen.
Mother lies. I know it.
I wish I didn’t know it.
Mother knows. She lies harder.
Nothing is safe.
Gifts have strings. Requests have consequences.
Nothing is nothing and nothing is free.
Everything has a catch. What’s the catch?
I won’t know until she wants it.
Sharp hailstones litter the ground.
I try to prepare: reinforce the roof, walls,
windows, and doors of my self.
The hurricane could strike any moment.
What is wrong?
Everything is wrong but that
is not the right answer.
I can feel it. The wind is picking up.
The air is growing cooler.
There is a sense of dread all around me.
What is wrong? Nothing is wrong.
I can’t say. I can’t explain. But I know.
You’re lying again.
What is this? Do you want attention?
Why must you be so dramatic?
You make yourself into a victim.
You’re very good at that.
Her winds blow strong, spinning me about.
I can’t see clearly for the torrents of rain.
I’m not crazy.
Really? Are you sure?
I am sure. I am not crazy.
You’re lying again. No one believes you.
How can you be so selfish?
Are you trying to tear this family apart?
No, I’m not. Nothing is wrong-
Hurricane Mother descends.
Something is wrong with you.
You are an embarrassment.
After everything I have done,
this is how you repay me?
I fight to close myself off,
to board up the windows and doors
against the destructive gales.
It won’t be enough.
All I ask is that you be a good child.
I fight to put up a boundary.
Enough, I try to say. It’s too much.
If you don’t like it, get out.
Nobody is making you stay.
You’re an adult, my obligation is finished.
I have to stay. I can not stay.
I have nowhere to go.
Nothing I own is mine for she gave all to me.
I can do nothing but batten down the hatches
and wait. There is no other option.
I can not stay. I have to stay,
caught in a never-ending storm.
Nothing is wrong, I lie. I’m sorry.
Hurricane Mother quiets though it isn’t over, yet.
Why do you do this? You never used to.
You’re always causing trouble, now.
I just want what is best for you.
I’m sorry you feel you need to be like this.
She speaks and I lie to fit her Truth.
I am twenty-three.
Mother lies. I know it well and despair.
I flee from the coming storm.
I pack the car and drive as far as I can afford.
She wonders why.
You never call, we never talk.
I used to talk to my mother every day,
Why don’t we talk more?
I want to tell her. I can not tell her.
We do not talk because you do not listen.
I want to tell her. I can not tell her. I must not tell her,
Talking is like slogging through waist-high flood water.
I say nothing. I am so tired of lying.
Hurricane Mother is approaching,
angry at me for the distance I have put between us.
I can tell it won’t be enough.
But the truth will bring an age of storms.
Why are you doing this to me?
She knows every chink in my armor.
Every conversation is a tidal wave aimed at my heart.
Do you hate me? I was there for you.
I was the only one, but you hate me?
I want to fight back. I try to fight back.
She is stronger. She pulls me into her spiral
and leaves me spinning and confused.
I desperately try to keep my eyes clear, to see.
This is my fault. I know it. I know it?
I know it. No, I do not know it. I refuse.
Mother is louder. She is fiercer.
She knows it. She knows me. She hurts.
She howls her rage and batters my walls.
Is it wrong to care for my children?
Don’t cut me out of your life.
I’m your mother, for Christ’s sake.
Maybe I should end my life
since you won’t have me anymore.
No, do not. I don’t want that.
I’m sorry. Nothing is wrong.
Everything is alright.
Nothing is alright but I cannot say it.
She speaks and I flee from her Truth.
I am twenty-seven.
Mother lies. I am sick of it.
Enough, I insist. Enough!
She begins to lie, kicks up words like too-large waves.
You are always the victim, aren’t you?
Familiar words. Am I the victim?
It doesn’t matter. I do not care.
Enough. I am finally strong enough.
I yell. I cry. I accuse.
This is what you have made, I howl.
Look at me! Look at me!
Look at what I have become to survive you.
I do not give her a chance to lie.
I am a hurricane in my own right.
My gale force winds clash with hers
and I am finally strong enough to push her back.
I howl and rage with years of neglect.
Every insult. Every too-harsh word.
Every backhanded compliment.
Every undeserved cruelty.
It all comes crashing down.
Enough. Enough. Enough. Enough!
She is forty-eight.
She does not speak.
She finally listens. She finally sees.
The rain softens. The hail ceases.
The wind stills and falls silent.
The hurricane subsides.
The clouds clear and everything can be seen.
We speak and there is finally Our Truth.