dear child

i had hoped to keep you
innocent
so much longer
told teachers to leave you be
told you to explore and run and play
you, who loves to dance
and sing
you, who i knew
would be bored
in school

yet,
here we are
you have been found out
not by your family,
because of course we knew,
but by that grade three test
and then the other ones that followed,
to make sure…
and how proud grandma will be
and how terrified i am
for with genius
comes a curse

dear child,
you are more that your big brain
you do not have to be the smartest
to be loved

i love your terrible temper,
and hope to help you master it,
though for now you are so young
and a reliably sore loser

i love your too-loud
off-key singing,
the way even as a baby
you swayed to music

i love the way you love yourself,
parading in front of the mirror,
styling your hair and checking out
your own wiggling bum

i love your stubborn refusal to pee
before the cottage drive,
and the inevitable
highway-side pit-stop

i love your sense of humour
creeping into my room
at 5 am
in vampire teeth

i love your refusal to go to bed
always “scared”, or “hungry,”
thinking of any excuse
to prolong the day

i love your cuddliness
always leaning in,
climbing on,
draping over…

i love your honesty
earnestly confessing a misdemeanor
and your attempts to lie,
red-faced and guilty

and yes,
i love your too-big brain,
but don’t let it define you,
my child, my love

i am afraid
of the peaks and caverns
of your over-charged mind;
afraid for you

the line between genius
and mania is blurry
too many ideas
competing for ascension

the clamour
can become dark
and dangerous;
depression

you have inherited a gift
and a curse
that not all your ancestors
have survived

but i hope
fervently, feverishly,
that you will remain
innocent

1SageFemme All Rights Reserved 2017

Part 2: Daddy

Rewind:

Sifting sifting through the muck
for signs of love
i find you, Daddy,
in bed on a Saturday morning
two little ones wrapped around your torso
i am the one clinging to your shoulder
jeffrey is trying to ride you,
you snort and whinny
toss him high
screeching with laughter.

Fade…
hopping over egg-shells
through mud and worms,
falling into a stormy sea
and you
you are a buoy
we cling to
marking the perimeter
of sanity
but you are a slippery savior
one minute solid,
the next shadow in mist
and then gone
and we four splashing, cling solemnly, uncrying
best we can
to childhood.

I channel you
singing softly to my babies at night
rub their ear lobes gently to wake them,
as you did,
they call me Mommy,
and gaze up at me full of hope and love,
but I am more you than her.

You were beaten down by her too
monster-mouth mother wife
she made you dumb
you gave up the fight
but here’s the thing, Daddy

You did not protect us

And I understand,
because my babies
are in a stormy sea
and I am their bouy,
though they don’t yet know it,
and every other Wednesday
I abandon them,
And I understand now
that sometimes it is out of our hands.

1Sagefemme All Rights reserved 2016

Part 1: Mother

imageHere goes,
Gotta touch my tar soul,
Figure out where
The road began.
Bipolar mensa mind
Ignoring river-rush labour
Finished her exam,
Aced it,
Added baby to the book pile.

What did I call you then?
Surely not
“Mommy.”

Reach, reach deep into the pit,
Sift and churn
Find no memory of her arms hugging
No soft fingers wiping tears,
No smile, no tender,
No motherish love.

Smart girl, that’s me,
Anxious to please
And protect
Belly burning hot like coals
I was a poor substitute
For Her.
But learned to mother that younger brother
and sister and other brother…
And thank god really for the one who flew away
Because it would have just been too many.
Wish I knew then
How to help them
I knew nothing,
Except that we were burdens,
Too loud, too needy, too messy, too
Human
Too
small.

In my head, a constant rat-a-tat
Tongue clicking, throat opening
scream.
“You are a stupid girl
for such a smart girl.
Can you never stop babbling,
So useless, never thinking of me,
This house is unclean, and I work unseen
For you all, you all,
all you ungrateful children…
STOP, do not touch that. Do not eat that
Do not jump or run or fly or laugh or cry,
EAT IT!
Stand, sit, sleep,
Why are you still in bed,
GET UP!”
March, march, march
To school
And pretend that you are loved.

Flashback:
A small child sits in her mother’s lap at the mall
The mother is stroking her hair,
kissing her head,
The child smiles up at her.
I watch and do not understand
Why is the girl happy?
Why would she want to sit in her mother’s lap?

Rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat
Scurrying rat-girl, that’s me
Straight A’s
Because gym doesn’t count
And She is proud
Her genes made those marks,
She is a Good Mother.

I feel something like pride, then
Smiling Mother,
Whispers of grade-skipping, SAT’s
“You will be a genius, like me,
A Doctor, like me,”
Yes Mom, yes,
A genius
Like you.
Are you a genius?
Because you seem more like a monster.

Bipolar years begin in earnest then,
I’d like to say I remember,
But that would be an exaggeration,
Two years compressed in my middle-school mind
Two years of cold and lonely,
Washing blood off underwear at 2 am
Not to burden Dad,
Please don’t cry Dad,
Nobody cries in this house, Dad.
Mom says you’re useless, Dad
Useless, not-so-smart Dad
I will be strong for you.

Flashback:
A little girl sits in her father’s lap,
Sucking her thumb
Towel wrapped around wet hair
He reads “Peter Rabbit,”
I listen and rest my head on his chest.

Flashforward:
Mother in the hospital,
Will they fix her?

Fixed,
Medicated,
Mended,
But still monster-mouthed.

“You have grown rude and ugly, girl,
Do you embarrass me on purpose?
How dare you tell me how to parent?”
The coal-belly burned too hot,
and we fought, and I began to block
No more blows landed past my forearm,
And it was time then,
For me to go.

In the way of good, smart girls,
I went
Without looking back,
Not once,
Into the devastated face of my youngest brother
Watching out the bedroom window
As we drove away…

1SageFemme All Rights Reserves 2016