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Posts Tagged ‘Shame’

Shame

 

 

 

 

My brother and I played

 

Mackie and Jackie,

 

Mackie was the strong one (my brother)

 

Jackie was the smart one (me) who told us what to do.

 

When our family was introduced by great aunts or my grandmother,

 

They would say, “This is Susan, Clara, Nancy

 

And Robert Romulus Moore the Fourth!

 

Being the last sister before the boy

 

Made me invisible.

 

 

 

At five, I was left at a rest stop

 

Because I went to the bathroom a second time.

 

My dad would drive until my bladder

 

Felt like it would burst.

 

The rest stop was in the mountains

 

Without exit ramps for miles

 

After, it took my father a long time

 

To run back along the highway to get me, I’m told.

 

I don’t remember.

 

Sometime that same year,

 

My dad came home from the hospital,

 

Post car-accident coma.

 

My mother took me to the doctor

 

For strep throat, again,

 

And I fell out of the car on the way home

 

In the middle of an intersection.

 

I ran for several blocks

 

Chasing our station wagon,

 

The right, back door swung open,

 

Before my mother noticed.

 

Swabbing my bleeding knees and hands,

 

“Don’t tell your father when we get home.

 

He might have a seizure.”

 

 

 

As a six year old

 

The stair landing was a convenient

 

Catch-mom-going-to-do-laundry,

 

Halfway point,

 

“Are you and dad getting divorced?”

 

I was sitting in the middle of

 

Sifting through burn-barrel trash,

 

The contents scattered around me,

 

Kleenex, scraps of note paper, newspapers

 

And shiny white tubes that slid in and out.

 

Later I would know

 

These as tampon inserters.

 

Mom’s face boiled and pinched.

 

I found it curious that she was more mad

 

About my question

 

Than from my playing

 

In her personal trash.

 

 

 

At eleven

 

I couldn’t sleep on my stomach

 

Because my chest hurt,

 

My mom took me to the doctor

 

Probably so he could explain my body to me

 

Better than she could,

 

He roughly stuck round band-aids on each nipple,

 

He did not talk to me and he did not say

 

It’s normal to have knots of pain

 

In budding breasts.

 

 

 

After my mother had “female surgery”

 

I wrote a poem,

 

Something about taking time to smell the roses,

 

A thirteen-year-old’s idea

 

Of cheering up her mother.

 

Church camp that weekend

 

Was chilled and stiff,

 

Mom’s face hung in hurt-lines,

 

I accepted her condemnation

 

A cheap, scratchy-laced nightgown

 

Against my bones.

 

 

 

At twelve,

 

I was practically decapitated

 

Riding my bike across the neighbor’s property line,

 

The newly, unmarked wire

 

Strung exactly neck high.

 

“You shouldn’t have been riding

 

That close to their house.”

 

Over the next years,

 

The shouldn’ts expanded into

 

“You shouldn’t flaunt yourself”

 

“You shouldn’t hurt people’s feelings”

 

“You shouldn’t be selfish”

 

“You shouldn’t be too confident”

 

“You shouldn’t ask questions.”

 

 

 

My first marriage lasted 3 & 1/2 years,

 

We date my entire teenage and college years,

 

I gifted this time to him,

 

Unquestioned.

 

My mother found my supply

 

Of birth control pills between my 2nd and 3rd year of college

 

“If you’re going to sleep with him

 

You need to get married.”

 

I sit on my mom and dad’s screened-in porch

 

Explaining how the wedding for which they paid,

 

How the vows I promised would last,

 

How my world had veered in a drastically different direction

 

From theirs,

 

“I hired a private detective….

I won’t stay in a marriage with a cheating husband…

 

I gave him the separation papers,”

 

I fling helpless words

 

At their blank faces.

 

I leave out the part where my husband

 

Explained his wandering was

 

My fault

 

“If you hadn’t let me do so many

 

Things without you;

 

If you had just told me no.”

 

 

 

Almost thirty,

 

I feel like calling mom

 

For the first time in years,

 

“Hello,” mom answers

 

In that distant, reluctant way.

 

“The neonatologist at my hospital,

 

Who is super-conservative, he never approves anything,

 

Is going to let me do massages on the NICU babies.

 

Can you believe that?”

 

Silence,

 

Throat clear,

 

“What’s wrong with being a pharmacist?”

 

The phone receiver

 

Burns my ear.

 

 

 

After working at the hospital for 6 years,

 

I learned from listening to the

 

Labor and delivery room nurses

 

That I didn’t want to be one of those

 

“Yelling” laboring moms.

 

Thirty-six hours into

 

Pushing out a 10 lb. baby

 

Can evaporate the resolve

 

To not be a “yeller,”

 

Alone in my

 

Bone-shattering,

 

Baby-extracting marathon,

 

I didn’t care

 

Whether I lived or died,

 

And yelled this fact frequently.

 

Not even my baby girl

 

Nestled in her daddy’s arms

 

Could budge me from

 

My pain reverie,

 

My shocked focus on

 

When I could get

 

Another dose of pain medication.

 

 

 

Now a real boss,

 

Just turned fifty,

 

Telling people what to do.

 

My friend, an orthopedic surgeon,

 

Asked for crossing over help

 

For a physician friend

 

With end-stage pancreatic cancer,

 

Ghost/spirit whispering being my secret life.

 

His friend wasn’t finished living,

 

Refused to cross over, firmly.

 

I watched him hopelessly drag his body around

 

Trying to find a place to plug in his light body

 

Which was withdrawn all the way to the

 

Top of his head (last place before dying).

 

My friend always states the obvious,

 

“No one lives for over a year with end-stage pancreatic cancer.

 

He shouldn’t still be alive.”.

 

After observing his friend deny his body’s decay

 

And ignore his wife’s exhausted vigil,

 

I had to agree.

 

“You’re right. He shouldn’t.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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