neighbors

somewhere in the distant corners
of a big rambling house,
a baby is crying,
a disconsolate, hopeless,
and utterly weary wail
that goes on and on
and on, and makes
the other neighbors curse, and sometimes
throw things
in its general direction
like a boot hurled towards
a howling cat.

in another room
a slightly older child,
still quite young,
weeps silently into her
pillow. no one hears
her woes, nor cares
to ask.

upstairs a jaded
spinster smokes and writes
her sharp-edged thoughts
for posterity. she’s not going
to fall for that trap.

there’s also a teenager hiding
in her room, reading, dreaming of a
moment when she can be
entirely alone, free of her
mother and anything even
remotely approaching
responsibility.

on the ground floor
of that house lives
a mother, one who wishes
she had a mother herself,
who wanted a child only
to see herself validated
by reflection in those
tiny eyes. it must be a trial to her
that her child wants nothing
to do with her. so she watches,
lays in wait for the only one
of her two children
she cares about
to screw up so she
can be the first
to excoriate her and cast
blame. she’s always a day
late and a dollar short
with the advice that
could have saved so
much grief. she herself
feels aggrieved
and oppressed
by her children
and their needs. she is so very
tired of taking care of them
when they’re so utterly
ungrateful. and always
she wonders, but who’ll take care
of me?

there’s a ghost
of another mother, another kind
of mother, one who doesn’t lie
and tell them everything is fine
when it’s not, one who knows
how to mother herself so she
has the resources to give real
nurturing, and the ability to set
boundaries without neglecting,
rejecting, and abusing
the child.

but she’s just a ghost,
she’s pretty new here, and
her voice is not that loud.
we’ll have to let everyone else
have their say,
loudly and as long
as they want
before we will really be able
to hear her voice.

this house needs a real mother
so very badly. please, children,
can’t we get it together
a little bit faster? Mama needs
her mama, and her mama
is dead. if you could all just
be quiet long enough, maybe I can
hear her whisper.

Published by

R. Brookes McKenzie

what fresh hell is this

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