no presents



I’m having a birthday party today.

I’m four. My friends are coming,

The neighbor’s kids. They can play

With me and my cousins.

Mama is being nice, she smiles

That smile that I know isn’t true

The smile that makes you cry

When she turns it on you.

It means to watch what I say

And how I act all day long

Because she is recording

Everything I will do that is wrong

And for every time I forget

To say thank you, or stay quiet

She will slap or use that belt

So, I know better than try it.


Another birthday, another year

But, I barely notice any more.

They come and go quietly

No need for keeping score.

Mama says I am not a baby;

Now that I’m six years old.

I know what to expect now

So I don’t need to be told.

And anytime a kid asks

And she sees it as pestering

She gets to use all that anger

Underneath her skin festering

That gives her permission

To scream and wail on our heads

So, we all learn to ask just once

And do without instead.


I’m twelve so Mom thinks I should

Have a party here at the house.

I never go to parties anywhere

So I’m surely not going to grouse.

Since I only know three couples

They come over and we dance.

They were ordered by their moms

So the party never had a chance.

Their mothers came and sat around;

They think we are all so cute.

They think we’re imitating them

But we’re not. Ain’t that a hoot?

They leave, Mom goes back to mad,

Cleaning up, making it a chore.

“That’s the last time I’ll do that.

It won’t be happening any more.”


I’m eighteen, coming by for cake

Between my sleep and work

And, Mom, as usual is angry

And treats me like a jerk.

She hasn’t hit me for years now

But, I learned to kiss her ass

And stay away from conflict

And let opportunities pass.

Once I moved out, it’s almost like

She’s pissed I’m not around

So she can let off some steam

And knock me to the ground.

During the cake and ice cream,

She grills me about my dating life.

I know she wants me to get on

With the business of getting a wife.

I tell her to just forget it and

She smack me hard in the face

I get up and leave the house then

Feeling angry, and even disgraced.


It’s my twenty-first birthday

And Mom and Dad have come by

I start the coffee and set the table

And don’t bother to ask them why.

While I am preparing some snacks

Mom goes into my bedroom alone

And comes back with my porn mags

Seeing what she has, I begin to moan.

There are no women in these books

Mild compared with today’s choices

And Mom is screaming ugly things

And she is not hearing my voice.

I am crying from embarrassment

As she rushes across the room.

Dad grabs her and restrains her

From what would have been my doom.


I had no more birthdays with her.

She demanded I call every Sunday.

I did that for a few more years

Then even that tradition went away.

It occurred to me that she did not

Have any respect for me at all,

Not even before she found out

So, why bother to even call?

It would be another ten years

Before we could have a talk

That didn’t end up with me

Pissed off on the sidewalk.


I think before she passed on

She understood the truth

That it was not some phase for me;

Something done only in youth.

It was a hard way to learn for us

But I think, somehow finally

She learned some respect and even

At the end she might have liked me.


Brent Kincaid



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2 thoughts on “NO PRESENTS

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