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.
(Image from: afterthelevels.com)