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Archive for the ‘Escaping the Family’ Category

This brutally honest poem by Lily Myers explores the behaviours we unintentionally absorb  from family members.

It has gone viral.

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Shrinking Woman

Lily Myers

Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
She says she doesn’t deprive herself,
but I’ve learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.
In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate.
I’ve realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
I wonder what she does when I’m not there to do so.

Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it’s proportional.
As she shrinks the space around her seems increasingly vast.
She wanes while my father waxes. His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry. A new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager, but my dad reports that now she’s “crazy about fruit.”

It was the same with his parents;
as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, round stomach,
and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking,
making space for the entrance of men into their lives,
not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.

I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks.
I have been taught to filter.
“How can anyone have a relationship to food?” he asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
I want to say: we come from difference, Jonas,
you have been taught to grow out,
I have been taught to grow in.
You learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much.
I learned to absorb.
I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself.
I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters,
and I never meant to replicate her, but
spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits-

that’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit,
weaving silence in between the threads
which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,
skin itching,
picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again.
Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.
Deciding how many bites is too many.
How much space she deserves to occupy.

Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,
And I don’t want to do either anymore,
but the burden of this house has followed me across the country.
I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry.”
I don’t know the requirements for the sociology major because I spent the entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza,
a circular obsession I never wanted, but

inheritance is accidental,
still staring at me with wine-soaked lips from across the kitchen table.

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When a poet writes an essay they cannot help themselves. Trapped within the essay are literary jewels, poems of exquisite beauty crafted and polished by the poet’s word-smithing skills. Michael Leunig is a poet so it is not surprising that his essay ‘Sleeping in on Doomsday’ from the Good Weekend, The Age (Sat 28th Nov 2009) had a poetic sensuality. This embedded poem in the essay addresses the hopes Leunig has for his children, that they will not be tethered to the family tree but rather free to fly. free as they wish. Moreover, it is within all our capabilities to escape the gravitational pull of our origins.

…no shares in any great cultural franchise

with stories of tragedy and triumph,

and don’t have much in the way of extended family.

None of this to enshrine and uphold.

They are unadorned earthlings.

Human nature is their story.

The spirit of the country runs out of the earth

And the air and into their bodies like a mystery.

This is their inheritance.

It is no virtue, no deficiency and no advantage;

This is simply their lot.

 

I see them asleep at night, these beautiful earthlings;

their faces still so glowing and  open and young.

There are many of them in this world and in this land.

When they awaken they will create their own way.

Michael Leunig  

 

 Michael Leunig is a Melbourne cartoonist, artist and poet. His short and often melancholic poems are published in a number of Australian newspapers. His  enchanting poems have been published in books available through his website.

Earthlings pic karstenkneese’s photostream

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The following poem by Jude Aquilina from the recently published  Woman Speak is typical of the way both Jude and Louise (Nicholas) cut and pin the human condition  to the dissection board. Poempig suggests this  is the poem every woman should read if…. well, read on.

I line the kitty litter tray

with faces of brides and groomsdivorce Adam Parle photostream

smiling from Sunday’s news.

Being a recent divorcee,

it says it all really.

Jude Aquilina

 
Jude Aqu 2

Jude Aquilina is a SA poet whose poems have appeared on wine bottles and shop walls. She has worked as a writer for Flim Flam Singing Telegrams, seller of piano accordions and clerk for the Tax Office.womanspeak140px

She currently works for the SA Writer’s Centre and teaches professional writing at TAFE. Woman Speak (Wakefield Press, 2009 )  #mce_temp_url# was published earlier this year and can be purchased from the publisher.

Pic Adam Parle’s Photostream: #mce_temp_url#

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This short poem by Joyce Freedman starts as a rollicking read.Joyce Freedman But the strain on the tangled threads of family relationships builds then snaps. It is a powerful poem. Poempig thinks every teenager who has been relentlessly criticised by their father should read this poem.  It frees the spirit and therefore belongs in the class of Jailbreak Prose. 

 

 

1.

My father said, in my teenage years 
My finest feature was tiny ears.

My spirit soared; I didn’t know 
Everyone’s ears continue to grow.

He thought I’d be a tad more neat B & w child
If less of me comprised my feet.

My eyes, he thought, were commonplace 
Much better, though, than my acned face.

2.

My ears are huge, my feet are spread 
My eyes are weak—and my father’s dead.

 

Joyce Freedman

 

 

This poem first appeared in Quadrant Magazine: #mce_temp_url# 

 

Clip Pic Amy Heague:  #mce_temp_url#

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