Posts Tagged ‘family’

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

It has gone viral.



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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Trying to wipe a protesting chocolate-smeared face with one preloved tissuefifties-mom

Listening for the sound of the front door latch.

1am. 2am. Where are they? Sleep banished to the drumming of your heart.

Stop bouncing that bloody ball!


Darling, you’re a goat in The Three Billy Goats Gruff. You have to be a goat.

Not a princess. Put on some glitter. You can be a goat princess.

The cry, the gasp….pushing new life into the world

How could you cut his hair? Look at him. He looks like an 8-year-old monk!

Yes. I am his mother. What hospital? How bad?

The others? Thank God. (Strong words for an almost atheist.)


You can’t wear that t-shirt. I don’t care if everyone’s wearing them

and you are a PORN STAR. No. That’s not what I meant.

Clever boy! Wee wee in the potty. Bring on the brass band!

I can’t just go to the hole in the wall and get money. It doesn’t work like that.

But you can’t be a vegetarian! You don’t like vegetables.


The small fey-like fist clasping your little finger

You’ve made some honeycomb. Greeeat! And what tornado hit the kitchen?

Your father and I do know one or two things about sex! Don’t look so shocked!!!!!

STOOOOP! You WERE going to hit that car. I am not panicking.

I’m the licensed driver. You’re the learner. Remember.

Sorry Luke. She’s at Under 14 swimming. Perhaps you could ring back in 2 years time!


You will call us from your bohemian hovel, occasionally. Won’t you?

Oh Look! Mummy’s wallets in the toilet! How DO you wash $20 bills?

Knock. Knock. Who’s there. Bumface. Bumface Who? Bumface you!!

The tears. Someone will love you. Sometime. I promise. (I do. I love you.)


Motherhood: cont…..


Between these moments, maybe because of them

Into your psyche sweeps the image of the Mythical Mom

In her chariot of goodliness. All gleam and glow!

No oil dripping on your thoughts from her chariot hubs.


She is, for me, the Fifties TV cup-cake making mom.

A pert Harriet Nelson. Frilly in her stereotype apron.

School lunches packed. Kitchen clean.

Serving me – by reason of certain inadequacies- lashings of cup-cake guilt.

Every so often, I try and fit myself

Into her smooth cup cake mould

But I’m all rough edges and jutting bits


I want to warn you about her! The Mythical Mom!

She is a chameleon. She becomes the perfect hue and shade 

Of everything you aren’t!

And she’ll turn up, uninvited on the doorstep of your unease

All knowing, mixing bowl in hand

To marble the shadows of guilt into your motherhood.


But those moments (of motherhood)

Are yours. Not hers.

They form the language and texture of your motherhood

They make you into the mother only you can be!        

Kerry Cue                          


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