Monday, January 09, 2012

The Cry of the Unattended

I started my weekly writing group last Monday and I decided I would in some part concentrate on rhyming poetry. I have a history about that: a few years ago I was accepted into a rather prestigious poetry conference (prestigious to me, anyway) and it did not go well, especially my poems that rhymed. Rhyming is apparently passe in the world of esteemed poetry. I left the conference with weakened confidence, even though on the last night I boldly read ONLY my 'passe' poems and I chuckled at the funny ones, along with everyone else.

Dr. Seuss and me. I'm not giving up.

The poem I wrote on Monday night is not funny, but it is hopeful. It was inspired by one of my clients who had a horrific horrific childhood. Sometimes I have to tell her I've heard enough: the details from her sociopathic mother are too hard to absorb sometimes.

Last week she insightfully told me, "kj, I would have had a normal life. It's not fair, I'm mentally ill but it's not my fault. I got robbed of being okay."

Many of my clients struggle with childhood trauma: abuse, neglect, abandonment. Some understand instantly and some look perplexed when I ask about their little girl, or little boy still inside them, the scared child who still hopes to be loved and cared for. We begin a process of mothering that child, of finding safe places, or providing parental care to one's self.

So this is some of this history of this here poem. xo

The child was ten
When she learned how to fend
Its’a story that’s ripe for the asking
She hid under her bed
Not a breath was then said
Til she knew that she knew about fasting

The tale started one June
With a darkening moon
In a house where whispers could shout
In her crib by the wall
With a murmur she’d call
Even then when the lights would go out.

Now don’t go to thinking
This child was sinking
Before she had learned how to speak
Because even at two
She knew who was who
And she knew that she knew how to seek

She was four when a marker
Made her coloring darker
And she learned how to read special signs
She knew when to hide, when to laugh, when to try
She learned how to fly
And she mastered genetic design

She’d lie under a tree,
Learning just how to be
Came as easy as eating a pear
She’d be white, she’d go black
Slide down a glass track
And in time She’d be here, she’d be there

When the child began
Her adult master plan
By then she expected the least
She had tried once or twice
To choose tough over nice
But she never could tame the old beast.

It would come in her dreams
A voice without seems
That hand that withheld what it could
She never gave up
Put her faith in a cup
Walked ahead as much as she could

The ghosts from back then
Wouldn’t budge in the end
She would holler and push them asunder
But they just kept returning
Her memories burning
Until on day she froze out the thunder

It’s a scared little girl
Who dances and twirls
It’s the child who parents her kin
She had learned how to give
How to hope, how to live
But not from the core of within

So one day she stood
On a terrace of wood
Raised her arms up high in the air
She murmured her name
Put aside all her shame
And she knew that she knew the right care.

love kj


  1. i know there are two typing errors. forgive me please, blogger refuses to space correctly and if i go back to correct, i'll miss lunch. sigh.....

  2. first of all, the title is arresting and so, so very sad. these lines you've written contain a fragile soul and tell her story inside the embrace of these beautiful words.

    really kj - the lines 'put her faith in a cup'


    'until one day she froze out the thunder'

    are genius.

    what a profound tribute to this client and a paean to the liberation of the trapped child in all of us.

    you rock.


  3. Gentle souls, prisoners inside their own genetic jails, and someone comes along and opens doors to a future uncertain, but filled with promises.

    How does it feel to hold the key to make someone's dreams become reality? Because you have given her a voice, and the voice that cries might very well be the same voice that sings. I love the feeling of hope here, as the road map is fraught with despair, but you know how to bring her to the safest passage into adulthood.

    You are indeed blessed, even when there is "too much" it speaks of nothing more important than Trust.

  4. "robbed of being okay".
    That says so much, as does "parenting her kin."
    Robbed, and forced to grow up too fast, but able to find her way in the last paragraph.
    It's a terrific poem,,and I'm glad she knows you.

  5. But to me she is everlastingly brave....

  6. amanda, thank you so much. the title is actually a term used in psychology. so many serious problems may be because of being unattended as children. i think you rock too xcxo

    allegra, the thing is, as you know, even caring and competence and creativity cannot heal trauma this deep, not without a lot of painful and lengthy work. but thank you for the vote of confidence. and yes, trust builds the bridge. anyone who would have you as a guide, allegra, would be especially blessed.

    babs, the client who inspired this is 49 years old and chronically mentally ill. she rarely leaves her home and requires medication to keep away nightmares and flashbacks. but she has also been able to stay out of the hospital, freely and honestly loves her four sons, keeps hoping she will be better able to shop for groceries or go to a mall without being 'triggered' by frightening fears. i often feel very proud and glad for her.

    mim, really, she has no other good choice....

  7. oh can i hug her? i love your rhyming kj, and your poem for this dear strong soul. i think its so interesting how a line will stand out for a person (noticing in the comments).
    what stood out for me was 'she had tried once or twice to choose tough over nice'. nice people just can't be tough. not when it comes to their feelings anyway.
    i'm glad your in a weekly writing group, it's good for you i bet.

  8. People can be pretty pernickity about poetry and I've never understood why. I think I'd use rhyme more if I had a wider vocabulary! I like the rhythm ... the clickety clack of the words coming down the track. You know?

    Deep troubles and hope ... make strange bedfellows and yet here they are intertwining in your poem. I think that Woman-girl is one tough cookie. I like the way the story unfolds and yet remains ambiguous and open to interpretation. I like the amount of hope in it particularly. xx Jos

  9. thanks lori. i think once a person trusts her/himself, they will be strong and soft both. like you....♥

    jos, 'the clickety clack of the words coming down the track'==yes! that is exactly what i love about rhyming! as for my client, she inspired this piece but it is not specifically about her. she struggles....

    with love to all, thanks ♥

  10. i loved this!!!! both the poem and the story.. and the poem tells the story rather well!

  11. how do we know, i have been thinking of you. i'm glad you;ve come by. thank you for your kind words about my poem x0x0

  12. It isn't fair is it? The things that happen to those who can handle it the least...
    this is a beautiful poem kj