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“At the Front Door”

written for Sunday Whirl #51 and Monday Melting #12; linked to dverse poets “Open Link Night”

“Off the trampoline!” Mom yelled.
I pretended not to hear and just jounced:
up and down, up and down, until
the crinkled lines on her forehead told me
I had pushed as far as she would allow.

It was near dusk as I staggered in the house,
knowing my destiny was a scolding—and
chores. Tonight’s first order of business was
wiping down the door I had just stepped
past and making the prismed glass sparkle.

I was entranced by transmuted images of sunlight
dancing against the wall, the last rays of the day
becoming beautiful rainbow paints when not blocked
by the old sleeveless t-shirt I held in my hand—I
controlled this adagio, though the colors chose their partners.

The shirt had been Dad’s; so had the song I softly sang.
I was careful that Mother not hear any happy tune winding
its way down the hall and risk infecting her broken
mentality—a grief she carried since Father was buried.
She has a mawkishly sick addiction to anger and sadness.

Yes I’m careful. Fearful really. I’ve learned not to emit much joy
in her presence—apparently I’m not yet allowed to feel such.
But kids like me still need to hear bedtime stories and fairy tales
to ensure sweet slumber. So I choose to hope that playmates
will knock on this door tomorrow. Not an undertaker.

And I clean this door, eviscerating the prints of the man
with a bony hand who was wearing the heather gray tie.
By now, Mom is standing next to me inspecting my work.
“I’ve never seen the glass shine so brightly,” she says, almost
sounding proud of the job I’ve done and the girl she has raised.

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41 responses »

  1. “I was entranced by transmuted images of sunlight
    dancing against the wall, the last rays of the day
    becoming beautiful rainbow paints when not blocked
    by the old sleeveless t-shirt I held in my hand..”

    My favourite part of this piece..I don’t know..it’s so descriptive..I can visualise it 🙂
    Enjoyed this piece..

    Reply
    • I’m glad you enjoyed that stanza. We had a house with doors that had some decorative glass inserts, and some of the glass pieces acted as a prism of sorts. Different times of the day would find all kinds of wonderful rainbow colors projected on our walls….it was really beautiful to see. When I saw “prism” in the word list, I knew I had to incorporate that image somehow…thanks for letting me know it worked for at least one person 🙂

      Reply
  2. What’s the story behind this? Someone you know?

    Reply
    • There’s a bit of “someone I know” in this piece, but mostly I just let my imagination run a bit wild to use the words listed in the prompts above. Undertaker was one of the words, for example.

      The “someone I know” is my 9 y.o. daughter who never likes being told to get off the trampoline and absolutely HATES chores! 🙂 Beyond that, I was heavily influenced by having read the “Hunger Games” triology over the past couple of weeks. The main character, Katniss, lost her father at a very young age. Her mother was basically unable to function after his death. This is more of a “real world” look at how that might play out…the tension of grieving the loss of a father you love so dearly, yet still needing to “just be a kid.”

      Reply
  3. I wrote today about the weeks following my ex’s departure from our home. It’s been very difficult to look back at some of the ways I failed my children during that time. Grief is such a powerful thing.

    Reply
  4. that was awesome!! thanks for sharing

    Reply
  5. I love the soft rhyme incorporated throughout, like:
    “jounced”/”down”/”allow”
    “knowing”/”scolding”
    “chores”/”order”/”door”
    “past”/”glass” … and so on

    That really is a natural skill; one can hardly do it on purpose. It means you have a poet’s ear.

    This is a bit of a tongue-twister: “entranced by transmuted images” 🙂 But a good one!

    “I controlled this adagio, though the colors chose their partners.” I am crazy, crazy, crazy in love with this line. It is so awesome.

    “Not an undertaker.” … I laughed so hard over this part. A few times, in fact. 🙂

    “eviscerating the prints of the man with a bony hand who was wearing the heather gray tie.” … Nice reference to an invading stranger. That could be someone who came to take away her father, or it could be her father. Fathers are often unknown figures, strangers in their own houses. So it could work on different levels.

    “and the girl she has raised” … You really shocked me here, making this a girl. I didn’t realize you were thinking of The Hunger Games scenario. But immediately, I thought of my mother who never felt loved, didn’t think she was good enough, and always believed her parents wished she was a boy.

    Another wonderful piece, sweetie. You did an excellent job incorporating so many words, especially using two (wait, three) different lists.

    Reply
  6. nicely done. Brings back memories of my own….

    Reply
    • As always, thank you for taking the time to share. I’m sorry for the memories it conjures up….I’ve known several teenagers over the years who have lost parents, and it is always such a difficult time in their lives. For me, that was really the most interesting aspect of the “hunger games” books….how this young girl rebounded from such a profound loss at such an early age, and was able to be strong for herself, her mother and sister. Eventually, she had to be strong for a “nation”….but how easily could that story have been nothing more than a tragedy. As a grown man, there are losses that I simply don’t know how I would be able to “manage life” in the aftermath.

      Reply
  7. The beginning reminded me of Calvin (he of stuffed tiger friend fame) and then the poem gradually took all the words away. Powerful stuff and a great write.

    Reply
  8. nice…you really did well with the words…and set a rather tragic tale to me…i think the touches that were obliterated were that of dad..which to me is so sad…whatever the reason that he is gone as it is easy to feel how much the child cares…

    Reply
    • Thanks Brian…that’s an interesting take, her wiping away her fathers prints….that would perhaps be an important step in her being able to move on….man, that really adds something to this….but mostly I had in mind the person who had shown up with the bad news about her father, and this being the first time since then that the door had been wiped down….enjoyed your write today….

      Reply
  9. I’ve learned not to emit much joy
    in her presence—apparently I’m not yet allowed to feel such…this made me swallow hard..so sad when a kid has to be careful not to hurt the mother with joy…how sad…and beautifully woven emotions into the story..

    Reply
    • Thanks for letting me know you felt this. I think in most cases, the child would provide a sense of hope and purpose for the mom, but I’m certain there are times when grief is so strong even the joy of a child would seem to be unbearable. Sad to consider for sure.

      Reply
  10. Sad…having to emit joy…as a mom it really touched me.

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  11. nice imagery in here… Loved the visual of the prismed glass sparkle! great

    Reply
  12. This is do sad and beautiful and touches a nerve too. Reminds me of my addicted mother. Your narrative poem displays so much and incredibly so.

    Reply
    • So sorry to hear about your mother Amy….grief is one of the biggest triggers I know of leading someone down the road of addiction. Thank you for your kind words in spite of the difficult memories.

      Reply
  13. Wow, you have a amazing and vivid imagination. How did you come up with this story, well, done.

    Reply
    • Hey Leah…thanks so much for your comment. I have to admit, this was a story that was easy to imagine since I’ve been reading all of the “Hunger Game” books for the past couple of weeks. The main character is a young girl who lost her father at a young age. The loss was hard for her, but devastating for her mother. So as I began to write this piece, I could still hear the voice of a girl longing to feel “normal” while living through the difficulty of such debilitating grief.

      Reply
  14. While there are differences… this reminded me of me growing up. My mother died when I was young and her memories seemed to be buried with her. No one spoke of her, especially the jealous step-mothers – one who eventually left us, and the other still to this day threatened by my choice to honor my birth mothers’ memory to my own children. While mostly fiction this was indeed a very powerful write. You would like to hope that the daughter is able to bring the mother around to joyful moments…with time.

    Reply
    • Wow Jules….how sad that some adults can’t give children the necessary freedom to appropriately remember someone so dear to them. I am so glad to hear that you have been strong enough to keep you mother’s memory alive for you and your children. I’m sure your mom would be extremely proud of the strength you have gained in your life.

      Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly. I always feel especially honored when someone is willing to share such a heartfelt comment here.

      Reply
      • Honesty, well most often is best. Sometimes I suppose it is best to remain silent. And perhaps that is what that ‘generation’ felt was best? I would like to think that those I love who have gone on are watching…but I remember that one play…where the young mother died and once up in ‘heaven’ was encouraged to see the beauty of that place and not to worry about who was left behind. Thank you for your kind words. They brought a smile…

        Reply
  15. You do a great job with a child’s point of view and the details they would pay attention to in such a situation….and the feelings they would have.

    Reply
  16. I have not known a day like this at the pub. I have been hauled through emotion after emotion today by the poems I have read and heard. This one was so sad and I shed a tear or two [too emotional these days] but the ending changed that sadness into delight as we all need a mothers love.

    Reply
    • What a great comment about needing a mothers love! I definitely think there is a strong glimmer of hope in the ending of this one. And I can identify with you on the “too emotional these days” front. Life has left me feeling a bit raw emotionally in the past several months.

      Reply
  17. So much emotion in the story, I can’t help but related to things my family has gone through as well.

    Reply
  18. purpleowltree1234

    Such sadness!! I love this poem. It’s beautiful. I think that’s what I’m saying in all your poems- I love this, it’s Beautiful! But it’s true!! 🙂
    Rach.

    Reply

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