Friday, July 20, 2012

The evil that men do lives after them (A poem)

the house smells of sour and burn.
the sweetish pungency of sweat and shoes, overripe apples in a bowl
the unmistakeable tuna acid of long-left cat food
the top notes, cigarettes and an overcooked cake

Oh, she says tiredly, stubbing her butt into an empty coffee cup, watching the flecks of tobacco float in the creamy dregs
yeah, the cake got burned. I was making it for you. But I forgot, after.

the kids, coming in wary and so full of need, are eyeing her, judging whether to whisper or shout.
she tries to smile for them, but the muscles of her jaw slip sideways somehow
leaving only a ghost of ease behind.

I say, don't worry about the cake, I'm worried about you, you don't look good
I know I shouldn't say it, hon, but it's true
can't I help? can't I?

and she, starting to shake
the fresh bruises she gave herself in the flailing today showing greenish on her arms
says, nah,
no-one can help me. no-one can.
whenever I hafta feel something strong, I hafta go through it again

and again


and now we're not talking about her dying mother anymore
(tragedy deep and wide enough, for most)
and the sea is ink with the filaments of the poison that stunned her
still scars her
every day

And I send my kids and hers to play in the yard
make her more coffee, start the dinner
and try to hold myself steady, so she's free to not be

and the radio says, don't do it if it hurts inside

Huh. That's a joke, she says,
It all hurts, even the love
even that.

I touch her hand lightly, lightly
and slice green beans. nothing else to do.
she told me once that she'd walk on razorblades for her kids
and I think she does, most days
just to stay,
just that.

And I know she won't live here, in this house, this town, long. She can't. And maybe
when she goes, I will not see her again, won't ever know
how she armed herself to fight the daily fight, if she found kindness in strangers
or if she didn't.

Then the kids are clamouring for icypoles, and with infinite weariness
she drags out the mask again
and puts it on.

- Kathy, 20/7/2012

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