Perfect Family–Big Tent Poetry

Submitted   to Big Tent Poetry:         

Perfect Family

A Perfect Family lived next door—perfect mother and father—three perfect children—two boys and a girl.

They went to church every Sunday as we slept in—Bible Study on Thursday evenings while we drank beer and watched football.

They didn’t yell or curse like we did—like the couple on the other side of us—their lawn was perfectly manicured.

The oldest son went off to college and was an honor student—my son went to work after high school at an auto repair shop.

The middle daughter was the star of the soccer team—she played the violin and practiced for hours in the evening and on Saturday.

The mother didn’t work because she cared for the toddler—and began home schooling when he was five years old.

On summer evenings the father would come home from work and change into his Ralph Lauren polo shirt and barbecue steaks or ribs.

 The aroma invaded the neighborhood as the rest of us sat on our porches eating hot dogs with potato salad and baked beans.

One such evening my son was smoking a Marlboro and drinking a Bud—my daughter was pregnant and I wasn’t sure where my husband had gone.

Fireflies danced in the dusk before the shots rang out – five of them.

My dogs skittered into the house through the dog door as I grabbed the phone to call 911.

They called it a murder-suicide—the weight of perfection—too heavy to bear I guess. Everybody said so.

29 thoughts on “Perfect Family–Big Tent Poetry

  1. Indeed.

    Too much of this going around.

    Unique structure provides a supportive power. I like it.


  2. Erin says:

    Ooo. It’s so true–it’s those perfect families you’ve got to watch out for, and I’ve certainly been guilty of comparing my life to those belonging to the seemingly perfect. I like how unvarnished this is of sentiment. Nice job!


  3. Angela says:

    What a gripping story–heartbreaking and beautifully written.


  4. Cripes. True story?

    Very much a what-lurks-beneath-the-surface kind of tragedy…


  5. Jingle says:

    love the image,
    it does seem perfect in maNY WAYS…

    what an ideal approach…
    enjoyed your creativity, keep it up.
    Happy Sunday!


  6. Brenda Clews says:

    I’m impressed with how you woven a narrative into the portrait, how the story unfolds through time, the contrasts between the two families, one unreal in its perfection, the other messy and real but oh so homey and loving and accepting. It’s like a movie plot. You have written an entire film in your poem. The ending is stark and shocking, as it always is when we read of the devastating breakdown of the ‘perfect’ family in a carnage of murder, suicide, death. Fine work…


  7. deb says:

    an everyday story, in a way … “they were a perfect family” …


  8. nan says:

    This made me exhale at the end with a big :”hhhhooooooo.”


  9. Jade says:

    This is really well done! I like the tone, the straightforward structure and the shock at the end works really well to show that perfectionism is not a good thing.


  10. Dick says:

    Very cleverly managed throughout. One could sense the ending, but the leisurely narrative and detailed cataloguing of the ephemera of happy domestic life maintains tension. The long lines – half-verse, half-prose – give the poem a distinctive voice too. A fine piece.


  11. Mad Kane says:

    Very intenses! That was wonderful.


  12. Cara Holman says:

    It’s scary to think of how many families are just keeping up appearances, stuck to some unrealistically high expectations society has for them. You really captured that.


  13. RJ Clarken says:

    Wow! What a frightening ending! I guess we never really do know what goes on behind closed doors and even perfection isn’t perfect.


  14. Robin says:

    The moment I clicked over and the photo of the family came into view I had a strange sense of foreboding. Perfection is a terrible beast, too often collapsing in on its adherents in just the heartbreaking way you’ve shared so well.


  15. Imagination says:

    This was … intense. I felt as though I’d been shot five times. Great job, and a powerful testament to the fact that sometimes striving for perfection can end up banning imperfection. Who can handle never being allowed to be imperfect?

    In the face of what I’ve just said, you’re actually doing surprisingly well so far. ;D


  16. This was dark and tragic. A sad ending to a “perfect” family. But even sadder because we all know sometimes behind the perfection we see in other people’s lives, this is what waits.


  17. Christopher says:

    Thank you for visiting with me. I came by for a look. The streak continues. People are doing so well with this challenge and you are no exception. We are all telling powerful stories using many different forms and each story is unique too. Well done.


  18. Laurie Kolp says:

    I LOVE how you contrasted the two lifestyles… many people put up false fronts in order to “appear” perfect, but the down-to-earth people always seem to end up ahead. Powerful!!


  19. Mama Zen says:

    Oh, wow. This is really, really powerful.


  20. Bodhirose says:

    Oooo, perfection is way too much for any one to aspire to–some do though and I pity the weight they carry. Some people completely crack under the self-imposed heavy load.

    Well done story of those people who live–and then die with the “illusion” of perfection.


  21. Tumblewords says:

    Frightening. Well written slices of truth.


  22. Mark says:

    Stark, well thought out and wrought out. I take it you had to wrangle this one down a bit, given the subject matter? It’s very well done….


  23. pamela says:

    Victoria, this is a brilliant and powerful piece of writing.
    The divided American dream. The perfection we see
    is not always happiness.


  24. Your last line says it all….

    singular thoughts


  25. trisha says:

    sometimes the calm water hides death traps underneath. wonderfully written and tragic.


  26. vivinfrance says:

    The straightfoward way of telling this story made the ending an even greater shock. Good sense of drama.


  27. souldipper says:

    What a powerful piece of writing, Victoria. It portrays how perfectionism is a ghastly disease that affects all in proximity.


  28. poetrydiary says:

    I like this poem, but it’s a hard one too: many hidden truths and deep sadnesses underneath the straightforward, ordinary words.


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