Family Reunion


Disclaimer: Adult Content. This is a dark poem, based loosely on a situation I knew of. I fictionalized it as a short story years ago, then carried it over into a poetic format. It is highly embellished fiction. I am linking it to dVerse Poetics where Fred has written an incredible instruction on Acting, Poetry and the First Person Narrative.

old lady

Family Reunion

Her arm dangles,
an unnecessary appendage on her right side.
Eyes-squeeze tight–
block out light and sound.

Shove the window ajar, somebody.
Let fresh air filter in.

Her ebony caregiver,
brandishing a
Caribbean accent and a mound of cornrows,
towers over the husk of the Woman,
shovels spoonfuls of
gruel into a flaccid mouth.
Paste trickles out the
corner of chapped lips,
slithers onto a bib.

Fifty years ago she adopted me then set me aside
like a toy she grew bored of.
I look at her shattered body.
Why so much Fear?

There they sit-
caged in frames on her nightstand-
the Woman’s three birth-children:
two girls and a boy.
Staring at nothing.
The son at twenty-one, a senior
at Columbia, off’d himself.
Paprika freckled face, red hair
splattered on the dorm wall.
Beneath Brendon’s body lay
a report card: a
B+ on some damn test.

Mallory, the middle daughter,
split at eighteen.
Tall, anorexic,
her sallow complexion highlighted
bruises on her neck.
The girl didn’t try to hide her
passion for exotic,
erotic amusement.
Defiance of the Woman who viewed
pleasure as an interruption
in the Business of Life.

In 1989,
the Woman received a call from New
York City.

Mallory died; a bad lot of Heroin,
the warden said.
They know how to get things past us.

Mallory was in prison? the Woman screeched.

Yeah.
Second-degree
manslaughter of a john.
He wanted her to do things
she didn’t like.

Her youngest daughter, Jessica, can’t
leave her own home.
Only way I can control her,
Jessica confided to me one day.
I’m tired of being her trophy:
dusted off
and shown to company.
Agoraphobia, she explained.

An excuse to not perform on demand,
my mind corrects.

Jessica shops from catalogues and fills
the empty rooms of her Brentwood mansion
with unopened boxes of china.
Her husband lives in West
Palm Beach with his mistress.

It’s been fifteen years since
I visited Jessica.
Anemic,
drawn,
chain-smoking:
casting a tacky yellow film
on the kitchen counter.
She gave me a jar of peanut butter.
No bread, no crackers.
Not even the fucking china.
Just a spoon.

When her mother dies she’ll light
a charcoal fire in her bathroom,
slip into a tub full of bubbles,
then into nothingness.
That’s what she promised.

A loud groan snaps me back
into the room.
Clattering dishes
smash onto the floor.
The woman sweeps a disfigured hand
across the tray.

She’s done, the aide says,
You’re the only one who’s visited her
in months.
She doesn’t respond to anything, anyone.

We’ll see, I answer.
Do you remember?
I start out,
lead her back in time.
When you took us . . .?
We ramble down the alley of the past.
She smiles.

Do you remember Plato?
That damn dog, she sighs
as Cornrows gapes.

Clear as can be she says it:
That damn dog.

We wander through the
olden days,
pluck memories,
one-by-one.
When I mention Cape Cod,
half her lip turns upward.

We need a minute alone,
I tell the attendant,
then pull my chair closer.

Do you miss your family?

The Woman turns,
faces me with open,
opaque eyes.

You’ve paid for the past,
I whisper,
gather the withered relic
into my embrace.
It’s okay to go now.

She closes her eyes,
Bends her head,
accepts forgiveness.
Lifting her head, she stares at the
pea green wall.
Tears spill down
rumpled cheeks.

I kiss her brow then
leave the room.

When I turn to study her one last time,
a glorious half-smile spreads
across her face.
I love you,
I toss into the
almost-empty room.
(As much as I can.)

Within the month
she escapes.
Jessica holds true to her promise, too.

Today they bury the two of them
beside the others.
The whole family,
together.

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36 thoughts on “Family Reunion

  1. Wow, I’m at a loss for words. This is heartbreaking but so well written

    Like

  2. Neeks says:

    Incredible. Just incredible.

    Like

  3. janehewey says:

    intense and life-like, with flow that holds authentic voice. it was your final line that really wrung it out for me, Victoria. wonderful work.

    Like

  4. Jamie Dedes says:

    Reads like a horror story … and it is and the elements are true to some lives. We’ve had to give more than one permission to die. Hardest thing in life next to telling someone their disease is fatal. Well done, Victoria.

    Like

  5. Visceral in its intensity and powerfully moving. A brillintly observed piece, full of authenticity and truth. Great job Victoria.

    Like

  6. becca givens says:

    Victoria — very strong and poignant piece — sad, I am sure there are many who live within the confines of such … needing forgiveness and permission to move on. Thank you for sharing!

    Like

  7. brian miller says:

    smiles. you are such an encouragement victoria…

    Like

  8. Sad, but unfortunately realistic situation. I like the “It’s been fifteen years since” stanza – vivid, realistic voice.

    Like

  9. Carl says:

    Everything about this is powerful. Wonderful art. I’m relieved that is fictionalized, but there are families similar to this. You paint generations quite fully.

    Like

  10. myrthryn says:

    It brought tears to my eyes as the memories were sparked..

    Like

  11. tigerbrite says:

    Incredible read, Victoria. Strong, dark and compelling.

    Like

  12. Tony says:

    This is intense – so much tragedy in one family, As Laurie says, it could so easily be true – I’ve come across similar situations in my life.

    Like

  13. Brought a lump to my throat …

    Like

  14. Beautiful, sad, intense, emotional. You had me from beginning to end, very real. I’m glad she was forgiven and then giving her permission to die. So nicely written.

    Like

  15. David King says:

    I agree with Laurie: it could be true. There lies its strength and its sadness. Fine write.

    Like

  16. Kelvin S.M. says:

    …no righteous word/s can define how i feel when i read you here… you blown me away with your poem… seriously, this is worth a thousand read… and who would want a kind of life like that..very tragic and too much for a mother to carry such misery and dysfunctional children… i’ve known many true to life stories of this kind but the way you crafted yours was totally unique and didn’t wish to see in reality… outstanding… very outstanding in every sense… and your last stanza for me sets the justice in all of these sufferings… i am deeply and genuinely impressed…

    smiles…

    Like

  17. sharp imagery,
    it is a long write,
    well done.

    happy holidays,

    Like

  18. Laurie Kolp says:

    Oh, so very sad, Victoria. Glad it’s not true… but it could be.

    Like

  19. ManicDdaily says:

    Very intense story – you have wonderful telling details. (Telling in best sense of word.) k.

    Like

  20. Susan says:

    Gorgeous writing, first person perspective unique and beautifully done for a human take on a grisly story. The narrator has the kind of compassion, tough l;love, that I can relate to. She freed a suffering soul or two. Powerful. Come visit mine please!

    Like

  21. Bodhirose says:

    Sadly, too often true. This was so real, Victoria. You truly brought that sad family into focus…dimmed and fuzzy as it was.

    Like

  22. jmgoyder says:

    This is enthrallingly powerful – and so tragic.

    Like

  23. Ravenblack says:

    Totally gripped me from beginning to end.

    Like

  24. Nara says:

    Dark and sad, yet you pulled out a happy ending and painted each moment with vivid detail.

    Like

  25. Grace says:

    This was a gripping and intense write of the woman and her children ~

    The characters came alive for me ~ Cheers ~

    Like

  26. Good grief, this hits home hard. Not one word wasted, not one word needless, not one word ineffective.
    What a sad life she ended up with, what a sad family. Thank goodness someone allowed her to go peacefully. This is another heart felt write Victoria. Amazing.

    Like

  27. A wonderful compelling write, how sad, and yet she escapes with a smile. Great storytelling, one I’ll remember.

    Like

  28. clawfish says:

    Strong and as captivating as an image

    Like

  29. siggiofmaine says:

    Victoria… I HAD to “like” for I like the way each word is the exact correct word, no fluffing of the hard parts, cut to the bones deep, dark and wonderfully spoken/written.

    Thank you for sharing this…it is so close to real life in some people’s lives it was so frightening, I almost stopped reading, but your compelling narration kept me going. Unknown story from the cemetery…the kind people look at the dates and wonder about the events leading up to the deaths but would never, ever guess.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Siggi

    Like

  30. Mary says:

    What a strong write, Victoria. You captured the scene vividly and with reality along with compassion. Yes, giving permission to the one dying. So hard, but so important to do sometime. What a sad life, what a sad family. So little joy in life OR in death.

    Like

  31. this is such a deep, dark really cool piece of writing Victoria. I love the individual words that seemingly scream out at me throughout the read, really atmospheric and shaping. Really, just outstanding. So glad you chose to share this tonight. Thanks

    Like

  32. vivinfrance says:

    I can’t click “like” for such a harrowing read, but congratulate you on facing the issues and writing so well.

    Like

  33. oh my victoria.. excellent story telling, love how the story develops, you the narrator reaches her heart and she can die peacefully..

    Like

  34. Oh my God, I’m crying here. I have been in this room with my own mother, and your fiction speaks to my life, shouts to it (minus the dysfunctional kids). Wow, Victoria. Thank you for sharing this.

    Like

  35. brian miller says:

    dang…giving her permission to die..that was hard when i had my wife do that with her mom…what a life as well…as the way the kids turned out you have to wonder at what she did to deserve all that…and what they must have had done to turn out like that as well…perfection, the scream for attention….firg…intense, emotional…all too real…

    Like

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