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I reread a poem recently, and I was suddenly struck by how restrictive it was. I’d originally thought it was a pretty picture of a lovely lady, but coming back to it, I now see how she was put on a pedestal and basically imprisoned by society’s expectations. It was Lord Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty.” I’ve written my own poem in response to it. You might say it’s rather feminist.

“She Walks in Restriction”

1

“She walks,” but with such constraints,
And so many restrictions on her sex,
How can she get anywhere?
Oh, maiden so “mellow” and “tender,”
Would he call you so beautiful, I wonder,
If you stood up for yourself?

2

You with your perfect hair, and “nameless grace,”
Would you be so highly praised
If your face was for a moment not serene?
And if your thoughts did not stay in their “dear dwelling place,”
If they came out and revealed themselves,
Would the distinguished Lord Byron still sing your praise?

3

If “soft” became firm, and “calm” become strong,
And your eloquence spoke for your rights,
Would he still think your smile so winning?
And if your definition of “goodness” differed from his,
And your mind was stirring with revolution,
Would he praise your heart of passion?

~ShallSpeak

Dream Invader

I’ve left you three-hundred-plus miles away.

I never see you, hear you, or smell you.

But you’re still here. Pervading. Invading.

You enter my thoughts and darken them.

You haunt my future holiday visits.

And this week you’ve been violating my sleep.

Sunday night, I forgot what you did,

But I remember that you were in my dream.

Monday night, you were there, taunting me,

Threatening to sell my precious car.

Tuesday night, you were there, beating my sister,

Seventy, eighty, ninety, one-hundred blows, while I hid.

Wednesday night, you were there, trying to hug me;

I pushed you away and told you not to touch me.

It’s Thursday now. What will it be tonight?

~ShallSpeak

Monopoly

I watched some friends play a Monopoly game last night…

I watched because I didn’t want to play.

I played it as a child…

A child in a dysfunctional house.

“Dad” picked on little Sis, and he picked on me…

It was subtle… you really couldn’t tell…

I couldn’t even tell, exactly.

I just knew that I didn’t like Monopoly…

I didn’t like it because it wasn’t any fun at all.

It was frustrating and upsetting, tense, unpleasant…

He gloated and put us down…

Sis was unhappy, and he never helped that.

It dragged on for too long… nobody ever won…

It went slowly… banker “dad” was so eloquent…

It grew whiny and boring and finally we quit, all losers.

I have no idea why we ever played again, but we did…

We did again and again… not many times, but too many…

It solidified my hate for Monopoly.

So when they asked if I wanted to play, I said, “no, thank-you.”

And I watched while they scampered happily around the board…

They laughed at their fortune and grinned hopefully at each loss…

The money flew fast in the bankers hands as the dice were cast…

They teased when someone got jailed…

But nobody derided, taunted, belittled, or hurt.

They complained good-naturedly about the rent prices…

But nobody whined, annoyed, antagonized, or criticized.

And they finished the game on good terms.

~ShallSpeak

Free Now

I’m free now.

I have left.

I found a new college,

And an apartment, too.

They gave me the car.

I packed, and I moved.

~ShallSpeak

Spiderweb in My Face

You were walking up the driveway, coming to the cars,

So I decided to walk through the garden, coming from the cars.

I walked into a spiderweb, an invisible but clingy one,

A sticky one that would not come away when I tried to brush it off.

You made a joke about Spiderman having visited as you went to your truck.

And I ran into another web, a bigger one with a large red spider in it.

I said, “Yeah, heh-heh.” and stumbled away trying to avoid any more.

~ShallSpeak

Lies & Truths

I got some false words laid at my feet. I’m going to step on them. It’s a pretty short story how they got there, so I’ll tell it.

Our family has three vehicles. HF’s truck, Mum’s van, and a ’95 Saturn sedan. I’ve driven the Saturn for the past two and a half years. The Saturn is not a beauty, but I’ve grown to really like it. It drives nicely and gets awesome gas mileage.

I’m going to leave this dysfunctional place this summer, but I must get my own car first.

I’ve looked a little at cars to buy, but I would rather have the Saturn. Mum asked several months ago if she and HF could give me the Saturn as a graduation gift. HF said absolutely not.

Mum recently ventured to ask if he would want to sell the Saturn to me and buy a certain other car. He told her that he couldn’t afford a new car because he’d just bought a tractor. Mum repeated that they would use the money from selling the Saturn to buy the other car. She asked him to think about it.

In the morning, he told her that he wouldn’t sell me the Saturn because he liked it and because I never did what he told me to.

He said I didn’t pay him the insurance on it. Lie. I haven’t paid him the most recent insurance on it, but I have paid insurance on it.

He said I didn’t pay him my half of the car repairs. Lie. I haven’t paid him my half of the most recent repair bill. I have paid the others.

He said I didn’t mow the lawn. Lie. I mow the lawn. I don’t mow the nasty area over the septic system because I need the riding mower for that, and he rarely ever fixes the riding mower. I mow the rest of the lawn, though. I don’t mow it constantly, but never let it be said that I don’t mow the lawn.

He said I didn’t keep the kitchen clean. Lie. The dishes do pile up, but I do wash them and clean up what I can. Not every single day, but I do clean the kitchen.

He said I wasn’t responsible. Lie. I’ve taken good care of pets since I was little. I have a perfect driving record. I worked part-time while I was in college. I earned a 3.9 GPA. I graduated with high honors.

Nice batch of lies about me, isn’t it?

Now let’s look at some truths about him.

We moved here eight years ago with a small amount in savings. He didn’t even try to get a job until that savings was running out. This family has no savings, and my parents have nothing to retire on.

There is a tarp over the roof that has been there for over a year and a half. He’s done nothing to fix that.

The septic system is such that the yard reeks and there are some nasty puddles when it gets too wet. He’s done nothing to get that taken care of.

The riding lawnmower is often in a state of disrepair. I quit asking him to fix it for me because he rarely would.

The parking brake in my car broke a year and a half ago. It’s still broken.

Nice, huh? Who’s the lazy, irresponsible one? Granted, he has worked enough to keep the lights on and the fridge stocked, but we don’t have anything extra. I think it’s a case of a cast-iron pot calling a copper kettle black.

There once was tedious rude jerk

Who said I was too lazy to work.

But I labored away,

Got a high GPA,

And I looked at my grades with a smirk.

~ShallSpeak

This next poem is a true story about a man whom I hate to call my father. I’ve not written much lately, for I’ve had too much to write to know where to start. And most of it I have not wanted to think about long enough to write down. This thing has really been angering me lately, though.

HE bought her a Mother’s Day gift,

His mother who’s weak with cancer.

HE waved it before us with pride,

Telling us of his great kindness.

HE’d seen the therapists drive by,

Passing as they searched for her house,

So HE kindly bought her a sign,

A bright reflective sign of green,

On which HE put her house numbers.

I don’t know how HE wrapped it up,

But this I know and I will tell:

That number sign isn’t doing

A single bit of good at all,

It’s sitting on a shelf indoors,

Waiting to be hung on a stake.

And it has been over a week,

Since the good son gave it to her.

~ShallSpeak