New Poem: The Onlies

Apologies to my siblings. This is deeply personal not just for me but for them as well, and while I need to write this I do feel bad sharing stories that are not just mine. Hopefully the level of ambiguity in some places will preserve some sense of privacy. Mom remains a consistent muse for me, and tomorrow she would be celebrating her 44th wedding anniversary, if indeed she still felt like celebrating it. So help me I think she might have.

The Onlies

She was only forty-nine
when she breathed her last
in a tiny hospital bed
in a tiny hospital room
finally giving in
after months of chemo and pain meds
stripped the real her away

She was only forty-seven
when she got the diagnosis
a shot in the gut
after months of bad news
because after a couple good years
of catching a break
why the hell not
be the universe’s punching bag again

She was only thirty-nine
when she became a grandmother
joy mixed with fear
mixed with shame
awareness of a familiar road
driving her to familiar mistakes
in new designs
pushing her apart from the best part of her

She was only thirty
when the man she trusted
the one she promised herself to
stole her trust and her body
at the point of a steak knife
tearing down the tough girl facade
making the world make sense
in a way she should not have to have it
but she knew
she knew

She was only twenty-two
by the time she had three kids
and left handed compliments
left marks deep in her soul
and real ones
about how well behaved we were
felt like theft in her heart
and bitterness turned inward
turned outward

She was only seventeen
when she became a mother
a baby with a baby
surrounded by good intentions
and maladjusted children older than her
judgement at every corner
and jealousy from strange places
that she was all too familiar with
convinced she would never get it right
and eager to prove herself correct

She was only ten
when the man
she should have been able to trust
above all others
gave her a black eye
for being too slow getting him coffee
not the first but one of the worst
lessons about what the world has to offer
and there would be so many more to come

She was only born
into a world made to disappoint her
making her ready to disappoint
every triumph a warning sign
to look out for tragedy
betrayal at every corner
especially in the corners of her mind
that would never give her peace

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