for sarah w. mcnair
that u’d leave me was my oldest fear;
with none to mind my urgent needs.
abandonment’s grip would rend & tear
the tissues of my attachment.
i’d panic when u were out of place,
naught but yr return consoled me.
i’d cling to yr skirts, bury my face
in the fabrics of yr presence.
security sedates. i felt safe
when i could see u, felt u near.
i welcomed yr nervous nurture’s chafe;
yr thereness in my figureground.
eventually, i learned to trust;
could leave u long enough to play
outside, go to school, or ride the bus --
assured of yr anxious waiting.
but how could i know, sweet mama dear,
my young chest pains were mostly yours;
the songs of yr loss, yr primal fear--
a sympathetic vibration.
nor did i know u’d birthed a son
& lost him to the reaper’s blade
that clove yr heart & left a wound
no subsequent child could ever heal.
i was told u raged against yr god,
yet mumbled not an anguished sound;
but withdrew instead behind a ward
of recurring catalepsy.
just a child was i & could not know
yr lingering grief was not some
failure on my part; some maiming blow
delivered by my trembling hand.
when i was but nine i saw u leave.
yr eyes were vacant; u were gone.
no more than a wraith, someone to grieve,
i’d watch u haunt our joyless home.
in the gloom of night u’d leave yr bed
to drift about from room to room
looking, listening u’d cock yr head
searching for yr lost attachments…
so soon they came to take u away
& lock u fast behind those walls,
an asylum’s taint & disarray
did mark u so indelibly.
& thus my heart knew a wound so fell;
a trauma to hold all others.
each hurt & loss that my stars foretell
gestate in this festering hole.
often gone u could not protect me:
from daddy’s grand expectations
from feeling less than or incomplete
from my real or imagined fear.
where were u: when ruben pissed on me;
when that white girl called me nigger?
when weird grownups looked at me funny?
when i peed in my pants in 2nd grade
because i was too afraid of my
teacher to ask to go to the bathroom?
i wanted to die, or run away…
where were u, mama , when i needed
to fight, kick ass, defend myself?
soon i stopped wondering; conceded
yr absences & remoteness.
left to my own devices i learned
deception, ruse, legerdemain --
the base coin of lying dearly earned
to create for myself a masque.
a masque to hide the face of my pain.
a totem to spook snap judgments,
& to spoof so much more than i’d deign
believe i could ever become.
that masque took on a life of its own,
made as it was from living stuff.
its purpose? to disguise & disown
hurt, fear & still-tender feelings.
& so began my self-sabotage,
mama – but u are not to blame.
though an easy target for my rage,
i am the one responsible.
to blame u for failed relationships
is disingenuous at best
control, abuse & my lying lips
drove most of my women away.
nor are u to blame for the choices,
the acts of self-betrayal that caused
me to cower before the voices
in my head –- that dread committee.
i chose to live in my head detached,
above my feelings. & i dispatched
any emotion that forestalled
my self-destructive ambition.
my hubris was without limit.
a measure in inverse proportion
to my lean & hungry selfsense.
in this time of reckoning, mama
i will not blame u. no villainess,
are u in my sordid drama,
just a woman living the blues.
u never put a drink in my hand,
& yet i became a hopeless drunk;
drunk on whiskey, adrenaline &
my whimsical cup of sorrow.
on my own i became addicted
to drugs, infatuation &
theatrics. wretched & conflicted
my masque slipped; my world surely broke.
all that i had ever thought, said or
done made my undoing certain.
the circle that began with desire
did not end in satiation;
did not close. i watched my life spill out;
powerless to occlude the flow.
yet in my darkest hour, turnabout –-
& a moment of clarity.
balance, mama, grows out of excess.
i came back from the edge of death
to live; face my fears, embrace success,
put conscience in perspective.
in the instance of my greatest loss,
in despair’s desolate spaces,
i redeemed my anguish; paid the cost
to refresh myself, be born anew,
rapt in spirit’s ecstatic whispers.
i felt the toxins drain away;
felt my anger, guilt & shame disburse
in day long hours & minutes.
i heard the voice of spirit say,
the past is ever wisdom’s foe;
look not u backwards, find yr way.
to peace in the eternal now.
in the now, in the now my truth
& glory ever. my fey soul:
did glimpse incontrovertible proof
of grace, synchronicity,
eternality -- evidence of
a silent witness in the heart,
unblemished by the malignant love
of intense emotional pain.
did glimpse in the heart a place of peace
where even an old god’s vengeance,
wrath & jealousy can never reach,
nor the troubling of the wicked.
in the moment, in the now, the path
to that heartplace is clear; access
is easy. i cannot help but laugh
at the irony, drollery --
the way to peace is through my heart wound:
through that pain which needs be embraced,
then let go. through once-lost-but-now-found
self-forgiveness that heals truly,
completely – that transfigures wholly!
through the veil of ego into
the mystery, into the holy
presence of the knower within.
that glimpse, mama, was what i needed
to take my life back; be at cause
rather than effect. i conceded,
then, my responsibility
to live life on its terms; to eschew
the outside fix for the inside
job. there have since been many new
looks & more expanded moments…
how i wish, mama, i could have told
u all of this while u yet lived.
but u left us just when we made bold
to believe yr frame immortal.
not that i didn’t try to absolve
u, forgive u or make amends.
i thought that we had much to resolve.
but u resisted all attempts.
blithe dementia made these issues moot,
‘til death came sweeping in yr room;
sent u through the gate of life in route
to a better understanding
bye & bye. so rest in blissful peace,
mama. i know we have nothing
to resolve. vesting all of my needs
in u was the act of a child.
looking outside myself for nurture,
was child’s play. my pursuit of pleasure
& power ignited my guilt;
forced me to abandon love. when i
was a child, like the apostle
i spoke, thought & reasoned childishly;
& long after my childhood’s end.
that child always needs a protector.
in truth, i’m a child no longer.
a point of light i am – a vector;
i’ve put away my childish things.
© Joseph McNair; 2009