I Made My Mother Cry

Posted: January 14, 2010 in Poetry

Last night was more poetry as the rest of The Recipe and I held the Slam poetry workshop called ‘The Ingredients’. Other than COMPLETELY misunderstanding someone’s question about repetition (she was asking about the literary device – I spoke at length about performing the same poem multiple times…), it went well.

CONTEXT: June, 2006

In was 20 years to the month that I first considered suicide.

Some of you may read this and think you have heard it before. You would be mistaken because I have never performed it. However, you would have a reason to think you had heard it because the topic is one I returned to when I did a poem called ‘Halifax’. (I have another poem that touches on the other time I was considering suicide, but it is isn’t obvious IN the piece what was going on. It is called ‘Time’.)

The whole poem is true (except for the obvious part) – from the time I decided to move out of the house when I was 16 (though didn’t) to the time I considered suicide when I was in Halifax on a course for the Naval Reserve.

In the end the poem was a little too ‘angsty’ for me. I much prefer the version of the story I told in ‘Halifax’ because the balance between the negative and positive was much more pronounced and optimistic.

The theme of wanting to help youth in the same position that I was has come up again and again over the last few years, building to the ‘No Advice’ poem I wrote at CFSW this year. It is tough, because how many teenagers think that some forty year old dude can relate to what they are feeling?

I know that I sure wouldn’t have listened.

The suicide part is a tough topic but after I performed ‘Halifax’ a number of times, most trepedation I would have had about it is gone. It is better to discuss such things than pretend it never happened.

    I Made My Mother Cry

I made my mother cry
I was sixteen and I was telling her why
I had decided to move out
She made me feel like a total lout
An insensitive jerk who didn’t see
What she had gone through to give me
The best life she possibly could
She didn’t guilt me, though she should
Have. My heart was breaking anyway
I did not move out that day.

In Halifax, in ’86, in June
I was set to learn to tune
Navy radios, to serve in war
I would send orders across the shores
So we could better kill, or maybe defend
It didn’t matter to me back then

I didn’t fit in, that was clear
But that wasn’t new, I never steered
My path parallel with the rest
When high school put me to a social test
I was found wanting, made the butt of jokes
Treated by all the popular folks
As something to be mocked
And in Halifax I found myself locked
Out on the balcony of the place we were staying
Jim didn’t mean anything. He was just playing
When he locked me outside
Laughing, as he drew the blinds
They knew they could do it
And I wouldn’t fight back
They saw me as meek, but it was purpose I lacked.

Why fight back, to prove you are better
When you aren’t convinced they’re not right to the letter
I held on to the railing and looked to the ground
Thirty floors up, I surprisingly found
My vertigo was missing, I could see every foot
From there to here, I tested the rail with my boot.

I thought of the people who made my life hard
Because I was different, I left up my guards
And did not act like they wanted me to
The hell with all them and all that they do!

I climbed over the rail and hung for a moment
Before letting go, and ending my torment

As I fell through the air, I felt truly free
Unrestrained by what people wanted me to be
I heard their taunts and hurtful phrases
I saw their sneers and scowling faces

Then I saw those who demanded more
They were just as harsh when I didn’t conform

The wind rushed by, and the ground grew closer

I wonder who will find me? See who I am?
I remember Jim tossing a jar full of jam
From the window, to see the big mess
Will whoever it is, get nightmares that test
Their sleeping hours? A vision that will never erase
A memory that will not be replaced.

How will those back at school react?
They’ll probably shrug, ‘I knew he was cracked’
Never quite right in the head, they will think
And never another thought, to obscurity I’ll sink.

I wonder who will tell my mom
Some captain or looie or lowly non-com
She will never really understand
That there were things in the world I just couldn’t stand.
I saw her face then through memory and time
Her face was wet. Again, I made her cry.

That shocked me awake, I pushed back from the chasm
Pried my fingers from the rail, I collapsed with a spasm
I curled myself up in a ball
Away from the railing, my back to the wall.

I wish I could say things turned around that day
That I had seen the bottom and learned I may
Find the better things in life
Ignoring the pain and strife
But it isn’t true
When they let me back in, what did they do?
More of the same, I just shut them out.
Reminding myself that they knew nothing about
Me or what I was going through
Yet day by day there was something new
Things DID change. Things DID seem brighter
I wish there was some way I could show the fighters
Who are feeling the pain of youth and despairing
That things DO get better and people ARE caring.

And what of my mother, and what of her tears?
That may have saved me from losing the years,
That brought me back from where I was heading?

I made her cry again,
When I told her of my upcoming wedding.


Starting with the next poem I post, we are getting into my actual slam ‘career’.

  1. […] touched on the worst of it in I Made My Mother Cry and […]

  2. Toni says:

    I found this today and it made me think of you…both

    My mother is a poem, I’ll never be able to write. Though everything I write, is a poem to my mother. – Sharon Doubiago


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