‘Never be afraid to tell us.’
We each grew up with that echo in our ears
that the truth will out and anyway, she said,
there’s nothing so terrible it can’t be named.
Years later, as I stood homeless in our drive,
my life in the clothes I stood up in, watching,
barely breathing, as she dismissed me as her son.
I tried to bring her back, reminding her of
that door, open always to the woes of school,
the cuts of friendship, the bruises of sport and
the whispers of confidence. My hands, late at night,
holding yarns of wool while she wound them into balls.
I was the best, she said. The others, well-meaning at first
soon grew restless and on late summer evenings
their fidgeting frames itched to be outside
‘Don’t let on,’ she’d say as she slipped me something small
coming in from the shops, her feet worn out,
coat thrown at one, gloves to another, we’d scatter
not wanting to be the first to incur her wrath,
the kitchen strewn with our undone chores.
* * * * *
You knew I was not handing you something inviting
wrapped as it was in the tissue of a lie.
Yet I wanted to feel you unravel,
holding it up to the light and examine it
as you did all those years ago when you would
read my first, faltering attempts at fiction
and always find something to believe in.
But this was fact and I did not expect nor deserve
that you would make a funeral pyre
of my history with this family,
fuelling it with the fodder of disgust.
The flames were the tongues of the words
which spat out their rejection.
Later on, a search through the embers issued
nothing but the coldest of comfort.
Did you expect that I could continue and ermerge
unscathed, still carrying the notion
that the truth was all you believed in?