Time Keeps Me Captive

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  • #346983


    I wanted to try something different from the poetry I normally write, so the below is an experiment with that.

    Time Keeps Me Captive

    Time keeps me captive in the wrinkles of my mother’s face,

    In her greying hair,

    In the way she has changed in my absence,

    Suddenly so much older and smaller than I remember,

    But that is a lie,

    For when I think about it, I only know my mother as she is now.

    I cannot remember the woman she was,

    The woman who stares out at me from photographs on every shelf and windowsill,

    Who, under a tight perm,

    Is always laughing

    And whose warmth I knew so well,

    A comforting sensation,

    Which, even now, I sometimes long to feel again,

    Usually when the shit is falling so hard,

    That is makes me want to give up being an adult.

    Yet, I do not long to be freed from this metered captivity,

    For in my freedom there will be loss,

    Loss, which I cannot fathom at the moment,

    Nor do I want to

    For even thinking of the thought is too much to bear.

    I squeeze my eyes and my mind shut whenever those thoughts seep into my mind,

    I search for darkness

    Shouting inwardly,

    Until there is nothing else but the sound of my voice.

    Yet, there is a part of me,

    A practical side which I have inherited from my father

    And which I have spent years trying to shed,

    Arguing with my sister that I am nothing like him,

    When laughing she calls to my mother,

    Who, eyeing me up as she hangs out the washing

    Says, without batting an eyelid,

    “Like two peas in a pod.”

    Ironically, that practical side tells me I must look beyond the here and now,

    I must confront that which I long to avoid at every turn.

    Ironic, because my father is only present in the here and now,

    Fear stops him looking to the future,

    Aware that the years are already heavily balanced to one side already,

    And that life has almost run its course,

    And what has he to show for it?

    This he voices to no one and to everyone

    And by everyone, I mean my mother,

    Who bats him away with a shake of her head

    And the admonishment that he is still young,

    Her words with a razor edge

    Polished by her extra three years on him.

    The past to my father has come and gone,

    Mistakes were made,

    Words were said but not meant,

    And how is he to blame when his father before him did the same?

    And on an unseasonably warm Easter weekend,

    When I am home,

    And he sits beside me,

    I say, “But have you never asked why?”

    And he goes quiet

    And angry I walk into the house,

    Where my mother, glassy eyed at my return

    Pulls me down to her height and welcomes me home with a talcum powdered kiss,

    And following me inside, he still says nothing,

    Spending his time in the kitchen away from the rest of us.

    And the next morning as he descends the stairs,

    Wearing slippers that my sister gave him for Christmas,

    But with a card signed from both of us,

    He stops and stares at me,

    And I can see him thinking,

    See him fighting the bullshit,

    The gospel according to man,

    But eventually he gives in,

    Probably thinking he is too old to change now,

    And looking at me, he shrugs and says,

    “Because, that’s just the way it is.”

    He is gone then,

    Too embarrassed to wait for my response,

    I hear him slip, slip, slip,

    Out to the kitchen,

    Sunlight spilling out into the hallway as he opens and shuts the door behind him.

    In the silence of the living room, I am angry,

    Fuck that, I am fuming,

    I want to shake him,

    To rattle him,

    To make the truth pop out,

    Like a coin trapped in a piggybank.

    And yet, there is a part of me that is also proud that he took the time to think about it,

    That he let me see that he didn’t really believe what he was saying,

    And almost straight away I am angry at that part of myself for giving him an easy ride.

    Why is it that my mother’s face holds me captive, and not my fathers?

    What will happen if his is all that I am left with?

    Will we have the golden years that Hollywood promises?

    Born out of a fractured and tortured honesty that only comes through grief?

    Truth and emotions thrown about with hedonistic abandonment?

    All resulting in a snot filled hug,

    Faces red and tight,

    Close up of a knitted tan cardigan.

    Why is he afraid to be the man that I think he is?

    Why am I afraid to be myself around him?

    Could it be that I am afraid that being the man that I am will turn him into the man that I think he is?

    And what then?

    Would I have to say all those things that I have told others but not him?

    Could I get past my rage?

    Choke it all down, and ask the question that feels too trite to write as the next line.

    Why is it that the word now has lost all meaning?

    It feels childish

    And fragile,

    Like the scented paper my sister used to play with when we were children,

    And which I used to smell when she wasn’t looking.


    That’s what it smelled like.

    She’d cut it up into little clothes

    And put them onto the paper dolls which she made.

    See how distracted I get?

    Anything but talk about, ‘That’.

    I’ve spent years avoiding it,

    Relenting only once,

    Crying in a circle of people,

    All of whom squirmed in their chairs and looked away,

    Viewing me as if I’d just been sick on the floor,

    And in truth I had been,

    Words swimming in a thick sludge at my feet.

    Embarrassed, I’d tried to wipe them up

    But with eyes full of tears

    I couldn’t see them all,

    So I left them to dry on their own,

    To form a message that no one understood,

    Before, drying in the heat of the coming day,

    They evaporated and were forgotten.

    I spent years avoiding the thought of losing one,

    Because inevitably I thought of losing the other

    And in my fear, I not only avoided the ghost of a possibility

    I also avoided the reality of my parents.

    But through the guilt that ate away at the lining of my stomach

    I managed to see them for what they are,

    What I am.

    A domino that stands upright,

    As all those that came before me did,

    Placed there by their hand,

    Not out of malice, but out of love

    Yet in the darkness of this room, I cannot help but think,

    If I should fall,

    How far back will we all slide?

  • #656005


    Maybe I’m missing something. To me, there are too many self-contradictory statements to follow the poem. One example:

    > That is makes me want to give up being an adult.
    > Yet, I do not long to be freed from this metered captivity,

    “Yet” in this kind of usage implies contrast to me. Sort of a “white vs black” situation. “I do not want to go, yet I must.” But these two phrases strike me as alike, not as contrasting.

    It feels to me like there isn’t a flow through the various messages inside the poem. I don’t think poems require that, but in this particular case, it left me out of tune with the imagery and emotions of the piece.

    I think there’s some strong language in the piece, and that’s good. But without a connection to the piece, I’m not emotionally impacted by that language, and I’m left wishing that I could be.

  • #656006


    HI Rob,

    Thanks for your feedback, I get where you are coming from, and after reading it I see what ou mean about it being contradictory. I think however that without realising that was how i felt about the topics discussed, and actually in writing the poem, it became clear to me how I felt about those things.

    Also, with that in mind, it’s not really suprising that I wrote without an emotional attachment, as part of me clearly didnt want to connect with it.

    Thanks for making me see how it came across as that made me lok deeper into what I had written.


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