Self Portrait, version 2, part 1

lakemBear with me folks, I’m taking a poetry workshop and so I will be torturing you with my tortured prosody for a while.


I am an open
Telling my story
Is Telling
And soothing.

My father burned
With a Mediterranean fever.
My mother hid inside
A cowl made of Canadian ice.
His heat melted her ice
And I was born.

He reigned over us all,
Including my mother,
With military precision.
His way was the only
Mercy was not his to
Give. Or so he said.

He force fed us
Opera on
Saturday afternoons.
The intercom with its
Tyranical radio
Blared throughout
The cellblock.
We were not allowed to
Turn the volume down.
Such was my childhood.

My mother escaped when
I was 11.
She did not take
Any of us with her.
She left us with the
Madman instead.

When I left for college
I never came back.
But she did.
His charm was like
A neodymium magnet.
Her iron filings,
Skinny and weak,
Had no choice but to
Line up against his force field.

When I was
I got on the school bus
With my older brothers.
I was ready to learn how to read.
The driver brought me
Home, amused
But I was heartbroken.
So my mother taught me instead.

I still have my class picture
From kindergarten.
My face is framed with straight
brown hair
And bangs my mother cut
With scotch tape.
I’m smiling up to my eyes.
My hands, covered
with dimpled white gloves,
Are splayed
With excitement.

I inherited my legacy
When I was
Sitting in the high school
Cafeteria, I looked at my sandwich
But could not eat.
I did not know why.

I first went to college
On the edge of Harlem
Everything there
Was gray—
The buildings, sidewalks, streets, sky
And the people.
And cold,
So, so cold.
I fled two weeks into
Second semester.

I went south instead
South to warmth
And smooth brick
Walkways that surrounded
A garden with no flowers.
But at least it was green.
Green, the color of trees and grass
And verdant reflections on
Lake Matoaka.

Is this
A self portrait?
What are we if not

Our personal histories?

Who I am now
is the sum total of all I was
then, and over time
Who I have become.

Who I am now
is what you
See now.

I am an open

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