Tracing the Formica

Boscawen NH

The Formica traced a trail of ruddy tears…to an unnamed room.

Deep inside the tomb…

my oblique glasses held visions of dull switch blades.

Daggers dancing through the corners of my soul like,

bloody sugar canes sent to alleviate my decay.

Sliding between the ceramic maze…

a hell to be razed.

Alas, the vow,

little do your tiny demons know,

it was written long ago,

upon a wall made of cork…

‘straight jackets cannot subdue the heart.’


Anne had not known abuse, as of late.

That sort of uninsured… moodiness began thirty years ago.

The feel of the tired shag carpeting, as it lay beneath her side.  The texture of the fake wood that held up her dresser.  Had she known it was just a holding tank for pet fur; she would have vacuumed under it more often.  As it was, she would need to make note of the chaotic, shedding that occurred under her bedroom furniture.  She most definitely needs to take care of that issue, before, Gerald, witness the uncleanliness.

Remembering, now, at the ripe old age of, old age, Anne, knew fetal equaled,  ‘misdeed’.  Position equaled, leaving oneself open to suggestion.  A suggestion that was not always wanted.

In the sun-room of the Needles Nursing Home, Anne often pondered,


‘What could it have been like for the children to see me like that?  Curled in, closed off, sobbing but not allowing myself to cry.  Hysterical but not willing to make it such a…nervous breakdown!


The abuse begin to turn a different sort of turn, approximately, three decades ago.  When she promised herself, ‘I will know longer think of myself as, taken advantage of!’

That is when the cowering and the coward came into play.  Though, still at the hand of her narcissistic husband, Anne began to behave differently.

No longer would she sit and judge, Gerald.  No longer would she stand in the way of his ‘disciplining’ the children.  Anne, slowly became an extension of Gerald’s long armed law.  Neither a promoter or instigator.  Nor, an encouragement or finger pointer.

The sun-room at this time of day, created beautiful crosses on the lavender walls.  And, though the chapel, were down the hall.  It was in this particular room of the aged home, Anne, felt less guilty.

It wasn’t easy being the midwife to hate.  Being the eyes and ears of the Head of the House.  Yet, when her role started to fall into place.  Possibly in her later forties.  It had been then that Anne accepted Gerald for all his faults.  The kids seemed frightened but older and able to head out on their own, soon.  And, worrying less about the abuse, made her full-time job, off sight, more enjoyable.


‘How did her son feel when Gerald threatened to kill him?  Chasing him into the backyard with fist curled, and leather belt readied and willing.

What did her youngest daughter think when Gerald pushed Anne so hard into the stonewall surrounding the driveway?  An impact so forceful she had a slight black and blue under her eye and swollen shoulder for about a week.

Why the giving up to give in?


The children had their issues.  But, what further damage would she; Anne, have created, had she antagonized, Gerald, further with tears and reprimanding?

As the roll call for four o’clock supper echoed the nearly vacant halls, Anne began to rise.  Aching from new old pains.  Slightly miffed that her younger daughter had not called to inquire of Anne’s health status.  In need of, morphine for the many debilitating illnesses that had nudged Anne’s doctor into placing her at the Home.

Anne gave up all current thought of the past.  As she always did.  Assuming that the past was just the past.  Rehashing old wounds did no good.  It was…

 far easier on everyone to just forgive and forget.

B.W.S from the adult-child’s perspective:

  • Many battered women stay in abusive relationships.
  • Many making excuses or minimizing your partner’s behavior
  • Many have  low self-esteem
  • Many are traditionalist, believing in family unity and feminine sex-role stereotypes
  • Many accept responsibility for the batterer’s actions
  • Many feel that rocking the boat will make the abuse worse
  • Most…

will not live long enough to enjoy Anne’s sun-room!


Cycle of Abuse: Out of Wedlock

There are a sundry of reasons we ourselves from neglect.  Pretend to face the violence but turn a deaf ear….Reasons and excuses, self proclaimed…about abuse and, therefore, life wasn’t that bad.  That during the most prolific and cognitive years.  Verbal, emotional and physical abuse appeared…but ‘things could have been worse.’

As a victim of child abuse, I often wanted to believe that my mother was loving.  My father responsive and caring.  That in the 70’s and 80’s when I played softball or sang in folk group…my friend’s parents were akin to my own.

wedlock 1

That the love and comfort, other parents, provided in the split ranch homes up on the hill…rang true and similar to our little white house on South Main street.

As previously written my father’s incarceration at New Hampshire Hospital…held little recourse for him.  That he (in many ways) lived, interacted and became one,  with life, society…outside the fences of a psychiatric facility for the criminally insane.  His psychologist, Mr. Hawkins, with little regard for the future, allowed my father to farm the land, sow the row, and make acquaintances…during weekend passes in Warner.  Even though my father had just savagely killed his first wife.

Mr. Hawkins had been my father’s new best friend, and roommate.  As well as, Mr. Hawkin’s family and his farmhouse being his only form of punishment.  That a certain, Mrs. Elizabeth Tynan Bowley’s death; In some ways, seemed unimportant.  Harold, in all his abusive, compulsive, violent ways, had been allowed to walk free.

Had this been the only untruth I had to discover on my own…age, 45?  Had this been a good enough explanation for the beatings with a belt, the smack down with wire brushes and the constant threat of ‘there’s more where that came from…’  Perhaps, I could learn to let go.  To forgive.  To live in the bubble that my sister lives in.

However, Sybil is my half-sister, and her story is not mine.  My story is not simple.  Being the product of two severely challenged state hospital patients.  Being conceived behind the walls of lobotomies, deep down in the tunnels of regret, down in the depths of the water treatment passages.  Passages that many psych patients found and, used for one nightstands.

Being in the constant state of…not being. Harold and Janice, rendevousing with white coated workers politely looking the other way. Had this been the only deception…I could relent.

So, I had been born out-of-wedlock!  Indeed, who really cares?

So, my parents needed a weekend pass from the hospital to wed.  So, Harold and Janice, stole away one Saturday to Vermont…under the watchful eye of Mr. Hawkins, to make my up coming birth seem more or less…innocent.  Innocent and free of sin.

But exemption on my part as an adult…had begun to turn to bitterness.wedlock 3

I could understand my mother’s wanting to pay homage to the catholic church.  After all, not more than four years before, she had been studying to be a nun.  And, though, their wedding was more shotgun and less bible…Janice could at least say, she was married at the moment of my conception.  Which of course…is a complete fabrication!

Understand, forgive, forget….Come on.

Sitting in the dark, current day 2012, fuming over  Knowing the next day, I would return to the log cabin house in Canterbury.  Return and care for aging parents.  Return to the child I was decades before.  Return and watch the abuse and the despondency.  Knowing more…understanding less…

The long and sordid tale just kept rolling on.

My mother once told me of how frightened my father had been when I had been born.

You see…I had been deathly ill at birth.  Born with many extra parts that were dysfunctional, I had emergency exploratory surgery, one month after being hatched.  One month of ICU.  One month of knocking on, in an infantile manner, heaven’s door.  Many of my intestines were rebuked.  Had been rescinded.  Should have been returned to…sender.  Bile clogged my veins and my blood.

Doctors in and out of desperation, and, quite ahead of their time, could make only one provocative decision.   I received a nephrectomy!  Born with 3 kidneys, 1 3/4 were silently…killing me.  The little bile buggers were removed!

The scars, physically, remain with me to this day.  From the sternum to the pubic area.  But the story of an emotional Harold.  Lingering over me.  Not wanting me to die in his arms?  All lies!  He, in matter of fact, had not been released from New Hampshire Hospital.  He, indeed, had been weaving in and out of psychosis.  While I lay not three blocks away…dying!

Why lie?  Why tell me that my strong parents accompanied my every procedure?

When, in truth…in 1967, my mother was out of the hospital trying to get her other two children out of a orphange.  While my father was fulfilling his narcissism!

Born out-of-wedlock.  Conceived on state hospital grounds.  No parents around during near death experience!

What next?  Nevermind the murderous rampage my father conducted on his first wife.  Excusing the idea that I have a half-sister out there.  Someone unfortunate enough to have my father’s blood.  Excluding my mother’s numerous attempts at suicide.  And, her willingness to offer her children into the hands of a violent man.wedlock 2

What next?  Would my parents try to pull off the greatest trick of all?  Would they rush my father through catholic class?  Have his Baptist upbringing baptized in catholic waters?  Would they really think that by having Harold converted to Catholicism and therefore, baptized, he could change!  Rinsed of sin.  Cleansed of murder!  That being going through the motions in the eyes of ‘their God’…All lies, killings, abuse, would be absolved!

But of course!  For that matter, I am my father’s godmother.  My brother, Bud, is his godfather.  And, all in the eyes of Jesus Christ Superstar…is forgiven!

Cycle of Abuse: Breakdowns Come, Breakdowns…Do Not Go

I set aside specific days to write this journal/introspection of my childhood and life.  If anyone reading this has suffered at the big, callous, hand of abuse…both visible and invisible.  If there is just one person suffering from the pains of stretching your now adult skin over the remnants of a child’s constant insults, adult bullying, slaps, rug burns, turmoil…They would understand the shaky, sweaty, palms of the victim.

For the victim, who lived seemingly short years, over a lifetime of abuse.  Your body shakes without notice.  Your mind wonders.  Your thoughts come up with excuses for not unraveling the mystery of parent’s injustice.

Personally, I am a fan of tuning out.  I have done so all my life.  Through writing, drugging, music, television, anything…

I did not ask to be the asphalt jungle to my parent’s car wheels filled with the air of neglect. But I did what was needed to hide away.  To take shelter behind words, lyrics, anything to drown out the sounds of flesh hitting flesh, the accusations, the screaming and yelling…

‘You’re not fuckin’ good are you?’

‘I don’t give a good goddamn what you think?’

‘Can’t you get off your fat, lazy, ass and do something?’

Over, over, and over…again.

My father’s favorite?_boiler room state hospital

Who’s gonna help you now?  Get the fuck up!  I’m not done with you…’


Jack Sanders, one of my father’s attorneys, was fairly simple to track down.  Having been the assistant district attorney for Rockingham County, during the early sixties…He left a paper trail.

I can assume when I phoned him at his current law office in Portsmouth; I had certainly caught him off guard.  That being said.  Jack remembered both my father…and, later, my mother.

“If I had been in your father’s shoes.  I think I would have done the same thing!  Mind you I can’t divulge much of the case…lawyer – client privilege…you know.  But she (Elizabeth Laughlin-Bowley) was very easy.  She got around!  She pushed your father into thinking he had no choice …”

Jack could not elaborate further about my father’s first wife.  Or, her such severe, indiscretions; That she (Elizabeth) deserved to be stabbed to death.  However, it had been obvious that during their marriage, Elizabeth had a habit of prolonged infidelity.

It boils my blood…even now.

Infidelity gone bad?!  WTF?  Stabbing someone 35 times because they no longer wished to be with you?  Stabbing a mother in front of her child?  And, Mr. Sanders…making excuses for such horrendous behavior.

Had I been surprised?  Not too much!  After all, one of my cousins on my father’s side…killed a man in Texas.  Killed him because the guy came onto him.  Another Hate Crime…another soul lost.  I had yet, another cousin, convicted of vehicular homicide.  She too…contained the Bowley blood.

I had been aghast at Mr. Sander’s response…A typical good boy response…It is the woman’s fault.

My father had been shipped to New Hampshire State Hospital in ’63.  And, not two years later, my mother gave my half-sister and half-brother up to catholic adoption services…in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Pushed to the edge by her father’s physical abuse.  My mother, Janice, always found comfort in the arms of even more abusive men.  Aside from taking steps to becoming a nun, joining a convent for short time…and, all the priests, she encountered.    One of the other men with meaning had been, Louis, her first husband.

Always frail, toxic in dampened in thought and lacking in confidence, Janice fulfilled the role of woman on the edge…often.

She attempted suicide many times during this era.  Pills, razor, down and out reckless behavior.  She became less and less lucid.  And, eventually, had a nervous breakdown.  We had always been close.  Possibly because of my need to discover the depth of life beyond more money…and, more into madness.  Perhaps, we were also close because she wrote. She penned poems quite frequently.

In the two years spent at New Hampshire Hospital…she had been encouraged to write her feelings down.

Janice felt the need to disclose her innermost secrets to me.  She would tell me of the time Electro Shock Therapy had come to fruition at the hospital.  How, roommates, friends and others…were being carried off.  Carted away to try this new and improved treatment for all that ails you.

Janice would also talk of the plastic bed-clothes they wore.  Plastic, lacking in excess thread.  Thread that a patient could hang themselves with.  Supposedly, these clothes also cut down on laundry.  Being easily to wipe clean when a sloppy and drug awed patient made a mess.old main. room state hospital

Cigarettes would need doling out.  And, screams and cries for help would echo from behind the walls of cemented observation rooms.  The blood on the ceiling and hallway walls…from former inmates. So on and so forth.

I am certain the experience drags what little of you that is left…Drags your soul down and keeps hold of it until you completely down and…totally, out.

What shook me the most, today…Had been taken the folder of poems my mother gave to me, down from the closet.  Glancing at them for the first time in many, many, years.  I felt as though the air had thickened and my soul had been dismissed.  The same exact way I felt when I first read Janice’s writings.



J. A. Scalf

I’d try to forget

The red roses you sent

If roses stopped being red

I’d try to forget

The winter we met

The spring we wed

If it snowed in the spring instead.

I’d try not to remember you at all

If two little children didn’t call you daddy.

I’d try to forget you

but my heart won’t listen.

So, in order to forget the hurt

I’ll remember

red roses, spring and the rest

Most of all

The love of two children

Who call you daddy

For them I can’t forget

state hospital 1

What A Way to Live

by J. A. Scalf

When life is distorted and you’ve got the facts wrong

When your unstable and confused

On Thioridazine you belong

When your sad and depressed, blue and low

On Mellaril or Elavil you should go

When your high and loud, happy and new

Watch out!

Thioridazine is after you

If you reach a happy medium

You’ll never know

Because your medicated so.

Your numb, that is all you’ll know

What a way to live

What a way to go

**Excerpts from Janice’s poetry/journal circa 1965 – 1966.


I can only read the poetry in bits and spurts.  It hurts so much to feel another’s pain.  Pain that could have been alleviated by others.  The cycle of abuse!  So vicious!  It starts with a great, grandfather smacking his kids around for being in a room, for playing outdoors or taking too long to eat dinner.

That vision takes hold by the daughter or the son.  Faded and disgruntled…the memory means little.  Then the child becomes a parent, finds himself…or, herself, overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed with long hours and short paychecks from work.  Suddenly, a slap becomes a fist.  A spanking turns into a leather belt with heavy grooves in it.  Not much later, the parent lives a solemn life of…

I could have been a photographer

I could have been an army general

I could have been someone important

Like a broken rim to a bicycle.  The wheel keeps turning.  Children are born.  Parents become grandparents…but there is little talk.  Very little is said about the hitting, screaming, mistreatment, etc.  No one talks, therefore, no one listens…And, in a short while, that is just life, one generation after another.harold freaky

Fifty years into my life…Thirty-five, or so, sitting in my own shit.  Behaving badly.  Thinking of just myself.  Being a poorly educated parent.  Providing little comfort for my lover.

Sitting on my deck in the late winter…I wonder,

“Could I have been better…had my family discussed the abuse…the shame…the sick state of health…”

Those thoughts languish in the late afternoon sun.  I don’t ponder and putter on them…for too long.  I can only change what I know how to change.  Living improved, is a daily process, the forgiveness, the purposeful forgetfulness…

Cycle of Abuse: the Matriarch/Part Two


St. Mary's R.C. Church Waltham, MA
St. Mary’s R.C. Church Waltham, MA

Two days after my 45th birthday.  On Friday, January the 13th, 2012, my grandmother passed away.  Surrounding her on the 11th, had been a roomful of… mourners.  Nine or so family members gazing lovingly into her closed and slightly cold eyes.

Ruth, my grandmother, would not have had the send off any other way.  Even a nephew had attended.  Supposedly, he abhorred dying and death.  Therefore, it was to understood that he felt no need to visit his great-grandmother, while she was alive.  My niece could not be there.  She had an excused absence, as well.  After all, someone needed to keep an eye on the kids.

Yet, with good fortune, the rest of the fruit for the cake…did arrive.  My brother, Bud, even made an appearance for the following week.  The women folk fawned over the long-awaited return of, Bud.  He held/holds a special place in both my mother’s and sister’s…hearts.  Often in my mind’s eye, a ‘strange’ affection had been held for him.

Though, Bud, made very few appearances, he had been revered as, a special kind of guy.  Not always there when you needed him.  But willing to get upset and angry when long distant family conversations occurred.

Joking, poking fun at one another and for appearance sake, sobbing and paying homage.  I am certain, dear old Ruth, had been semi aware of the praise being lavished upon her.

I learned to not love my grandmother.  After being shunned for my homosexuality, by my grandfather.  And, subsequently, out of respect for Joe Poe’s wishes…my grandmother.

After the accusations of being just like my father.  A man both, Ruth and Joe, denounced.  After the many years of my addiction’s bad behavior being phoned about the family lifeline.  After being told I had been an angry, hateful, dishonest, cheat by the powers that be.  After all that, and so much more, I kept Ruth at arm’s length.

She referred to my partner and soon to be wife as, looking like a teenage boy with severe issues.  She choose to pick and choose my physical being apart like a piece of sludge through fine knit cloth.jesus 1.jpg

She choose.  She picked.  She insulted. She name called.

She had been the one and only, Ruth.

Odd, I had been named after her.  But after the rubbing off of family lies through cursed truth…I discovered that even, Grandma Ruth’s name had been a lie.  Indeed, her birth name had been, Victoria.

Ruth, though, being stubborn and tough, felt she needed a more…biblical-ly correct title.  A title that would suit her high standing with god.

Funny story?  Or, perhaps, not!  I managed to find myself being the lone speaker at my grandmother’s funeral.  That is other than the priest.  For some reason, my mother felt that the telling of ‘my story’, made me eligible to speak in public.

Often AA meetings like the participants to share, discuss and tell, their stories.  Stories of how they began the road to addiction’s hell and how they hoped to get off…the road.  Somehow, this personal perk made me allowable as, Ruth’s eulogy preacher.  Course, my sister had boo hoo’d this.  She, Sybil, deserved this honor.  After all, she visited my grandmother more often.  Six days a week.  As opposed to my two or three.  Plus, she shared with Ruth.

When Sybil took a tumble-down a flight of stairs.  Ruth had been able to see the photos Sybil took of her bruised and naked ass.  Many photos, many bruises, too much information, as Ruth put it.

Sybil also volunteered to clean, trim and file, grandma’s besieged, ancient toenails.  Sybil made a day out of it.  Bringing special treats to the nursing home.  Watching something special on the tiny television set.  Prepping and readying, Ruth for the ‘nail’ treatment.

How I wished my mother had chosen Sybil.  I ended up with the neuovirus.  My brother and sister-in-law did to.  I barely made it through the paying of respects…a couple of nights before.  Sweating, shaking, nodding instead of speaking, etc.

Upon approaching the pew at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic church.  St. Mary’s where my mother had once attended church and school.  St. Mary’s where only the good catholic’s of Waltham go.  When I finally managed to place my placid self down.  There had been a not so gentle reminder of frankincense burning.  Burning my eyes, my soul, my stomach and helping to shut down all defenses.  Thank christ there had been toilets in the front and the back.

I spoke, as my wife later recalls, quickly, insistently and with vigor.

The matriarch of the clan had passed.  She had gone for 91 hard years.  Hard years of a punishing husband.  Hard years of turning that belted abuse toward her daughter, Janice.

Again, I am uncertain of not having an intrinsic love for her.  I did respect her.  She demanded it.

For awhile, I had not wanted to think about how unfortunate events…unfold.  Live in the pool of ignorance.  My life has never been blissful.  That is until recently.  When I had made a conscious decision to unmask truth.

It had been sometime in February.  Shortly after the funeral.  My mother’s side of the family had been dying slowly.  As is usually the case with age.  I knew little of those who  through, the filtered blood that ran into my veins.

I knew that the Quinn’s, the Stukoni’s, had been hard-drinking, hard talking, ravished souls.  A history of persons trying to live a good life.  A good life often laced with tragedy.  But what of the Bowley’s?  Where, what, when and how did they come about?  My father never gave attention to his side of the family.  Going as far as, avoiding them, physically.  We very rarely visited anyone with Bowley blood.  Though, we all lived in the same small state of New Hampshire.

February,, and my stubborn inquisitiveness, were about to change that mystery.1401636_150x150