Not the Good Word

I ask, ‘what good is a word…wrapped in barbwire?

It is expression squeezed dry of color.

Cross-words lacking landscape…deprivation in an isolated world.

An imperfect storm in which memory is unfurled.imageedit_6_2229196388

All this language bantered about with the hue of integrity bleeding out.

When will childhood become a Polaroid from the past?

Words, words, words, ugly…looking to get further down the road.

Not knowing where they were first planted.

imageedit_9_9829300098

 

Over the Waterfall

I remember thinking…

last night under a hindering sky…

I remember thinking…imageedit_1_5390726160

‘I don’t want to remember…anymore!’

With every deafening drop of water falling…

sickness spreading.

An illness I have become used to.

Like the promise of never ending rain.

A fist of compounded…sexually, verbally, emotionally, physically…damning pain.

Swelling and breeding in a clogged drain.

I would pry my eyes shut…

If I could…

But they are already pried open.

Cycle of Abuse: Any Given Christmas

Way back when in my ‘it’s all about me’ phase.  I would never, ever have given a thought to those who suffered familiar abuse.  For that matter, as a pungent New Hampshir-ite, I scoffed at those who wrote of their neglectful childhood.  Those who wrote journals.  Kept notes.  Reflected upon the devious behavior of those deemed ‘adult’ enough to provide protection.

imageedit_35_3745053831

I would in honesty have to say, there had been fear posted along side my cynicism of others and their plight.

Fear in knowing.  Fear in delving too deep into the woods of my own destructive childhood.  As stated before, No One Dare…inquire with any persistence about my mother or father’s backgrounds.

I realize now.  The repression of truth from both parents…had only been another means of abusive control.  With all the violence swirling around.  My brother, my sister or I would on rare occasion ask about our histories.  Usually it was met with…

Why does it matter?

Go ask your father!

It’s none of your business.

Still the doors on South Main street remained forever locked.  The shades pulled down tight.  We (as the children) were not allowed to have friends over without a parent around.  There had been little interaction above and beyond parental duty…when it came to school or social contact.

If the dishwasher had been filled without properly placing dishes inside…A threat of beatings would be aroused.  If my brother (Bud) dare bicker with my father (his stepfather) about privileges…He was met with the slamming of his body against a wall.  If my sister needed consoling over being bullied in school?  She was met with a night alone in her room without supper.

Our house was indeed loud.  Loud with screams and cries.  And, come the next morning, the children would go about their outside business…as though, nothing happened.

After life became life in the Bowley family.  When both parents were released from the State Hospital.  We became a dysfunctional family.  A dysfunctional family…before the word became popular.

There had been times where I would find myself tossed down the basement stairs for allowing one of our dogs to ‘piss’ on a wood pile.

‘Don’t you know that shit stinks up the whole house when you burn it?  Are you as stupid as…you look?’

And, if any of the children turned to our mother for back up?  None would be found.  Janice had been as abusive in her lack of protection and neglectful love…As, Harold, in his verbal and physical assaults.

I suppose my brother get sick and tired of defending her.

My sister turned her neglect into broken bouts of love.

I had turned to addiction and detachment.

For my part, essentially the only child left behind at the age of eleven, I continued on.  Continued to question why my father would come home and assault my mother with a cowardly hit to the back of the head.  Why he would continue to call her a ‘fat, lazy’ woman…because the chicken had not been cooked perfectly.

It had been a chilly Christmas Eve.  Begrudgingly, my parents left me alone.  Left me alone with a box of micro-wav-ableSwedish Meatballs and bad 80’s television.  They had left in the midst of a subzero, snow squall, night…to attend a Blue Cross/Blue Shield employee Christmas party.  Somehow, in her timid ways, my mother had found herself a manager.  Found herself the ‘family’ bread winner.  Found herself suffering in silence…because she made more money than my father.

imageedit_27_8003418777

I remember hearing the door to the Dodge Colt slamming…slamming loudly.  Enough so that it echoed through the swirling winds and the sounds of neighborhood dogs responding to the weather.  It had been in or around ten at night.

The next day would be Christmas.  A day of joy, ten o’clock service at St. John’s Roman Catholic church…and, a day filled with my parents arguing.  Arguing all the way down to Waltham.  Arguing about the doorstop fruitcake my grandmother would hand over.  Arguing about the way my grandfather spoke down…to my father.

We have always had animals.  Ever since I can remember, at least one dog, at least one cat.  I do not recall my father being overtly abusive to any animal.  However, he treated them, as he did the rest of the family, heavy swats to the head, coercive reprimands, loud threats.  No animal from my childhood liked my father.  They, like the rest of us, both hated and feared him.

With our dogs barking at his slamming of the basement door.  A vocal,

‘Get the fuck away!  Fuckin’  stupid dogs!’

Then a whimper or scurry from the dogs, quickly, up the stairs.  They always ran and hid when Harold came home…in a mood.

But where was my mother?  He would not have left her.  Harold dare not leave his wife alone…among friends.  She might say something like…’I’m not happy!’

After what seemed like hours.  My father managed to shut himself in their bedroom.  Once the parent’s door was shut…it was rarely opened.  And, none of us, dare wander into the ‘parent’s bedroom’ alone.  Doing so would require him to trust us.

My mother?  Well, after slipping my shoes on (we were not allowed to wear footwear in the house) I found her passed out in vomit.  Actually, covered in her vomit, passed out next to the car and snow embankment.

She had actually had a fun night!

She had actually let her hair down and got drunk.

And,

by doing so, Harold was not in control.

That Christmas was barren of all the joy and promise…the Bible spoke of.


imageedit_28_8943233750

Write with Me

Air and life.

Pen to parchment.

Keys on a board.

Far exceeding the edge of a clandestine knife.

Words dug out of a deep hypnotic hollows

with the edge of a blade, mirrored by dictated passages…

Letters, various, sashay-ing into short sentences.

Someday…soon I had hoped to feel less shallow.

 

Head strong, book smart, another phrase, another’s way.

Feverishly wanting to preserve, I began to write my own words.

Short prose of pigments, flowers that flow.

Bouncing balls encompassing…where I had been.

And, where I wanted to go.

 

I gave no true thought to redemption upon someone else’s sentence.

Or, holding a dull shank to my detention.

In the rural mayhem, of my life.

A gift had been given to me…rather innocuously.

Nothing comes to mind…in the dirt…correct, grammatically.

 

My predator became the prey with the verse of my own words.

Rendering this menacing voice.

Pushing it further down the page.

Bidding it absurd.

Cycle of Abuse: Lover’s Lane

Several months after my grandmother’s death.  After the discovery of my father’s misdeeds.  My mother who had started becoming more and more incapacitated with delicate bones, infirm lungs, depression, anxiety, domestic abuse…etc, etc.

canterbury 6

I had set into a routine of going every other day to the, little, almost log cabin, in Canterbury.  Cleaning, walking dogs, doing laundry, being transcended back to childhood.  Reliving life as a ten year old.  Witnessing my father forbid my mother from leaving the house, driving a car (when she was capable), talking to her friends, going to church, with holding certain required nutrients, scolding her for not letting the dogs out, scolding her for burning dinner, accusing her of making him out to be the bad guy.  The five or six years I took care of my mother, which in turn meant, keeping an eye on the devil in father’s clothing; most neighbors did not realize my mother had two other adult children.  Those children were rarely seen.  They children were rarely heard from.  That situation arose from my father’s need to control my mother.  Though, I would hazard to guess that it would be easy to forget of the difficult parents in a small New Hampshire town.  Far away from life on life’s terms…In my brother and sister’s life.

My grandmother had been buried in the dead of winter.  Just like my grandfather, before, her…dead trees, solid frozen ground, impenetrable landscape.  It seems that is how the Irish come and go.  Hard times in life.  Hard times in death.

100_6317

Sometime in mid May, my wife and I had made arrangements for taking my mother to Waltham.  So she could see her mother’s grave.  So bushes could get planted.  So the rosary could be said.  So the heavenly father would understand my mother’s remorse.

This was not to be an easy trip.

Calvary Cemetery, is filled to the brim with Irish immigrants…Past and not so present.  It also resides in the out skirts of Boston.  Finding the name Quinn among hundreds to perhaps, thousands, of other impregnated with the blood from the motherland…is not simple.

It had been Megan, my spouse and my, chore to play detective.  How much had my mother known about the ‘murder?’  Had my father ever divulged, in between the threats and physical abuse…

What he had actually done to his first wife?
Where had he and my mother first met?

How much of his former indulgent and psychopathic life…did she know about?

alfred 5

Digging the past out of my mother was never easy.  She always remained guarded about her history.  Her transgressions were meant for the confessional and no where else.

But with this secracy, what had been the cost?  Having driven my brother thousands of miles away.  Having forced my sister into her own form of shallow narcissism.  Having driven me into infidelity, lack of nearness, addiction and anger.  How much the cost of guarding the truth?

‘Did you know he killed his wife?’

‘I knew something.  Your father never liked sharing much about his past!  He didn’t have a good childhood you know.  And, look at where I was at!’

Meaning, she had been in the midst of a nervous breakdown when they met.  Meaning my father was brought up during the depression and his family very poor.

Meaning, to me, WTF!  You married this man.  You were at the state hospital.  You were a victim of abuse.  You needed to get your children out of an orphange…

Meaning, you didn’t ask questions?

Even now, several years later, I can recall the day.  Sybil, my sister declined coming with us.  Having said, she couldn’t get time off from work or, if she did it would cut down on her vacation time.  There seemed always to be an excuse.

You guys always do stuff with Mom during the week.’

‘We always go with just your friends!’

‘I don’t want to see that movie.’

Etc.  Etc.

Sitting adjacent to the graveyard.  Side by curb side with the neighboring flower shop.  Watching trash blow back and forth across a well traveled street.  Finding myself at wit’s end.

My wife, Megan, poked me in the thigh.  She gently patted my leg.  Meaning…calm down, you’ll get nowhere if you push.

She, as always, had been correct.

With this slight interogation, I did not get far.  Very little information came out of my mother.  Her exact words will never escape me…

‘After all, look where I was.  I wasn’t well.’

Laughing to herself…The only other sentence had been seemingly a joke…

We met at Lover’s Lane.

Having been a product of the 50’s and 60’s.  I shunned my mother’s attempt at levity.  Oh, how I wish I had known what the truth had been.

Janice, my mother, gave off such fragility, that one did not push.  If an argument was on the horizon.  Somehow, she appeared as though a light wind would blow her over.  She turned inward.  As if, another question or loud word, would disable her completely.  Janice, had always been this way.

No more questions were asked.  My only statement being…

‘My mother and father met at the New Hampshire State Hospital.  Great.  No wonder I’m fucked up!’

black-explode-insanity-life-Favim.com-1631241

I cannot convey, in words, what it is like to wish to not have been born.  To sit in awe in my own instability and wonder, what if.

What if I had not been born to a psychopath?  Someone hospitalized due to insanity.  A person who conceived of the act and followed through, with the murder of his wife.

Or, a woman, so distraught.  So saddened by herself that suicide seemed the only option.  I have tried on numerous occasions to explain to others…The saddness provoked by their joining together.  By the severe disappointment in choices they made.  By the decisions I could have made differently…Had I known that from the get go…my life had no chance of productivity.

This year, after some research.  After documentary upon documentary.  Article upon article about psychiatric institutes of the 1960’s.  Pictures, data, recourse, etc.

After much forbearance from my siblings of law suits, insults, threats, etc.  Family secrets must remain secret…after all.

After all I discovered ‘Lover’s Lane.’  The place in which I had been conceived.  Where my parents, with total disregard for repercussions, engaged in producing…me.  Me, the addict, lesbian, wanderer.  Me, the poet with questions…

My mother, had been in the Brown building.  My father, the Kent building.  I was conceived in the catacombs!

The population continued to rise every year until 1955 when over 2,700 patients resided at “the State Hospital”. The crowding was extreme. For some years in the 1940’s and early 1950’s each psychiatrist had an average of more than 250 patients to treat. While kindness was still the philosophy, providing individual care of any type had become impossible. And, for the most part, society had come to view the mentally ill, not as people who needed humane treatment but had consigned the mentally ill to a dark and humiliating corner of American life. State hospitals became the physical reflection of that attitude. Books like “The Shame of the States” and “Asylum” or movies like “The Snake Pit” drew attention to the plight of the mentally ill. The annual reports make clear that despite the best efforts of staff and administration the New Hampshire State Hospital had become quite a different place than the Asylum of the nineteenth century. In New Hampshire as well as nationally, the “problem” of mental illness had become a simmering pot, waiting to boil.