I walked through my mother’s madness
in a coat of hungry colors.
Her eyes did not take me in. I was a child.
To win her, I hung by my knees from low branches
of the family tree, voicing nursery rhymes
from the hallowed text of her delusions.
When they took her away,
I was older, careful. I hid my heart
behind a dozen jars of her best grape jelly
and drew ugly faces in my algebra notes.
When she came home,
I had no space to give her.
No, no, not in the kitchen;
my kitchen now.
Not in the blue chairs where she longed
at last to sit down, light up and chat.
When she died she died fast, leaving me
to count the years lost in smoke.
So much untold.
So much unasked.
Now I argue with the wind,
beat fists against a wall of air.
Invisible child, invisible scabs
on invisible knees. Crazy
how I never cried.
About the poet:
Ginny Hoyle is a former freelance writer whose poems have appeared in a number of journals, including The Baltimore Review, Copper Nickel and Pilgrimage. Through collaborations with artist Judy Anderson, her poetry has been featured in art installations and small-edition artist books distributed by Vamp&Tramp, Booksellers. She leads haiku workshops for the Academy for Lifelong Learning and is an eighteen-year member of Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop.
About the poem:
“Maybe it’s time to stop making a distinction between mental illness and other kinds of illness. Disorders of the mind are rooted in the body in ways that are still stubbornly hard to figure out. There are no visible wounds, but wounds are inflicted across the immediate and extended family. And the scars that linger are scars on the psyche–invisible scabs. This poem is one of many written after my mother’s death, as part of the work I needed to do to move from anger and shame to acceptance and respect for what she endured.”
Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer