Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Parents Never Lied

My parents never lied
About petty things: how many cookies
Were left in the box, how many hours
Until we got to Grandma's house.
When they promised a treat,
That was the treat we got.

But my mother hid her emotions
Like a cat, and could bury
A dark secret like a dog buries a bone,
Like a dog contented with knowing
The bone is buried somewhere,
Long after forgetting just where.

And my father, emotive and sensitive
And comically irascible when he tried
To be patriarchal, as he supposed he should be
Because it was the role normal men played,
Was not normal, neither of body nor brain,
And built a little kingdom of privacy
Around his actual longings, which
Were not of the sort safe to express.
Whenever my mother discovered
A piece of this mess, she buried it.

They're both beyond buried now.
I imagine they took a few more
Secrets with them into the crematorium.
The children, long grown, have scattered,
Struggled, died, succeeded,
Or raised families of their own. I try
To keep my promises to my daughter,
To not elide, hide, or lie.
I have faith that consistency and trust
When given in childhood, when unbroken,
Make for better grown-up lives.
But I still consider my parents,
Grandparents, siblings, genetic
Nieces, adoptive nephews. Who
Did well or not. Who knows what lies
We have accumulated altogether,
Generations at a time, which
Were foolish, hurtful, scary, or wise?
Who knows what could possibly be better,
The effort to be honest about every
Little thing, the effort to be big
But true, the effort to survive
The inevitable surprise?

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