Pardon My French

Pardon my French

In the slums of your arms
The filth of your love
Cracked and cradled in lice
The naming began
Maurice, Jeanette, Marie-Louise, Yvonne, Babette…
French names I wonder why
You chose them for us
Back in the ghetto where you left us
To sink or swim the streets
In our own way

A French ghetto at that
Where a rising population of run down love
Failed to find us even the basics

Food
Soap
Shampoo
Toothbrushes
Toilet paper
Nappies
Love

I could go on but I’m sure you get the picture
Soak up the sadness of this zoo

My name is Jeanette
A child of god
Apparently

This one’s for you
He cried lifting the knife higher
While she held my throat
Steady that day
When propped up between them
My life fell to the floor

Adieu mother
No more

As I curled my hand into a fist
For the first and last time

Walked out that open door

Good schools saved me
Yet I searched everywhere
To replay that scene

My name is Jeanette
It always has been

French kissing
French jeans
French knitting
French twist
French toast

Et voilà

And before you know it
I named my daughter
French too

As history repeated itself
And she too moved in violence

Another legacy
Another library of dust

The deterioration of solid matter

Where does it end?

Not here for I know now that the story goes on so much further
This is only the beginning and I am 50 years old

The unfolding of us mother has been remarkable

Only 18 years older, you are still young enough to enjoy the next 20 years of your life. Do I need to write my story? Has it not been done to death by so many others? What could I add that would be different? That I found my sanity, that I too had overcome a childhood of abuse and neglect. There are thousands, millions of us that do this – this is the human story.

God, grant me the serenity
to accept things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

My mother’s mantra thus translated:

God grant me the wisdom
to accept a good beating.
Courage to save myself
and wisdom to blame the children.

The story is writing itself here on the page
despite all my best efforts to stop it.

Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2015

The Serenity Prayer, ancient prayer of unknown origin,
was my mother’s daily mantra to us her beaten children.

8 thoughts on “Pardon My French

  1. Deborah this one along with Once upon an ordinary day and Food was never the problem are examples of what outststanding poetry can do to the reader. The clarity with which you write crawls over the skin of the reader til they feel like they are drowning in your sorrow. This is perfection on a plate. This is what it is! Truly amazing! Xxx

    1. Thank you so much Bathsheba for your A-MAZ-ING comment!!! Truly, truly appreciated! All these ‘darker’ family poems as I’m sure you’re aware fall into ‘the bad shepherd’ category … named after my forthcoming novel which is currently sitting, ever hopeful that one day it will be magically transformed from ‘novella’ to ‘novel.’ With poetry book now published I am seriously planning to get stuck back into the family DNA once again! Soon! xxx

  2. Deborah, this is truly an epic poem of pure genius and truth. It’s the sports car of poetry (no, not a Peugeot), goes from 0 to 100 (miles an hour, hey, I’m American) in a matter of seconds. My eyes racing down the page, so many stunning lines emotionally charged and the lists were pure genius. I will never hear the serenity prayer in the same way again.
    I know this must have left you exhausted and yet each line perfectly crafted.
    Bravo! Bravo! Deborah. The sound your hearing is me rising from my chair with a standing ovation.
    Now I’m going back to read it again.

    1. Steve thank you so much for your totally amazing comment, truly, truly appreciated! It broke my heart to write this poem, reveal the truth of what lay behind those closed doors. This liberated sheep in her post shepherd world dug deep, and yes completely exhausted herself in the process. Originally those lists more resembled a supermarket receipt until I cut them down to the basics.
      I am deeply touched by the kindness of your reply and your huge generosity dear poet. A thousand blessings to you and your beautiful, divine singing trees. Happy writing my friend!

    1. Thank you Amitav for your kind and loving words, much appreciated dear poet. Thankfully those days are long past yet they very much remain a part of my soul journey and who I am today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 × 4 =