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
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
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
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
And before you know it
I named my daughter
As history repeated itself
And she too moved in violence
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.