Long silences

Long silences on the phone
I don’t know what to say
How’s the cat, how are you feeling
But nothing of substance
You must visit the farm, the city
When the weather warms

The important things in my life
Are unknown to them, unshared
My poetry, my therapy
Dilators in my nightstand
My sister told them about the job
I forgot to call – yes, it’s my fault, too
Memories and pain between us
Hurts that cannot be made right

Why did you not protect me
From my enemies, my friends
Schoolyard playmates who
Inevitably turned on me
Why did you not protect me
From 12 years of wondering
Why no one likes me
Thinking it was my fault
For being ugly, awkward, strange
In my love of books and learning

How could you not see
I was so unhappy
Or did you just not care
Did you feel helpless to help me
You should have tried anyway
You were the parents
Teachers who could not teach
Their own child how to be
Tough and invulnerable
To other people’s words
Why was I less important
Than other people’s kids

Too smart for my own good
I heard that a lot from Dad
What earned me praise at school
Got me spankings at home
Smart mouth – don’t talk back
He need not have worried
Soon I didn’t speak at all

The silence lasted until 1993
When I met Tom at IBC
Suddenly someone cared
About my words, my voice
At least for a while, but
Even he tired of my chatter

Today seems oddly similar
When it’s my turn to speak
Eyes glaze over, suddenly
It’s time to pay the check
I just want someone to talk to
About the sky and the sun
And those long silences
On the phone with my parents
Today’s coworkers are just
Old school friends in disguise

My parents, too, have failed
They did not understand
Their other daughter
Why worry
She’s the smart one
She’ll grow up to be
Insecure, depressive
Distrustful, scared
Dysfunctional adult
But on the bright side
She’ll have years of learning
To cope with loneliness

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