From the prompt host: “This week we are looking at flashbacks–those little bits of information that take us back in time before our narrative began. Oftentimes, flashbacks give us not just information about the past, but a better understanding of our character or hints of things that are to come. The task is to write a piece of short prose of poetry that includes a flashback.”
I debated whether to skip this prompt, and if you read on you’ll probably wish I had. The instruction is to write a “short” piece–I made it as concise as possible.
Flashbacks aren’t fun for me,
They’re not about hearing a
Beach Boys song and recalling
Summer days with a bunch of
Girlfriends…I didn’t have friends.
They are nightmares that come
When I’m fully awake—they slam
Me back to a hellish moment, day…
And I must claw my way out,
Over and over again.
No matter how earnestly I’ve sought
To create a world of safe comfort,
Peace and laughter to surround me,
I live in a minefield: invisible trip wires,
IED’s waiting ‘mid beautiful, ordinary days.
Anything can trigger them.
Don’t ask me what it was, I don’t know…
But as I considered writing for this prompt—
With sun bright, in sky of blue perfection
On a mid-August day; and with nothing
Bothering me, physically or mentally—
I was suddenly catapulted to a day in
December, many years ago when
My mother was still alive.
I was living with her, not happily,
But without other options.
To say it was an uneasy relationship
Would be laughable, if it weren’t made
Up of a lifetime of abject fear on my
Part—and whatever secret made her
Despise me, treat me with abusive
Disdain at nearly every turn.
There’s no brutality like emotional cruelty
Administered unpredictably, and daily.
In the flashback, I’m helping her decorate
For Christmas. She had previously invested
In a faux evergreen tree, stored in a box,
To be assembled each year.
No longer steady enough to climb on
Step-stools, she needs my assistance
In winding the string of colored lights
From the top branches, down to bottom.
I’m on the short ladder trying to follow
Her instructions, perform this festive task
To her satisfaction…and the air is thick
With tension, not holiday spirit—because
As always, I’m as scared as though still
A child, waiting for her to shout angry
Displeasure, sneer cutting derogation.
I want to be finished, but go slow, to prove
I’m being careful to do things “right”.
Nonetheless, something is wrong.
As she begins her impatient criticizing,
I feel both frozen, and shaky as gelatin—sick
Syrup swirling in my gut: rage, fear, hurt.
Well-schooled, I say nothing—continue
Working, winding the light string…
As I pulled myself back from this long-ago scene,
I was thinking my unspoken words through
Gritted teeth; biting down on murderous
Feelings which burn bitter like acid today:
“Mom, do you honestly think I can do a
Better job if you keep berating me in that
Contemptuous tone? You make me so
Effing nervous, I’m going to fall through
The plate glass window! And then you
Can call the daughter you favor to
Finish the damn Christmas tree for you.”
©Jael Sook, 2017 All rights reserved.
Image credit: Pixabay
Advertisements which may appear on this blog are not endorsed by the author.