Thursday, January 21, 2010

She Roams

My mother never really died.  It seems
She now roams freely in my mind waiting for the slightest self-doubt
Then she speaks to me in my own voice.  "Stupid cow, I always hated you."
She tells me I have no gifts or talents, no brains no guts
"Failure!  Idiot Failure!"  "All that potential, my good looks"
"Brains wasted on you." "I never loved anyone." You know what I mean."
"You always gave yourself so easily." 

"Embarrassment!"  She screams this in my sleep
Contaminates my day with the echo of that word
"They all loved me best" she says, "even your boyfriends..."
The implication hangs there...
"Ask him, you know who I mean.  He'll lie to you." 
"You're a patsy, you know that?" "You always were."
" I should have given you away."
She spits this last in my face in a thin burning stream
That shoots from her mouth like a serpent's tongue

©2010 Peggy Pendleton


writhesafely said...

Mine was like that too and even tho she's dead too and I'm safe now I can't quiet that voice, or talk back to it w/ lasting power. Takes forever just to identify it as hers. But the writing is a poultice, and I find recognition in yours.


AirmanMom said...

my heart hurts as I read your words.

Samantha Thomas said...

It is useful to recognize that the voice in Your head is not You thinking. If it were, You could stop it. The voice isn't even Your friend. It says what it says, and we can still choose whether to act in accord with the voice, or to take action regardless of what it says. I recommend choosing the latter.

writhesafely said...

Maybe I'm touchy but am slightly put off by the above comment. It's my belief that UT has mastered the voice, that this expression is more about Art. Which leads to investigating what art is for, why did she publicize this, what is the objective? This quest turns the focus off the narrator and onto the witness, which is also what art is for.

Thanks for letting me vent.


Utah Savage said...

This voice of my mother's is not literal, it is my internalization of her message. The things I have her saying here are things she actually said long ago. She is dead and I have never once dreamed of her. The only time I ever dreamed of her I was eight and I dreamed I was on a ship in a storm and she was after me. I was terrified in that dream. But that was long ago.

I am not hallucinating. I have done that, years ago, but my mother's voice was not one of those that I heard. I have a very understandable mental illness that does require therapy. Lots of artists of various sorts throughout history have been bipolar. Bipolar children are at much greater risk of sexual and other abuse. We are/were vulnerable, perhaps more fragile and so easy, tempting targets for those who seek kids who will blame themselves.

I know this is a difficult poem. But then that is the real purpose poetry serves for me. It is the one form that allows me to say this, to say these dark things. It's something like performing a self-exorcism. These poems can be analyzed and taken apart by academics, but they are pure pain that just has to be expelled.

Comrade Kevin said...

I understand the need for process. I'm fortunate in that I have worked hard to perfect multiple means to get it out of myself, after which point I simultaneously miss the act of creation, but crave the need for rest and rejuvenation after having expended so much energy towards the creation.

Samantha Thomas said...

I was not suggesting that the "voice in the head" was an hallucination. I am writing of the voice that may have just asserted, "I don't have a voice in my head." That voice, the one that most people believe is the inaudible sound of their own thoughts, spoken silently within the mind, the one that pretends to be You speaking to You, is nevertheless not You. The voice has nothing to do with who or what You are now in the present moment. The voice brings up every decision, life principle, preference, insult, embarrassment, shame, surprise, anger and upset. It is the voice of the past masquerading as You in the present.

When we recognize that we are not that voice, and it is not who we are now, then we can begin to gain mastery over it: use it when useful, expose it when necessary, ignore it when appropriate (most of the time). The voice is as meaningful as gas in one's colon, but we tend to accord great significance to it, because it occurs in language. It is the background noise of a functioning brain.

I apologize to 'writhesafely' for the off-putting effect of my prior comment, or for this one. Mastery of anything begins with an open inquiry into what-it-is (the phenomenon) and that-it-is (it's existence). Great Art, such a this poem, and any Great Art in any genre or medium, evokes an experience, and any experience is worthy of further inquiry. That is, I suppose, the purpose of the comment form. My Love to Brilliant Savage Peggy, and to You all.

writhesafely said...

Anyone who can express traumatic experience with this measure of control, precision and nuance has already exceeded all the get it together advice regularly proffered by well-meaning no-nothings. The work itself is tacit proof of the psychological journey, and to reduce it to how we can fix this problem is an insult to both the poem and all that led to its perfection.


Samantha Thomas said...

I am sorry, writhesafely. Apparently You live in a sharply delineated world where something can only be this to the exclusion of that. The quality and value of Peggy's brilliant and skillful, artistic expression is distinct and complete. The inquiries that begin with and are inspired by the poem cannot take anything away from the power of the Art. If all You got from what I wrote was "get it together advice regularly proffered by well-meaning no-nothings[sic]," I am sorry You wasted Your time reading it. It is neither advice, nor an attempt to fix or solve anything. There is nothing wrong with having a voice in one's head. Everyone has one, and it is not going away. It is a uniquely Human phenomenon. I hope the products of my inquiries will be of some interest to someone, but even if it interests no one, that's quite all right with me.

Utah Savage said...

I'm astounded by the greatly interesting examination of the writer's voice and the voices in this poem. I never thought of myself as a poet. I've always loved poetry, but knew it was not a love shared by many. Call something a poem and otherwise brilliant people will say, "Poetry's not my thing" and take a pass. What has been most shocking about posting my poetry first here and then on my poetry blog is that I have fans there who never come here. I've recieved an award from a young woman in Ghana for my poetry. I have readers of my poetry who say it was there that they first felt recognized and understood since I speak the words that describe their lives by have never been seen by them before. I'm honored by this appreciation.

This particular conversation about this particular poem is the very best kind of debate about art and Art. In the poetry classes I took at various universities, it was I who started most discussions with my emphatic feeling about a poem, a poet. Professors liked me for the passion I brought to the subject. It opened the door for those less bold to speak. I see this back and forth as a great compliment.

writhesafely said...

I too enjoy the back and forth. And since we're handing out advice my own is to instantly walk away from anyone who offers unsolicited recommendations. The tyranny of shoulds Samantha, not very phenomenological of you if I say so myself.


Samantha Thomas said...

I am completely flummoxed, writhesafely. Please quote to me the portion of my comment that constitutes a "tyranny of shoulds." I cannot find it, and I do want to address Your concern. Shoulds, or any other form of constraint, are not what I am suggesting. Rather, I am interested in the expansion of choice in Life.

Steve Emery said...

This left me feeling strangely clear and clean - washed of my own emotional haze in this acid bath.

writhesafely said...

OK, Samantha, I'll tell you what I'm talking about to make sure we're on the same page. Your first comment, which left me out of sorts. Let's start there and ignore everything else for the nonce. In it, you tell the narrator of the poem not how the poem makes you feel, or want or remember, what it did for you, and like that. You took the poem as a problem to be fixed, as shown in the words "it is useful to recognize that the voice in Your head is not You thinking." This is insulting, because first,you can't assume the writer of the poem is the narrator, we're on artistic terrain here, and you have to step lightly. Figurative language. Are you with me?

Everything you said in that response can be characterized as directive. Total disrespect. My describing your tone as a wall of "shoulds" might seem hypersensitive, but that's me, I'm a "hands off" person.

"We can still choose whether to act in accord with the voice, or to take action regardless of what it says. I recommend choosing the latter."

I was spitting nails at that.

The poem isn't about Peggy. It's about you. The objective is to access something unknown, unspoken, personal, that belongs to you. We use poems to do this because a direct command for the reader to feel, remember, notice, care is socially unacceptable. But rest assured, it's there. Why write a poem? Poems are hard.

An author knows she succeeds when people respond with feeling. It seems to me you didn't feel anything.

Your response is not uncommon, making it about the author, indicative of a suffering that needs comfort, a wrongheadedness that needs guidance, but that's not what poetry asks of you. It wants something much more demanding.

Anyways. I know you meant well, which is why we're talking.

rachelcervantes said...

It's frightening what damage our mothers can/have done to us and that we can/have done to our children. Of the two it's the latter that scares me most.