A Room and a Hallway Away – a poem

A Room and a Hallway Away

She cowers under her covers,
sensing a rising commotion,
a room and a hallway away.

Voices ring hoarse from the razor edge of malice.
Only her sister’s though.
Mother is unperturbed, accustomed.
She hears nothing, neither the hate nor the reason.

They are bitter words from a sweet girl.
She swallows her sour guilt,
blaming the salt on her face, the fire in her eyes.
It leaves a bad taste in her sister’s mouth.

The air between them fills with subtle, foul breath.
So she smells her pillowcase instead,
relishing a rare, scentless fragrance.

She closes her eyes; her room is dark anyway.
Mother is blind and her sister can’t see,
but no one turned their light off.

If only there was a touch of warmth,
she thinks, gripping her covers closer,
to bridge this distance
between mother and sister,
between her and the commotion,
a room and a hallway away.


previous version

Sisters

It’s cold. She cowers in her bed.
A room and a half over
she sense things coming to a head
as two voices turn hoarse.

Mother dearest:
Loving, brave, tireless,
loud, shouting, callous–
as always.

Dearest sister:
Sweet, shy, goofy,
quiet, hostile, bitter–
she’s different

when she’s with mom–
But so is mom with her.
She can’t tell who belongs to which voice.
She wishes it was over,
but it’s not her choice.


One evening my mom and I were fighting and I realized how the shouting must keep my sister up, after she made a whining noise. She’s not young, but the I suppose our conversation looks very different when you step away from it. Our mother-daughter relationship is very good, but sometimes I wonder if we’re both just in denial. Or I feel guilty when I resent some of her actions after all she’s done for me and set a bad example for my sister.

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