Great Storm

Before him, she loved to walk
in the rain
but since he began beating
her, she didn’t trust it
not to turn into
a storm.

Kept seeing blows rain.
Kept seeing blood run.
Kept seeing herself curl
into a C
on the ground
like she was dirt
he brushed off and threw

then one day a huge bolt
of lightning flashed
and thunder roared
so loud, she knew
it was in her power
to love to walk

and she does.

    (c) Phyllis Jean Green
Before & After

Before my brother killed himself --
when he was still little, and before
he ran away when sleet was falling
on the dark road he took on a breaking
bike -- he and I didn't talk to speak of.
Didn't need to.  We were foxhole
buddies, you could say.  She whipped
me, she whipped him, she screamed
I was stupid, she screamed he was
a liar, she locked me in my room,
she had the whole town looking for
him.  Houdini, she called him.  Nobody
could hide like him.  I deserved credit
I didn't get because I was hiding
in my head.  Not that it did any good.
When she caught him,  she skinned
him alive.  When she caught me, she
gave me a black eye.  Told me to lie
and say I ran into a door.  Told him
he was headed for reform school.  He
told me it had to be better there.
I agreed.  It wasn't so much the pain
as it was the suddenness.  Never
knowing when she would rage over
the edge and take it out on one or both
of us.  I hear people laugh about being
whipped.   Can they really shake it off
that way?  Or is it that they felt reason
was behind?   Oh, well.   Can't walk
-- or run away -- in another person's
mocassins.  Right?   For my brother
and for me,  it was like being forced
to walk over coals again and again.
You may find it in your heart to
forgive.  Forget, no way.   Better
to remember and be different --
that is if you survive.
             The Healing

The dreaded belt with the big metal buckle
Flying from the back of the bathroom door.

The trudges to cut switches from bushes.
Not green enough, going back to cut

Another.   Green doesn't break as she
The out-of-the-blue rages,
The senseless shouts.

Having to wear long sleeves and long socks.
Being beaten for rolling them.  Being called
Stupid and Stubborn and Nothing but
Trouble.  "Wish you had never been born!"   

The never knowing
And knowing that thinking about telling can get you
Skinned Alive.  One word to the doctor, be the closet.
Keep your trap shut when so-and-so is here.  No
Moping.  No whining.  Do not get dirty.   Stand up
Straight.  What did you say?   Bend over. . .it is over.
It is really over.
No more Belt.  No more Switch.  No more of Their
Knockdown-dragouts and screaming, shouting fits. 
You are Out.    You got Out.   Sandpaper-rough bristles
Of a hairbrush will never again leave stripes on
Tender skin. 

What now?
How do you make good out of bad?

You do your best
To be kind.
To be gentle.
To be thoughtful.

You love.
A Man in Full -- Tom Wolfe
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
Al l Quiet on the Western Front ll -- Erich Maria Remarque
Beach Music & The Prince of Tides -- Pat Conroy
Body and Soul -- Frank Conroy
Cannery Row, East of Eden  & The Grapes of Wrath -- John Steinbeck
Far from the Madding Crowd -- Thomas Hardy
Go Tell it on the Mountain – James Baldwin
Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
Middlemarch -- George Eliot
Pickwick Papers, Hard Times, & Great Expectations -- Charles Dickens
Pride and Prejudice -- Jane Austen
Red Badge of Courage -- Stephen Crane
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter -- Carson McCullers
The Poisonwood Bible -- Barbara Kingsolver
The Great Gatsby -- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Billy Budd -- Herman Melville
The Good Earth – Pearl Buck
The Last of the Mohicans -- James Fenimore Cooper
The Accidental Tourist – Ann Tyler
To Kill a Mockingbird -- Harper Lee

{just a few of the novels that have changed my life)

For Dylan, Taylor, and Caylie

Each a Tiny Miracle Filled with Promise

by Phyllis Jean Green

Thursday, November 30, 2006
We look at a child, and we think we see
the child we think
we could have been
or the child we were
all over again.

We see dimples, we see fingers,
we see toes that feel finer
than the finest velvet.
Softer than the softest down.
We see chance.

We are so tempted
to think we can mold –
that we should –
a child into going our way.
To become what we want.
Wanted so badly to be.

Stand up!  Put your shoulders back!
Don’t touch that! 
Pick up!
Don’t talk back!
Go to the school I tell you to.
This is dressing for success.
Only think you want to play
with that.  Like my game better.
This profession, not that.
Age and Experience have decided.
You are a child.  Remember that.

We are the ones who need
to remember.  There is A Plan
that has  little to do with us.
If we feed our children well,
if we listen, if we show
instead of tell,
if we keep a hand free
to stop falls – not failures --
if we are here,  rewarding
and growing along with,
our children will soon lead us
as they travel with awe
through The Great Adventure.

Shhhhhh.  Close the storybook
for now.  So sweet in sleep.
Such treasures not to keep.

(c) Phyllis Jean Green, 2006  All Rights Reserved   Please request permission before posting at another site or sharing this in other ways. T h a n k s !