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World War Family 1948

by seanfarragher 

Posted: 10 October 2005
Word Count: 636
Summary: Biographical poem (part of a longer work on childhood and adult abuse 1943-1962)
Related Works: No Milk and Cookies • 

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“Magical Mystery Tour”
By Sean Farragher

Unlike the Beatles the air didn’t rise with Coleridge
to great domes in the sky. Motion’s peculiar turn bonds
with sex and the presence of laughter scratched 78 rpm
back ground to circus -- almost a dirge when I rolled fingerprints off
the old pot stove. It was Beaufort, NC. I was two. My mother sucked
my fingers. I remember the ice cream, and at some shadow date
in Futureland I burned my fingertips again; I grew magical scars.
Lightning bugs at rainbows end decorated her black wedding dress.

I loved those swirls and ovals of Dick Tracy fingerprints
that lined garbage cans. Through a magnifying glass
I taught myself to read war maps, and at six I inked
fingers with red and printed the white walls of our happiness.

In 1945, Father came home with a howl. He screamed
a red lighting. He beat my mother until her mouth
drooled blood and her pee ran down her legs; afraid
to move, to stand up, or to stop the welts of his belt
on my legs when I refused sleep at his command.

My red fingerprints did all of that. I made the stains.
“I was Eddie Wyman he’s no good. Chop him up for fire wood.”

Two months later father would “set sail on goodly ship.”
Mother and I healed. I slept when I was tired. I didn’t
stand guard in vestibule with small wooden toy swords.

I flexed my jaw. Every birthday I measured the distance
and force of my pee. Soon it would put out fires.

The last day of the last hour of his leave Father beat my mother
and shook me like a tree dying. In 1948, my mother pregnant with
my sister had lost one child. She feared another, and soft with blue
ribbon bruises she told me “it was miracle; my sister was born”
with a noose around her neck; the cruel umbilicus had missed.
I wondered what I had done. Every night, Mother turned down the bed
and patted my bottom and felt for the space between my legs so I
would smile and she fell forward, her breasts dropping out
of her nightgown. I remember how my teddy bear fell too
as she brushed against it with my sister inside her belly.

Morning found its sun rise nodding. I assembled jig saw puzzle,
pick- up-sticks; I build metallic cities with long moats to defend
against U boats that rode the sloppy Hudson floods. I lifted storms
through the Narrows past Saint Statue and Uncle Ellis when
war was a simpler placemat Generals spread across kitchen tables.

Mother loved “War of the Worlds”. Every zero another conquest
while the Lords of money stole the store. “I am not a socialist”,
she admonished. We played Monopoly to lose as she sat bare body
unfasten, rocked at the knees; her legs opened the scissor

I loved how her red lipstick stained the end of her camels.
Mother always sat close. What do I win if I lose? Intoxicated,
her hand held my thigh and her kiss with each roll of the dice
I tasted the unmistakable rest she promised if America would win.

We always win. America wins. Ice Cream melts on
the ridges of my hands. Not every finger is sweet.

Mother promised that history was a sexy ride through
Gaul with the Legions of Rome. We read the books,
dictionaries and encyclopedia. All slaves were bred
became soldiers, sailors, and comfort women.

How is war between nations a more reasonable violence?
Perhaps I extend the metaphor too close to my own skin.
My extreme abuse seems odd when compared to the simple
puzzles of the cold war. The end of the world is near.
I laugh at the usual prophecy.


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Comments by other Members

Cornelia at 21:44 on 10 October 2005  Report this post
At first reading I liked this very much, and could understand a good deal of it - at least, I thought so. It seems so eloquent about a period and a particular situation and full of allusions which demand a more careful reading. My own father came home in 1948 and found my mother, whom he had left in his mother's house, moved four doors down to live with a widower. There was not much peace or trust in the house after that, but we were all four of us girls, begot on leave from Belgium. Maybe I can write a poem about waht war does to married people, but a pale imitation, I think.


seanfarragher at 09:23 on 11 October 2005  Report this post
lots of begats. I was begat after a USO dance in New York City. Date number 1. My mother was a runway model, and almost had a quite medical abortion. She decided to marry and raise me giving up her modeling career. The war was disruptive. She died in 2002. The last whispered/screamed words I heard -- "What's this. what the hell am I doing here."

Write........don't compare. that is the easiest way to writer's block. Just write and let it out.


Cornelia at 10:18 on 11 October 2005  Report this post
Sorry, I didn't mean it would be an imitation in that sense, only in the sense of being about the effects of war on families. Begat is the biblical term, archaic, for begot. On the whole I like to play down the importance of families, whilst recognising that the they are important for the reasons that I don't like them. That's possibly too paradoxical, but what I wanted to say qas I wouldn't use begat anyway because it adds the weight of divine authority to an institution that in my view is too often damaging. As far as I'm concerned it does the opposite anyway, but that's by the way.

I watched a TV programme yesterday which was about children who run away from home, estimated to be about 100, 000 here and a much greater problem in the US, but at least some kind of provision is made there in the way of refuges. I don't know if it is a good idea or not - I can see it would attract all the wrong kind of people for the 'guardian' role.


seanfarragher at 13:57 on 11 October 2005  Report this post
I thought the begat, begot was cute, appropriate. That is the problem with the internet. I understood, and the problem is world wide universal........thanks for your reads, and write me, let me know who you are.


cust at 17:52 on 12 October 2005  Report this post
Hi Sean

This is more of an outpouring than your last one, and it's very vivid, bodily, sensual and detailed in the way that we remember things - at least I can say I do. I am drawn to it for those reasons. I like its poem-prose quality (there's probably a technical word for that but I am out of touch).

It does take the reader right into the situation and effectively places him/her as the child in the middle of this chaos. I can only imagine how difficult it was for you.

I like the recurring fingerprints motif - it ties in with the idea of childish fingerpainting and also the shape of bruises that are made by squeezing too hard with fingers. The juxtaposition of these images is very powerful for me. The whole idea of hands and fingers also keeps the theme of physicality - or people doing things to people - going throughout.

These are just a few thoughts, as I could probably go on all day.


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