Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

OctPoWriMo #15: Mother, May I?

I wasn’t as pretty as my sister.
Wearing glasses, awkward and tall, I was invisible
as I cleaned up after my mother’s parties, the stench
of stale beer and full ashtrays tickling my nose.
Once, I saw stars when she hit me,
something I’d said or didn’t say.
She ran for a washcloth. “Don’t tell anyone,” she said.
We never told, and I didn’t ask ‘Mother, may I?’
when I turned seventeen and left,
my sister, pregnant at sixteen, on her own journey.
and my baby sister, alone.

My mother was a beautiful, charismatic woman who drank too much. Her life was chaotic, as was mine, in and out of foster homes, until at seventeen, my aunt invited me to live with her and go to college. Everything changed. The only surprise? The anger this poetry prompt brought, even though she and my sister died years ago, and my own wonderful daughter doesn’t quite understand why sometimes I flinch. 

Tomorrow's prompt: Father Time

You can visit OctPoWriMo at to read what others have written. Thank you, Morgan Dragonwillow, Michelle Vecchitto, Esther Jones, and Maria L. Berg for hosting this month-long poetry challenge.


  1. {{{{{{{HUGS}}}}}}}}} Some of us are not blessed with wonderful mothers. We had no choice in the matter. Now we do. To remember. It happened. No apologies from us are needed. I hope one day your daughter can understand without your having to tell the whole story.

    1. Thank you, Jade. I almost didn't post the poem, so much remains hidden. But I feel a sense of healing and I'm grateful everyday for the closeness with my daughter, now independent, all grown up, with two daughters of her own.

  2. Well done for writing this.
    I am sorry you had to go through it.
    We never really move on do we? Well I haven't.
    Thank you for sharing it with us.

    1. Thank you, Grams, for reading and commenting so thoughtfully. A psychologist once told me long ago that I was coping well and that I had a choice -- to confront the past OR to continue on. Writing these poems pushes me to look back, perhaps to heal.