Family Theatre

It is painful, you see
To watch as the people
I grew up with and under
Blur from who they were
And not often for the better
It feels as if my family is a landmass
That is breaking apart
With each new vice
Each shift for the worldly
In opinion or perspective
Each un-dealt with elephant that all are
Too fearful
To address
And that is likely to powerful regardless –
or is that the fear talking? –
It is as if someone stands
From the dining room table
And turns their back on it
Like a stage center-lit
Where each character turns from the light
One by one or two by two
And steps a little further into the shadows
It’s awful
And I can tell I’m not where I once was
In this theater-in-the-round, either
But it’s tricky to tell if I’m closer
Or farther
Or by how much.


I look around at the sea of backs
And maybe not for the better
And it feels wrong
Shouldn’t Father be here
Playing dress-up with us
And making important phone calls
And buying treats from the grocery store?
Shouldn’t Mother be relaxed
And laughing at our house’s faults and failings
Fixing them, not stressing?
Why does Oldest fight with all and sundry?
Why has she lost all hope and faith?
Why is the Next spiraling
In words if not in deeds
From the ideals she once clung to?
The Youngest has not shifted much just yet
But I can sense he has shifted
I just can’t tell where
And I?
Where is the strength I once had?
The stubborn joy?
And why can’t I stop my family from
Fading into the darkness?


I haven’t power enough
I haven’t power
I give my obeisance to the one who does
But I can tell, again
That I’m not where I once was
I think my muscles regarding him
Have grown imbalanced
Some have grown stronger as I have grown
But some have withered over time
It is terrifying
It is terrifying being unable to tell for sure
Where I am
I know I have moved, but closer? Farther?
Or have I just shifted
From one foot to the other?


It is strange, you know
Oldest used to walk up
To strangers who were smoking
And tell them straight-up,
“You’re going to die.”
It used to be funny
I used to like it
Although it always scared Mother half to death
I liked how she showed them their fate
Not softening the blow
On the off-chance they’d change
Now it is funny no longer
Now, it is a grim, sick mirror
Of the message that must be told
“You’re smoking.
If you don’t stop, you’ll die.
Don’t catch fire.
Stop, or you’re going to die.”
What was once a tale is now a charge
What was once humorous is now terrifying
As I must do this for the off chance
It has transformed my love of her
To fear in part
And turned my laughing smile
Into a rictus of dread.


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