Hiding from.. my mother

was often my goal–

To find a secret place

in a tree

or behind the cellar door,

Where I could read

and eat saltine crackers

with peanut butter,

and read my book

in solitude.

Hiding from my mother

was sometimes a challenge,

Where to hide my diary

(that I am certain she read

from time to time)

and would not have appreciated

my assessments of her–but to confront me

would have been an admission of guilt. (and

my mother never admitted or apologized

for anything–as long as she lived, I don’t remember

her ever saying she was “sorry”).

Nothing was ever safe

from her searches;

I once wrote a poem

about an unwed mother

and did not mean to leave it

on my dressing table.

I remembered it

when I was at the bus stop,

but to go back would have meant

missing my bus and being late

for school,

so I crossed my fingers,

and hoped she would not find it.

That afternoon I went to my grandmother’s

to spend the night but

my father came to get me.

In a rage, when we got

to the house,

he backhanded me across

the dining room and said

“How DARE you write

such things about your mother?”

I didn’t know what he was talking about;

The poem hadn’t been about her.

It was, as far as I can remember,

the only time my father struck me.

I never saw my poem again.

I imagine she burned it.

I became more cautious

about things I wrote

and kept them with me

at all times,

in my school notebooks,

buried amongst essays

and homework.

Hiding from my mother

was never easy.


Sandra Lee Smith

written in 2009

Updated September 3, 2018

Sandy’s footnote–some might ask couldn’t I have re-written the poem–but curiously enough, I have never been able to rewrite anything. One time my mother burned a story I was writing about a teenage girl.  I think she said “can’t you just rewrite it?”  No, I could never rewrite anything, especially a lengthy story all single-spaced.   And my mother was fond of burning things in the back yard at our Mulberry home. She burned all of my brothers’ baseball cards and comic books–one time my son Steve asked her if he could take a comic book and some baseball cards in the basement back to California with us; she said no – and then ended up burning a huge collection of cards and comics, dating back to my brother Jim’s collection and handed down to his younger siblings. brothers.  If it was something stored in her basement, she considered it her properly and could do with it whatever she wanted.  true story!


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