Poetry Month 2023 Post #25: “The Family Business”

April is #NationalPoetryMonth and I am posting a Poem-A-Day. I wrote this poem as my sabbatical was coming to an end last summer.

The Family Business

Generational know-how
coursing through my imagination
about who I should be in the world.
Work comes easy–so easy it can
seem like it suits me.
Like armor protecting me
against overstepping or
undue exposure to
shame or impropriety.
It seems harmless enough
following in the footsteps
of fathers.
Even groundbreaking to be
the first woman.
But why do I want to
step into these indentations
left by men seeking
after respectability and virtue
in a culture that I don’t often respect or
believe to be virtuous.

I’ve tried to craft the whole
story in a flourish of
providence and purpose.
The day to day pressure and dread
don’t know where they fit in
the portrait of call and gratitude
and God.

Soon I will get in my car
and re-engage with the family
I will shore myself up and
cover myself in protection
and brace myself for impact.
I will put on the performance
of lifetimes and decades
and centuries.
I will feel things and not
have time or space to
metabolize them.
I will wince at the pricks and
pokes and jolts and shocks
to my system.
I will smile instead of scream.
I will listen intently instead of
leave the room.
I have tools, skills, recipes for
survival. Disassociation–learned
young, practiced often, and old
friend who looks out for me
and whisks me away when
I have nowhere else to go.
Deep breaths–so I can remember
a bigger world–and breathe in
space between me and the
from the pack–being out in
front or facilitating or
leading–the outskirts, the
margins, the boundaries suit
me better than the center.

The family business is hazardous
to my health. Too much,
too many, too few, too long.
A working relationship with
cruelty, betrayal, and
dissembling can be draining.
And constant infusions of
not being able to trust
your surroundings–changes
a person.

I will go back to church.
And all the epigenetics
will kick into gear and
I will settle back into the
tumult and the taxing,
vexing, flexing that I have to do.
And I will try to hold on to myself
when I’m not sure who else cares.

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