Sunday, April 25, 2010


In our empty kitchen
she held me,
shaking with overlapping sobs.
And I held back –
held on for dear life,
stunned into an impervious state.
It was a crying so surreal;
so severe, that it sounded
like wails of laughter
bouncing off the walls of the room
and slapping my face like
an unyielding torrent of anguish.
The ambiguous streak that divides
the two forms of hysterics
is shockingly obscure.
I had to check her face –
make sure the tears were real,
make sure the maternal body
upon my frame
was racked with grief,
not laughter;
seizing with pain,
not laughter.
It was a sobbing so intense
it tricked me into laughing.
I couldn’t stop.
An uninvited grin spit out the anomaly
in that drenched kitchen,
but she mistook my heaves for empathizing sobs.
And as I stood letting her tears
soak my hair and neck with guilt,
I marked the moment
where the weight of those years
finally took its toll
and made me laugh as
my mother cried with the sadness
of an entire dying world.


  1. You write well about one of those elusively fine thresholds most testified to by someone, upon being greeted with horrible news, saying, "You've got to be kidding!"

  2. Sweet! I always feel guilty editing poetry, but now I don't feel so bad.

    No more "I suck" statements from you. ;)

  3. Oh this just broke my heart! I cannot help but relate to the grief-wracked mother. I think a mother will always try to hold that sort of pain away from her children, because, well, mothers are supposed to be the strong ones.

    But maybe it's really because she worries that her sobs would be met with laughter, internal or expressed, as in "oh, get a grip." I hope the mother in your poem really did think the child was crying with empathy, because the alternative is too painful to consider.

  4. the sadness of an entire dying world...this poem rocks!

  5. I laugh when I'm nervous disturbed, awkward, or distraught. I am afraid I would have done what you did for different reasons, but same end result.

  6. Thanks for the comments,everyone!

    Patti - Yes, it's indeed supposed to be heartbreaking...I relate more to the child having to become an adult prematurely because of the situation...a very sad thing. The child is not laughing AT the mother, but they are both kind of in hysterics.

    Brian - Thanks!!

    SheWrites & Yodood - Yeah, I think we can all relate to the balance of that strange fine line that we have to find in order to act "appropriately" in awkward situations.

    Jeff - Thanks, and thanks for your help!