Protective Custody

Yes, I remember still
the longed for moment
in midafternoon,
when eyes could open.
Only after you had entered through the door.
Your smile was beautiful
yes, it was and 'twas me who knew
that bliss was all around.
A child of two
who'd had his nap
entitled to sweet love on tap.
The warmth of you
and holding, seeing that caressing, too
and talking was my just reward
you took me from this bleak resort
the Dungeon room
where I was bored
and fed me goodies with a spoon.
It made a happy afternoon.
I rarely slept and no one knew
but rules were never broken lest
the tyrant changed them in our zoo
he had prescribed the rest as best.
So tiny little dreams I dreamed
and didn't out myself with cries
my naps were never what they seemed,
but first and budding little lies.

This baby wasn't really blue,
my colour was more cedar-ash.
The doctors made a great to-do
but didn't throw me in the trash.
They had decided that my need
was extra care and excess sleep.

At the time, did you know
when in grade number three
I defied all your orders
for my need to feel free.
So when my mates had PE
I would roam through the woods
where I ran like a caveman
and climbed every hill.
I had figured I could
train myself by sheer will.
And the doctors were glad
to see progress at last.
That this little lad,
invalid from the past
and whose valve was aflicker
was repairing himself
and was fixing his ticker.
Did you know all the other
unconventional deeds,
that were done,
you were busy with things?
Yes we had our fun
and some very close calls:
You were busy with other things.
And the rules, you remember,
our father's strict laws,
were enforced by a madman
and that's what he was,
from the first of the year to December.
Though he wasn't a general, he sure ACTED like one,
with his tools of pure torture at hand.
We all knew him as tyrant, and an old tyrant's son,
though he followed the law of the land.

There were whips, bamboo sticks
and a special blue hose
plus some soldiery gadgets and tricks.
We'd get dragged by the nose
and then beaten until
our tyrant had worn himself out.
And so many a time,
as he knew very well,
did he punish the innocent - YES.
And all this was just fine
and quite normal that, well:
You approved of his methods, no less!

I remember the day when
you both had gone out,
and I had climbed into the cellar,
where delicious things hung
and were standing about
Great temptation for THIS little fella.
I had eaten my fill of these gluttonous treasures,
so the punishment needed to fit.
The extent of a crime, it was usually measured
by the mood of the man. That was it.
Six days' fasting and beatings, no playing with toys
was inevitable - no one was lenient.
It was thought that to bring up these troublesome boys
one would beat them when it was convenient.

Well, enough of this stuff, you have gotten the hint
that our family law was Force 10.
If you sang like a bird or you ran like the wind:
It was never enough for that man.
Yes, I have heard it before - a pathetic excuse -
look at HIS childhood, then hold your peace,
for this difficult chore of converting a youth
to a man - you just had to show teeth.

What has prompted me though to write about things
is the dusty and lingering thought:
What did YOU as my guardian and angel with wings
think was happening then? Were you not
fully cognizant then, and a mother to boot?
Did you have any say in those matters?
Or is it that you never worried a hoot
and agreed with him, make YOUR life better?
My brother and I had a name for you, ma'm
it was Merciless Mother and worse.
You were watching and liking and mute like a clam
and accepted his sceptre and verse.
Never once you objected, well were you that loyal,
when we needed an ally so bad.
Instead you would stride through the scene of the crime
like a royal, with cold eyes. Not sad.

Now I took up so much of your time here today
when I only had wanted to ask:
What was it that happened to you since those days?
During naptime you weren't wearing your mask.

And it wasn't from love or concerted affection
for the old man because there was none.
Yet you followed him blindly in any direction.
And you never protected your son.
In your twilight years, when the bones started creaking
you complained and got help from us all.
Got concern from your kids, though our love you were seeking.
But your arrogance STOOD proud and tall.

And then, when the Grouch died, he had left you alone.
The audacity! How could he dare!
You were now an old woman with features of stone
and demanded that everyone care.
Well, it's now been two years since he laid the spoon down
for the last time and then went to Hell,
now whenever I see you you're wearing a frown
and you carefully stay in your shell.

If you tell me again that you two -with each other-
did bring up a whole bunch of kids,
that a dozen of us won't support their own mother...
I most certainly WILL get the shits.

by Herbert Nehrlich

Comments (2)

I don''t know how I missed this one when youfirst posted it, but I did. Reading it for the first time today i was struck by its power and the pain and anger that you still feel from those years and no doubt always will. An exceptional poem. One of your best.
What a substantive piece of literature! Impressive and powerful!