Chink Children

Chink Children

Offering love and encouragement to children as they grow helps ensure their success. And sometimes doing and saying things that may seem harsh serve their higher good as well

 

For Henry and Lian

Chink Children

Your mother found out
What you needed to survive
To get by, to understand
Soon after she arrived here

Gook-bitch, whore, slut
Groping, grabbing, fondling
Gestures, whistles, jeers
Welcome to America

Outrage, anger, disgust
These are my people?
The apology to her is a band-aid
A futile gesture, an impotent act

Little chink boy, little chink girl
You want to cry, to scream?
You think this stops if you do?
Go ahead cry, see what happens

Sensitive boy, feeling girl
My tears barely hid, theirs forming
About to burst, about to flow
They know what’ll happen if they do

My heart breaks when I hear, when I see
I want to take them in my arms, to comfort
To make better, to show them they’re loved
Their mother does too

Why do you talk to them like that?
A knowing look, hardened resolve
No apologies offered
Love doesn’t apologize

Understanding diversity through the personal

This is a scene that played out between my niece and nephew and their mother. The kids were about 6 and 9 years old at the time. They are of Asian and European descent. Their mother, originally from China, had had a number of rude, crass (these words don’t do justice) experiences since moving to the US involving random people saying and doing despicable things. I’m sure she only shared a few of them with me.

At the time that mom was going after her children by calling them names and daring them to cry, I was horrified and couldn’t understand the cruelty I was witnessing. I wanted to run to the kids, grab them up in my arms, tell them I loved them, that I love the way they look, that I wouldn’t change a thing about them, that they were perfect to me.

It took me years, but eventually I came to understand that this was an act of love, an act of courage and compassion. One that was out of my realm of experience. The understanding came slowly to me like a glacier grinding its way to the sea, hanging out over the edge, calving an iceberg, which then crashes explosively into the sea.

Their mother did this to prepare them for the world, for our world, to get them ready for what they would have to face, consciously choosing to strike preemptively, to inflict damage, to scald, burn, tear and breach, then giving time to heal, so that her children would be able to let the insults, that would be spoken at future times, slide off them like water on a seal’s oily coat.

As a white man of northern European descent, my parents, family, schools, church, culture, etc never had to instruct me this way. It never crossed my mind that I would have to be taught this lesson, as I’m sure most people in my sphere had never considered it either.

It’s amazing how important these things become when they are about family, about people I/you love.

To Lian and Henry

Your mother did these things, said these things because she loves you. I’m sure you figured that out way before I did. She wants to prepare you for the world, to become adults that will embrace life and live it to its fullest. By arming you and toughening you, she is giving you the gift of not letting some of the horrible parts of life get you down, hold you back or suck you into the darkness.

On the surface it doesn’t sound like much of a gift, but it is, and I know that it wasn’t an easy one for her to give you. It’s not a gift I could’ve given you, although now I see the wisdom of it.

These lessons are part of her legacy to you. You’ll be the better for them. You already are.

With love, Uncle Tom

Question for you, the reader

Have you had any experiences like this?

 

 

 

When I wear my mother mask

Tom Tiernan ©2006

The masks we wear are like looking through a dirty, jagged, broken window. We know there’s something else back there but we can’t see what it is

When I wear my mother mask

I am the other, the one I don’t want to be
But can’t escape, like moon pulling tide to sea
I am the mother monster me
Wanting to apologize and flee

I am the rageful child feeling low
Allowing fear to strike a blow

I am the razor sharp claws
Looking for your hidden flaws

I am never feeling complete
Unless grinding you under my feet

I am lonely but distrust the touch
Wanting to love all so much

I am the once lovely little girl
Crushed, tiny, caught in a swirl

I remain ever lost but never found
Until being laid in the cold ground

When I lie within these sins and bask
It is often troubling to ask
For help with the difficult task
Of taking off mother monster mask

Tom Tiernan

For Michele Martin
Michele, you posted something about masks one day and inspired a thought, gave me an inkling, helped me to give birth, to bury the dead, to look again, to step out of the shadow. Thanks

Sometimes masks deserve to be hidden, pushed down, repressed, so they don’t maim the ones we love. Bringing them to light, disassembling the machine run amok, disarming the bomb, would be ideal. I don’t want to embrace this mask but perhaps I need to because it surfaces with surprising regularity. Embrace the dark? And then what?

 Question for you, the reader

Are there masks you wear on occasion that you wish you didn’t?

 

Photo by Tom Tiernan

 

On Writing

On Writing

Now, where did that writing flow go?

 

On Writing

The words rattle around my head
Sometimes poetic, wispy, full of promise
But when I go to write them down
They stick to my fingers like flypaper
And refuse to go on the page
See. Sally. Run.

Where is the lyricism of my youth?
The sometimes gushing flow?
The sometimes courageous act?
The flowering bud promises of Spring?
The words, the words
They don’t come easy

Tom Tiernan 2013

About the poem

This was just one of those days when nothing flowed.

Here’s a sign that you’re getting old: When you think you did something much better years ago but aren’t quite sure.

Question for you

What do you do to get unstuck, to get the flow back on track?

 

Photo by Tom Tiernan

 

The Sentinel

The Sentinel

I love to see children having fun. Anything becomes a game, a great adventure, a reason to have fun. What did you love to play when you were a child?

 

The Sentinel

The Eastern European couples gather around the table
They are here most weekends
Perhaps knowing each other from the old country

Their children always with them
Three young girls growing up fast
A little boy now, too

The children drift off across the small vacant lot
Talking and playing, they head to the far street
Fifty yards is all but might as well be fifty miles

Do the parents know how quickly their lives can change?
How darkness can blot out the light?
I do, from the inside out

Should they be warned?
Is this the right thing to do?
I honestly don’t know

Obeying the voice of compulsion
I stand watch until the children return
It is not a choice

Why do I have to do it?
Because I know the lone dark terror
The wild beating of an innocent heart

I am the sentinel

 

Tom Tiernan 2012

Photo by Tom Tiernan

About the poem

People experience and come to grips with trauma in lots of ways. Similar experiences can manifest differently for each person. Hypervigilance is one manifestation. It is a blessing and a curse at times.

Questions for you

Have you ever experienced hypervigilance? How does it manifest?

 

 

 

I like Mayonnaise

A photo of onions being grilled entitled "I like Mayonnaise"

Imagine a dollop of mayo on these grilled onions. Now, that’s what I call living

 

I like Mayonnaise

The way it slides down my throat
You can even eat it on a boat

The way it slides down my shirt
Makes fashion designers want to flirt

Leaving patterns but on the collar?
Oh, mayonnaise makes me want to holler

The way it goes with coke
And asks years later coronary or stroke?

When I’m feeling low
Mayo is the way to go

It’s good for when you hurt
It’s also good on dessert

I like mayonnaise in a drink
Or any way you can think

Tom Tiernan

A little silliness is good

Doing something silly like creating this poem and not feeling the need to write something serious, stay the path or be productive was a freeing experience. It actually helps me to do things like this to think outside the box, look at new angles and simply to have a laugh. Be good to yourself, do something silly right now.

Question for you

When was the last time you did something silly?

Photo by Tom Tiernan

 

 

 

I met my mother when…

Photo of a footprint on a beach entitled "I met my mother when"

Families, parents appear so solid at times and at others fade off into the distance, into a fog bank, an ethereal ghost of belonging mixed with sorrow and grief

 

I met my mother when…

I was two months old, you went way out of your way, to take me from the orphanage, to bundle me up, to carry me on a plane, in a snow storm, Chicago to New York, to bring me home, my new home

I met my mother when…

I was five years old, you armed my younger brother, your son, your birth son, to the teeth… You’re not part of this family. You’re adopted

I met my mother when…

The door-slamming was louder than the screaming in my head, the door-slamming louder than my heart, the door-slamming louder than my soul could keep

I met my mother when…

I was nine years old, or eight, or ten, you were in a fishing tournament, only a few hours away, you heard, that I had been, that I needed you, someone, anyone… and chose not to come

I met my mother when…

Your rage boiled, your arms swung, me blocking you, putting up a pitiable defense, against your demons, your assault, then later, showing my father, Exhibit A for the prosecution, the bruises on your arms, my father suspecting, and still carrying out his orders… But dad, I never hit her

I met my mother when…

Twenty years later, disgust in your voice, you really did believe it was my fault… Why didn’t you just run away?

I met my mother when…

Dad died, you had passed five years before, my sister and I, cleaning out the house, your bottles hidden, in your closets, in your clothes, in your bathroom, in your life, in your legacy to us

I met my mother when…

I was writing your eulogy, and I discovered… You had some good points too

Tom Tiernan 2013

For Lidia Yuknavitch, author of ‘Chronology of Water‘. That was quite the roller coaster you took me on. Scary, nauseous, liberating, reviving, jagged, twisted, maniacal, flea bitten, louse ridden, get out of jail free card.
Thanks. I think.
PS. We’ve never met in case you’re wondering

Photo by Tom Tiernan