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




  1. brutal beauty in this. i love it. and i’m glad you wrote it.

  2. An intense piece of writing, Tom.

    The spirals on the beach felt springy and tight as I read the poem.

    Until the end, when the spirals liberated and I too, could walk away.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Tom Tiernan says:


      Family is a spirally thing for me. Bumps and curves with moments of, is it, harmony, belonging, even gratitude? Then back out into the familiar snags, snafus, and do I or how do I belong?


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