A Voice Of Venus: Feel It, Express it, Release it

Posted on January 14, 2010


On Tuesday, I went to Nadine’s featured spoken-word set at the female-focussed (but friendly to all) Voices of Venus (at Umi Cafe). This was my third time attending the monthly event which includes an all woman open-mic set followed by a set featuring one woman poet. Each time I’ve attended, I’ve enjoyed myself and encountered plenty of quality spoken word, storytelling and / or singing.

Nadine is charismatic, talented, sincere, intelligent, and a seasoned performer. Accordingly, her set was engaging, thoughtful, and fun.

She also read a poem that almost made me cry my eyes out in public.

It may come as a surprise to some people but I am an unrepentant cry-baby. Just about anything can make me cry: happy, sad, sentimental, poignant, whatever.

What’s more: I like crying. Once I got over the notion that crying is a bad thing, I discovered a good cry always makes me feel better. Sometimes, I cry simply because I’m feeling cranky and I know it will make me feel better.

This attitude towards crying may come as a surprise to some people because I rarely — if ever — cry in the presence of others. I don’t cry around other people because their reactions to crying rarely serve my aims in crying. I want to feel the feeling, express it, and release it — not deal with other people doing onto me as they would have me do onto them.

So, despite my cry-baby tendencies, I’m pretty good at keeping a cork in the water works until I can find a time to do it productively.

But this poem almost popped the cork:

Poem For My Son
The smallest human in the world
In the fastest moment I’ve known
Became the biggest thing in my life.
I held you.
You smelled
Like mine.
I closed my eyes
And I made a silent,
Selfish wish
That you could be my baby

I opened my eyes.
Your eyes
Wide and round,
Deepest brown,
Were a gift.
They told me
Was the time
For unabashed adoration,
Silly smiles,
And songs
For finding
Delight in
Your soft baby skin.
My heart within
My chest
Achingly tumescent
With love that grew
Almost too quickly.
You were always you
And for too short a time
You were also
All mine.

Wild days.
I shut my eyes
When you fall
Hard and swift.
I see it coming
I can’t let it happen
If I watch.
It’s my small gift
To let you falter
And fall
And get back up again.
And again.
I make the silent, useless wish
That I could protect you from everything.
That you could live free
From harm,
From hardship
From pain.
Yet keeping you from pain
Is keeping you from life.
I want you to live
I want you to fight
To survive.
I pray these bumps
Will help you grow strong
Enough to weather life’s storms.
And when you come home,
And I will kiss your tears
I will be the safe port.

Crazy day.
I steel my gaze,
I temper my rage
When you try gage
My limits
And push
Every. Single. Button.
I have.
I KNOW that I love you
Because I haven’t sold you
To gypsies.

Deep breath.
In the breath
Of the swiftest moment I’ve known
You’re transformed
From a trial
Into the sweet child
With the mile-wide smile
That tells me
This is the time
For forgiving
For forgetting
For unabashed hugs
And flinging your
Little arms
Around my neck
Making my heart swell
Almost too quickly.
I love you so much
It hurts.

You are hardest
Best work
I’ve ever done.
The price of this love
Is frustration.
The price of this love
Is exhaustion,
Irrational apprehension
About strangers
And street traffic
And surprise zombie invasions
I would go to
My grave for you
And yet
I’ve never felt such responsibility
To stay alive.
I’ve never had such
Motivation to thrive,
To try.
You’ve inspired me
In ways I can’t describe.
Loving you
Awoke something inside
That was dormant.
Loving you
I finally see
The way to the
Woman I’ve always wanted to be.

The smallest human in the bookstore
In the most tender moment I’ve known,
Watched my face,
Your eyes
Wide and round,
Deepest brown
Perhaps wondering
Why I wept as I read
The words of Robert Munsch
In one short verse
Had written my truth:

I love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be

There are a couple of reasons that explain why this poem effected me.

First, because Nadine is a friend, I can’t dismiss her words as the rosy-coloured exaltations of some insincere stranger. I know she means it.

Second, after a lot of hard work, I’m finally at a place where I am happy enough and sure enough that I can reflect honestly on my childhood and recognize it for what it was. And, as of late, I have been reflecting.

So, when my friend Nadine spoke these words, the cork almost popped because I know growing up, I never felt anything like the love she expresses for her child from either of my parents.

I’m not even sure how to describe what this knowledge feels like. It’s not hurt. It’s not sadness. It’s not envy. It’s not bitterness. It’s some kind of unfulfilled pre-linguistic mammalian need akin to hunger or thirst. If I were a cat, I’d probably take a blanket between my teeth and start pushing at it with my paws.

To be diplomatic, I should say explicitly my parents (who separated when I was six) kept me watered, fed, clothed, and sheltered. They never physically abused me. They always encouraged me to read and do well at school. They bought me plenty of toys. We always had pets. I was even sent on an exchange to France once. I’m also sure they received much worse parenting than I did and, when all is said and done, they probably did the best they could given their own personal histories.

Unfortunately, for me, it doesn’t change the fact that they were emotionally negligent, manipulative, and even hostile. I learned pretty early on that my parents couldn’t and shouldn’t be trusted and without trust, there can be no love.

By the time I stopped talking to them, I didn’t even really like them that much. It’s the smartest decision I’ve ever made.

It may seem paradoxical to some but realizing and recognizing that I grew up in an uncommonly unhealthy emotional environment is a tremendously good thing. For most of my life, I told myself and everyone else that my childhood was no big deal and that my parents weren’t all that bad. It wasn’t a case of me lying to myself. I didn’t know any better.

Thanks to some loving animals, some great teachers, and some incredibly caring and patient friends — and a bit of hard work — I now know better. And in knowing better, I can feel it, express it, and release it. What can I say? I’m a fortunate guy.

Thanks for the poem, Nadine. 🙂

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