Legacy of Shadows – M.A. Morris

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“Mama, why have I not ever seen you cry?”

To answer,
How do I even try?
Do I say it is the miles of years
Walking with shadows?

Seeing the scars that crisscross her arms,
I know she needs to know how I lived in shadows,
Of how it is to live with such fears
As the white noise of my mother’s voice,
Ever constant in my brain,
Of how it is I thought it
Protection I shrouded her within
To pretend there are only bright places.
My lies as answers
To her endless questions
Of how I have scars
Upon my back,
A legacy of a mother broken
By poverty from which she raised herself
To money and business
Only to have the wings of her dreams
Burned to cinders by the heat of circumstances,
Plummeting then to live once again within
The prison poverty made.

Yes, my daughter,
I grew in the shadows
Of my mother’s broken dreams
That had broken her.

The scars that crisscross my daughter’s arms
Are not a legacy contained
Within DNA.
My lies as answers
Offer no protection,
No bright place,
From the scars
Upon my back and soul.

So I begin to speak
The raw, bloody honesty
Dripping from me.
The drops, a balm,
To the scars upon her arms.

Yes, I grew and walked with shadows.

I tell how the shadow
Of near starvation
Gnaws between the ribs,
Of how a child can eat
And nothing taste
Because of hunger.

Yes, I grew within a shadow.

I tell her what the shadow of confusion means
Of being barely nine
Comforting a crying, drunken mother
Shopping for groceries and paying bills,
Cooking and cleaning and laundry,
Keeping secrets from prying teachers
Being a grown-up at the age of nine

Yes, my daughter, I grew in shadows.

I tell her what the shadow of scars holds
Of a broken wooden yardstick
And wooden weights of 19 old fashioned window blinds,
Of what it is to shop and buy
A metal yard stick to replace
And be the new implement
Used to punish you
For being stupid
For being ugly
For being skinny
For being fat
For being a mistake
For being born,
Ruining your mother’s life.

Yes, my precious treasure, I grew in shadows.

I tell her the final shadow
Of a doctor who said
A stroke was on the way,
Of emptying beer cans down the drain
Of being screamed at for doing so
Of grabbing razor blades and throwing them
Of screaming back, “Here, kill yourself this way.”
At the age of 16,
Of holding a mother in the throes
Of withdrawal.

Yes, my daughter, I grew in shadows.

And now,
My greatest gift that God has ever given me,
My brightest place,
Let not your scars be a shadow.
Let the weakness of these tears
You finally see
Be as a light to drive away
And break this legacy of shadows.
Let these tears lead you
To all the bright places.


I am a retired teacher, enjoying said retirement.  I have been active in the gay and lesbian community since I threw away my Ken doll at the age of four.

You can read more of my writing at Hearing The Mermaids Sing

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