“Grandma’s Generation,” “Maybe Someday” and “Corkboard Mind”

Poetry by Maranda Barry

“Grandma’s Generation,” “Maybe Someday” and “Corkboard Mind”

Grandma’s Generation

The days of lone children

riding atop handlebars

through cookie-cutter neighborhoods

are memories of yesteryear.

 

They’re sepia photographs

in an attic-ridden album

blanketed in a thick film of dust.

 

Grandma’s generation says

the good ol’ days

were those spent playing outside

‘til the streetlights called you home.

 

Grandma’s generation says

you used to let your kids

run loose downtown,

and they’d come back

just fine.

 

Grandma’s generation says

you can’t let your kids

out of your sight nowadays.

 

Monsters hide

around every corner,

decorating your town

like broken baubles

on a Christmas tree.

 

Oh, but Grandma’s generation

had monsters too.

They were just better hidden.

 

Hidden in bedrooms

down the hall

from where their nieces

spent the night.

 

Hidden in church pews

with an offering plate

in their callused hands.

 

Uncles

who never knew

when to stop tickling.

 

Grandpas

whose hugs

felt like coffins.

 

Older cousins

with thistle motives

and thorn-covered minds.

 

Thin, slick combovers

on Sundays.

Coarse, unwelcome hands

on Mondays.

 

Helping hands

to everyone in town.

Hands that made her

want to vomit.

 

Hands that made her

want to close her eyes

and sink into herself:

a turtle shrinking back

into its dark, hollow shell.

 

Maybe if I don’t see him,

he won’t see me.

 

Monsters hidden

in plain sight

by “well-meaning”

family members.

 

Family members who said,

It happened to me when I was a little girl.

 

Family members who said,

It’s nothing to make a fuss about.

 

Family members who said,

Boys will be boys.

 

Grandma is from the generation

of sweeping dirt under rugs

and blind, reclusive hurt.

 

I am from the generation

of good-intentioned helicopter moms

and stranger danger lessons.

 

I am from the generation

that closely watches their children

as if the earth may open up

and swallow them whole.

 

I am from the generation

of scorned, vengeful fingers

slowly lifting rugs

and letting dirt billow out

like smoke.

 

I am from the generation

bathed in your hidden soot,

staying filthy,

black with your sins,

if it means we’re breaking silence.

Maybe Someday

I held a baby

at Christmastime.

Twinkling white

icicle lights

reflected in round chestnut eyes.

Uncontrollable limbs moved about

as if treading water

in an invisible ocean.

I inhaled the new baby smell.

I caressed flawless, porcelain skin,

smooth as marble.

My empty womb

physically ached

with a yearning like no other,

an insatiable longing

others could not possibly understand

unless they, too, had felt it.

For only a moment,

I imagined he was mine.

How foolish.

A pronounced southern drawl

asked the question

I’d been preparing myself for,

the question I’d told myself

not to cringe upon hearing.

It’s about time for y’all

to have your own,

ain’t it?

Bruised gut tensed

a bit too late

for the blow

leaving me to feel

my every organ burst.

How many times

had I been plagued

with a variation of this

intrusive inquiry?

A penny for your thoughts,

a dollar for your questions.

If that’s the case,

consider me rich.

Bogged with questions

from family wanting a new cousin,

from friends buying a third row SUV

to fit their fruitful loins,

from the convenience store cashier when,

Can’t I just buy

these stupid pregnancy tests

without taking a quiz

I’m bound to fail?

Questions of my very own,

unanswered,

piling high.

If questions were worth dollars,

my pockets packed,

my wallet weighted.

Eyes red,

reading another

so cute, I could puke

social media

pregnancy announcement.

Palms damp,

fingers trembling,

waiting for two pink lines

and only getting one.

Knees black and blue,

voice hoarse from crying out

praying loudly,

praying,

When will it be my turn?

I held a baby

at Christmastime.

He said,

It’s about time for y’all

to have your own,

ain’t it?

Chest throbbed

with that familiar melancholy ache

while I formed

yet another

question.

Could they tell

just how forced

my smile was?

Could they tell

I swallowed fire

and willed tears to dry?

Could they tell

the air was suddenly thick

with discomfort?

Sorrow and rage

mixed into a bubbling concoction

and dared me to scream:

We’ve been trying for months.

Thanks for asking.

Do you know how many pills

I’ve swallowed just to ovulate?

It’s not that easy for everyone.

We can’t all blink and get pregnant.

Why don’t you worry about your own business

rather than tend to mine?

I’m sorry.

Are those responses

uncomfortable?

So was

your question.

I could’ve given a million answers

to make my soul

vulnerable and bare.

Instead,

I pulled my smile up

by its bootstraps,

looked to the ground,

and quickly answered,

Maybe someday.

Corkboard Mind

Guidance counselor said,

It’s time to start considering

more realistic careers.

 

Those dreams are like the lightning:

nice to look at,

not to touch.

 

You better build a concrete wall

around yourself

to keep you safe,

to keep you secure.

 

Who cares

if your brain cells pop

one by one

like bubbles

of trigger-happy children?

 

Who cares

if your volcanic creativity

that used to spew rainbows

slowly shrivels

like a salted slug?

 

Middle-aged stranger

asks what I’m going to school for.

 

I could open the spout

and drown him

with earnest, eager zeal.

 

Instead, I downplay,

defensive way.

 

I was 19,

he was halfway dead,

he halfway said

something that stuck

front and center,

pinned inside

my corkboard mind.

 

Rewind, repeat.

Rewind, repeat.

 

Stranger said,

You’ll never be successful.

 

Those dreams are like the lightning:

nice to look at,

not to touch.

 

Success.

As if he knew success

from those black, rotten

mushrooms sprouting on his chest

I’m sure no one wanted to touch.

 

And now,

I’m grown.

 

But I’m aware

there are barely formed bits

of speckled flesh in my eyes.

 

You don’t have to tell me.

 

I’m aware

I am a babe of many sorts,

freshly pushed forth

from the womb

 

and told to

crawl,

walk,

sprint.

 

Just gasping for those first few breaths,

not understanding

why they won’t come,

oblivious to all the adults

breathing just fine.

 

I guess that’s just

the small-town curse

doing her worst.

 

Just when I thought my glasses

were more rose-colored than the next,

I realized it was because

no one was even wearing glasses

to begin with.

 

Now, I’m in my own race,

screaming at myself

run faster!

 

Running,

running while I stitch up my own lips

to keep myself from

screaming for help,

screaming for someone

to take a chance

 

I’m in my own race,

a lone race.

What am I competing for again?

 

Thread the needle while I run

and sew my lips

stitch by stitch,

thimble-less fingers pricking up blood,

but I don’t mind.

 

Those red droplets let me know

that at least I’m doing something.

About the Author

Maranda Barry

Maranda Barry is an American poet from Pensacola, Florida. With a bachelor's degree and several certifications in Elementary Education, she taught second grade before becoming a stay-at-home mom and writer. She often writes about personal experiences and the tender, comical adventures of motherhood.