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Beyond the Forsythias - Paula Praeger

Dad once brought a “friend” from D.C. home to sleep on the living room sofa.


Soon after, Daddy and Ma attempted a reconciliation in an apartment they rented for us as a family (fleeting fantasy of normalcy) but that splicing was short-lived. Daddy divorced Ma and married his friend, eager arduous woman who invited his penis hard in her in our nation’s capital, seat of power and lust.


 “The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.” Ma made climbing motions with her fingers. I believed a crawly creature would materialize on the grass between us.


That’s Queen Anne’s Lace, Ma pointed to a cluster of white flowers on slender stems growing wild in the lots. Those are forsythia, she indicated yellow bushes along the Adam’s front yard, marking time to wilting when the season changed. Here are dandelions, thistles now but they will surprise us when they change into yellow daisies.


Ma was unconsciously narrating the inevitability of birth, growth and decay, the coming into being, the dropping off in dryness to the dirt.


We lived in the home of Aunt, Ma’s sister, and Uncle, her husband and their two kids. Aunt whipped the oldest son with taunts like “Don’t be ornery” and “Don’t pick your nose.” Uncle brought home a new toy for the youngest, Loved Boy Tyke, every Friday, showered him with toy trains and tracks, metal models of Chevrolets and Hudson Hornets and many long playing records. An up and coming song and dance man, Tyke sucked up their admiration as he accompanied Al Jolson, Sophie Tucker, and Jimmy Durante. vocalizing loudly from the Victrola. Aunt, an aspiring Sophie Tucker imitator, beamed approval, applauded in gratitude for this flesh of her flesh, blood of her blood, talented, extroverted son.


The missing player was daddy. Where was he? A lawyer, he worked in Washington D.C. for the government. Once in a while he came home.


We lay sleeping on a panoramic expanse of white linen. Daddy snored.  His back was turned to four-year old me. On my side, I faced his billboard of flesh dotted with a black mole near the left shoulder. I poked him gently, fearful of waking him but wanting him to get up. I screamed silently into the Daddy void, “Pay attention. Reassure me that the world is safe, that I can hide in you. Whisper or better yet, belt it out like Sophie, Al and Jimmy.”


My fantasy, “My dear frightened daughter. I protect.”  


I sobbed all night when Ma gave me the news “Daddy will never live with us again.”


Paula Praeger is an artist who began reading and writing poetry in September 2020. She discovered that words, like visual art, create pictures. Her prints have been exhibited in the United States and abroad. Her poems have been published in Hindsight, a mixed media portfolio, Cancer, Months to Years, Closeup Poems on Cancer Grief Hope and Healing, Visible Ink Anthologies 2021-2022 and 2023 and The Sad Girls blog. She is submitting a non-fiction piece titled Beyond the Forsythias.

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