Portrait of Mother: One

Why must you be this way?

Why must you slam cabinet doors and
bang glass cups on glass tables and
barge through rooms in a flurry and
why do words fall out of your mouth and
shatter into my consciousness?

Why can’t you treat things —
why can’t you treat me gently,
with care and with kindness?

Why must your smiles be manipulative
and your eyes be filled with mania,
not security?

Your children are weapons of war
that you employ in battle
and you do not care how you use us
how you spend us of all we are good for
until there is nothing left
in me.

My arms ache to hug you
because I know you need it,
I know you do.

But it is an embrace that comes at far too high a cost
Your skin is so thin, I have learned not to touch it
in fear of it rubbing off on me.

Sometimes I turn to look at you,
to drink you in, to see your pain
but it hurts to hold my gaze
to see you for who you are
just a vulnerable woman wrapped up in mania and spite
and her own fears
but it hurts, it hurts, it hurts 

to hold my gaze for too long 
at a mirror of what I am 
what I could be 
and what I would become.