The Lies Our Parents Tell Us

The Lies Our Parents Tell Us

begin in childhood: you’re not dumb, you were not an
accident, the sight of you doesn’t make us sick,

we don’t think you’re ugly, and we swallow the lies,
with open hands and grateful hearts, because we’re so

hungry, because the lies are all we have. The lies
our parents tell us get woven into our bones;

they form the raised scars over the cuts of childhood:
your nose isn’t big, you’re not fat, it doesn’t hurt

lightning bugs when you crush them onto your finger
to make a ring, that man just kills little black boys

and girls don’t worry we’ll protect you and keep you
safe we love you.
The lies grow with us, faithful

companions, more reliable than childhood friends
who break our toys or move away, warmer than our

favorite blankets, more dependable than lovers
who don’t show up or don’t call or stare blankly at

us from the arms of someone else. We trust the lies.
We know them. We take them into our own homes, wrap

them up in ribbons and bows, and give them to our
own children. And the lies go like this: your daddy

didn’t lose his job because he stole money, Aunt
Lorna didn’t kill herself, Uncle Max never

touched little boys or girls where he shouldn’t have, we
never heard of anyone doing anything

with sheets but putting them on beds, democracy
is the only viable government, God made

us to have dominion
over all the creatures

on earth, the planet’s ours.
Besides, it wasn’t us.

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© 1980-1986, 2000-2007, 2013, 2017 by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman.
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2 Responses to The Lies Our Parents Tell Us

  1. Thank you, Alexandria. It’s shattering and beautiful at the same time. It takes me from the tragedy of the child to the tragedy of our country and planet. I’ll read a few more times. Sending love to you and the child in you who survived what I can’t begin to understand.

    • Thank you so much, Elaine. This poem was originally part of my Ph.D. dissertation (a collection of original poems, all of which had to be published or accepted for publication by my dissertation defense), and it always seems to connect with people.
      Hugs,
      A xx

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