ii. the beautiful way

by Richard Paez

the rotten seeds you planted inside me
somehow bore fruit
my skin cracks and peels
like tight, relenting earth
lets loose the green,
razor-leafed vines
who’s petals
are the tear shaped drops
of blood i leave behind
with every tearing step.

sweet mother
after all these gardens
i have run through
trying to escape from you
your green thumb
still finds it way
to where it hurts the most.

"good gardening requires great balance"

rows dug up in lines like soldiers
healthy seeds and fertilizer
sharpened, well oiled shears
tools to cut away and sever
(and most importantly)
anything that ruins
your carefully planned
and delicately choreographed

"because Jesus was too good to judge,
i must sacrifice myself
and commit that sin in his name"

and he could not have chosen a better avatar-
with grace and balance- no mercy
you applied twin swords to your chosen one
cutting away tarnished leaf,
imperfect twigs
until i was perfect
(just like you)
a bare and barren
leafless tree
choking on vines
in a fading garden
(that even Jesus
has forgotten)


Author's Note: I am honored that 'the beautiful way' has been selected by the editors of The Swamp for the November Issue's ExperiMental Department. Thank you Megan & Uncle Pete!

If the poems in the Ďbroken skiní cycle were put into any kind of order, Ďthe beautiful wayí would be the first one in the set. The whole grouping is meant for poems that tell the stories of my tattoos- either directly or indirectly. This is the only poem iíve written directly addressed to my mother, even though iíd be a liar if i said anything that implied that thereís a single word iíve ever written that hasnít been directly affected by her guiding hands. Update: I have since created a new folder, {break/fast}, which groups together several poems by subject. this poem is still part of {broken skin}, and {mother's salt} is still part of the fractured {quanta} cycle, but I felt better justice was done grouping them together with {i beg you} under {break/fast}.

How do you describe a woman like her? I delete all attempts to do so. My brother- heís sitting in a jail cell right now- wonít talk about her. And to think that my father bears so much of the responsibility for it- for all his love and faith he couldnít have changed a thing. I wish i could explain it to him, but he never learned that language, and i can only speak a few phrases of it. Itís tattoo- permanent. You could burn me away and the ink would remain. Stains.

And the most f*ed up part of it all is that i miss it. i know my brother does to. Imagine having a living, breathing excuse to not have to hold anything back. Imagine being able to cut as deep as you wanted to and not feeling any guilt or reservation about it, because Hell is just a big-yellow-school-bus-ride-home away. Imagine swinging as hard as you can over barely-any-provocation-at-all because it doesnít matter anyway- the belt is waiting for you when you get home regardless - and the whole world is at your mercy just like you are at herís.

Funny thing is, she doesnít garden at all. Whole house full of plastic fronds if anything at all. She lives in a condo- a refurbished boarding school for girls- paid for by my fatherís money- which i used to drive by every day on my way to work- the irony still kills.

What can i say about her? Only time i saw my ex sarah really- iím not sure i have the word for it- shaken(?)-concerned(?)- was after meeting her. She told me really calmly that she never wanted to see her again, and made me promise that our children would never meet her. That was an easy promise to make. She apologized to me- she thought that i had exaggerated in describing that woman. They had been around each other for less than five minutes.

What if my mother read this? Sheíd feel hurt- sheíd say i had been brainwashed to hate her. I donít hate her. In fact, it takes a lot of effort on my part to get past the numbness. Itís all dream-stuff now, dreams that i donít have anymore. And iím all the less for it.

Posted on 09/26/2001
Copyright © 2023 Richard Paez

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by David R Spellman on 12/18/02 at 05:40 PM

Wonderful to read this again and see it as POTD. A well deserved piece for that spot!

Posted by Lori Johnson on 12/18/02 at 06:52 PM

WOW! Vrey disturbing piece, which is like a wake up call for me. I can't say I understand whee you're coming from, my mother is the best. But, my mother in law is psycho, so in that way Ican relate. LOL Very dark & wonderful. I'm sure it was healing in some sense. Congrats for POTD & even more so for The Swamp. That's so cool....so are tattoos. ;)

Posted by Glenn Currier on 12/19/02 at 03:45 AM

Richard, I am in awe of your poem, can hardly express the way it touched me. Your gardening and leaf motif is sheer genius and so powerful. The allusions to the tatoo with its permanent intrusion "rows dug in lines" under the skin etches grim and joyous truth into my heart. Your honesty and the art of your pen paint a man of real character and depth. Thanks, Richard, for being your Self right here where we can all see.

Posted by JD Clay on 12/19/02 at 04:08 AM

I'm celebrating with you brother. As I mentioned after my first read, this is proof positive that you have mastered your craft. Congratulations on the Swamp publication and becoming Pathetic Poet Of The Day. Peace...

Posted by Don Coffman on 08/30/03 at 02:16 AM

It looks like I'm a bit behind the times in praising this one, but better late than never. Most definitely of publishing quality, evidence of a talent beyond what the rest of us can only wish to reach.

Posted by Michele Schottelkorb on 03/17/04 at 05:01 AM

your analogy of a garden to your mother is timeless... this poem a soaked full of bitter tears and distain for one who was supposed to be your savior... your protector, your mother... this is passion, this is pain... this tore my gut in two... blessings...

Posted by Amanda L Marron on 07/26/04 at 11:05 PM

wonderful analogies and images in this

Posted by Michelle Floyd on 02/03/05 at 01:07 AM

"mother, sweet mother / after all these gardens / i have run through / trying to escape from you / your green thumb / still finds it way / to where it hurts the most." Exactly. ExACTLY. I understand this piece completely, and I veritably purred when I read it.

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