Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: parenting

Love Will (Still) Burst Into a Thousand Shapes

“…The next section of the collection following the one focused on artists is “Our Terrible Good Luck,” an apt oxymoron that encompasses the devastation that populates these poems on topics not often associated that kind of horror: motherhood and children. Oh boy, was this part of the collection hard for me. They’re just shattering to read: domestic abuse, the death of children, gun violence, mass murderers, the dark sides of motherhood, the physicality and sometimes grotesqueness of child birth. For me, they were painful and difficult to read, despite their being beautifully written. When I say devastating, this is what I mean:

In the month before they find your son’s body

downstream, you wake imagining

his fist clutching the spent elastic

of his pyjama bottoms, the pair with sailboats riding them

He’s swimming past your room toward milk and Cheerios

his cowlick alive on his small head, swimming

toward cartoons and baseballs, toward his skateboard

paddling his feet like flippers. You’re surprised

by how light he is, how his lips shimmer like water

how his eyes glow green as algae

He amazes you again and again, how he breathes

through water. Every morning you almost drown

fighting the undertow, the wild summer runoff

coughing into air exhausted, but your son is happy

He’s learning the language of gills and fins

of minnows and fry. That’s what he says

when you try to pull him to safety; he says he’s a stuntman

riding the waterfall down its awful lengths

to the log jam at the bottom pool

He’s cool to the touch; his beauty has you by the throat

He’s translucent, you can see his heart under

his young boy’s ribs, beating

as it once beat under the stretched skin of your belly

blue as airlessness, primed for vertical dive

HOLY FUCK, Jane Eaton Hamilton. I don’t remember the last time I read a poem so fucking sad and heartbreaking.” -Casey Stepaniuk

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) BELIEVE THE VICTIM

This is a literary blog and exactly the place literary essays about domestic violence belong.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month in the US. November is Domestic Violence Awareness month in Canada.

S/he/they don’t have to be hitting you for you to be a victim; abuse happens with gaslighting, lying, cheating, yelling, sexual abuse, dehumanizing you, demeaning you, threatening you, throwing things, frightening you/the children. This month and next, I ask everyone to remember that this is not just a heterosexual, able-bodied crime. The disabled are victims of violence at home at a much higher rate than are the able-bodied. Queers and trans people are frequent victims of violence both outside the household perpetrated by strangers, and inside it perpetrated by their intimate partners. If you want to read more about queer violence, I started a website to collect the pieces I could find about it at www.queerviolence.com.

Thank you, readers, for having the interests of victims at heart this month and next. It is your understanding that will make a difference. Thank you for educating yourselves.

All a household needs for domestic violence to occur is one partner who feels entitled and willing to batter. It’s not about the victim. It’s entirely caused by, about and the fault of the offender.

Why doesn’t she leave? S/he/they have told her that she’s crazy, she’s imagining things, it’s not that bad, s/he/they love her. Periodically, the violence ends and the loving relationship begins anew, refreshed and revitalized This pattern of violence broken by love broken by violence broken by love eventually twists a victim’s mind. She believes in the love. She hungers for it. She needs it. It’s the “real” relationship, after that. The violence is just something to be borne. This creates a psychological condition called trauma bonding. (In a hostage situation the same dynamic would be called Stockholm Syndrome.) When there’s violence, she would give anything, do anything, be anybody just to have the pendulum swing back to where her partner loves and approves of her again.

Kids are often caught in the crossfire and this is particularly grievous because they are observing behaviour that will make them feel “at home” as adults. They won’t know how to form healthy relationships with healthy people. If you can’t make yourself leave for yourself, make yourself leave on behalf of your children.

Call your local transition house because, there, you will have breathing room to think through your circumstances and to begin the process of healing and figuring out the next steps to your free future.

What can you do? Support resources helping battered women. Educate yourself on feminism and why it’s critical to everyone’s future. BELIEVE THE VICTIMS. If you like the offender, and you don’t like the victim, nevertheless, BELIEVE THE VICTIM.

Read Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.

Below, I’ll link to literary essays on abuse. Please feel free to add the ones that have been important to you in the comments.

It Will Look Like a Sunset by Kelly Sundberg, Guernica, Best American Essays

Apology Not Accepted, a blog by Kelly Sundberg with guest essayists on the topic of IPV

(Stay tuned for a book on the topic by Kelly Sundberg in 2018.)

Using CNF to Teach the Realities of Intimate Partner Violence to First Responders: An Annotated Bibliography, by Christian Exoo, Assay Journal

The Story of My Fear Over Time, by Kelly Thompson, The Rumpus

Underwater, by Kelly Thompson, Manifest Station

I Understand Why Some Women Stay, by Virginia Mátir, xojane

The Mule Deer, by Debbie Weingarten, Vela

On Car Accidents and Second Wives, by Mandy Rose, Apology Not Accepted

Never Say I Didn’t Bring You Flowers, by Jane Eaton Hamilton, Apology Not Accepted, Full Grown People, notable in Best American Essays

 

 

Good Bones by Maggie Smith

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Another of my favourite poems is Good Bones by Maggie Smith.

Poetry

The Sick Boy

 

The Sick Boy

Jane Eaton Hamilton

from Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes, 2014

 

The spot inside the sick boy’s brain was

invisible, it burrowed there pale as a tuber,

stubborn and engorged. His hair lifted

from his scalp like angel fuzz; his eyes

gleamed and struck us. Dumb and

wanting, we watched him teeter to the lip of the

nest, his skin traced blue with veins. Fledgling,

we thought, and gathered our children closer, under

shivering arms. The sick boy wanted Christmas

cards and he got thousands, maybe millions,

a Guiness record in any case, cards enough

to fill warehouses, from everywhere

in the world. There was his father, his mother,

his sister and brother, and there were all those cards,

and there was his brain cancer, growing like

a nightmare’s garden, spreading like a bleach spot

into September and death. We almost

knew something dangerous that glowed

the way an umbilicus will; we almost

saw reflections of silver in the mirror, but then

we didn’t. We only saw ourselves, lustrous

as poster paints, our terrible good luck.

The Twins, a poem

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From ‘Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes,’ poetry collection, Jane Eaton Hamilton, 2014

The Twins

We watched TV, my daughter and I

sitting forward on the couch

legs and our arms aligned, pressing

as if we could get a hint

of what it was like to be conjoined

 

Once we had shared a body, of course

but that was twelve years ago

“Look, Mom!” Meghann said. “Only two

legs!” those two words repeating

(two legs, two legs) as the girls on the screen

 

toddled on their two legs, as their

two legs whistled them sweet down

a playground slide. Top-heavy, joined hip

to shoulder, each had a spine

a heart and lungs, but they shared kidneys

 

intestines, liver, blood and also

their red bud of sex. To part

them was to part something none of us

could understand. If they were

sweaters, yanks of wool would unravel them

 

Then they could be knit again

separate but whole

Their mother brought Cabbage Patch dolls to

the hospital, velcroed tight

and showed them how it would be, apart

 

The rip was loud

“Won’t they miss each other?” asked

Meghann, and I didn’t know how to

say I missed her even when

she slipped out of me

 

I didn’t know how to say their pain

would be vaster than the folds

of any mother’s love

I nodded, kissed her and

pulled her close

 

Four days later, one twin died, her own

heart not healthy, not sound, not good

Under my arms, I could feel

Meghann’s beating strong

beating clear

 

The surviving twin craned left

eyes huge

bewildered, thrust

into a too-large silence

On screen, the moment verbed

Meghann clutched me

She’d never seen a look that wide

The Surprisingness of Babyland

babySMALL

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2015

A grand-babe joined the family in 2015 (6 months as I write). I especially love my regained joy of being up close to someone developing capabilities, interests and language–especially language. I delighted in this with my own children and getting another chance to observe it is luck past measure. Watching the baby scrutinize my mouth to see how shapes are formed makes me wish I was more fluent in foreign languages; watching her mimic them is intriguing. I have a friend whose family used German, English and French interchangeably when she was young; she soaked it up; it was years before she realized they were separate languages. G-baby could be the same with a multi-lingual mom. She’s 6 months and she’s said intelligible things for quite a while now–she’s conquered “Mommy” and “Amma” for the long term, and remains rivetted by sound (and, incidentally, texture). I adore observing her setting goals–language goals and movement goals the most visible–and seeing her work concertedly to realize them.

The other almost accidental by-product of the g-baby’s birth is that I have gotten to spend winsome, celebratory time with my daughter. Getting to see her expand into her new role and love is a dream I didn’t know I had. I have been proud at her for many things in our 37 years together, but never moreso than watching her ace this hardest job going.

This time around, I barely saw my step g-baby, but we got some time where she pretty much pulverized me with tickles and swimming play before she flew off to the east. Razor-sharp, strong, talented girl who owns a big chunk of my heart.

Just by way of throwing something literary in here:

I had a book-baby in 2014 (Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes), now my daughter has brought forth this astonishing human book in 2015 (g-baby will slowly fill its blank pages), and, upcoming in 2016, my novel Weekend.

Congratulations, It’s a Six Pound Eight Ounce Novel

Saguaro, a poem about parenting teens

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Saguaro

 

My little thorn

you have grown on a thicker stalk

than I expected.

Sharper

than I ever guessed you might.

 

You hurt me.

Nothing is as simple as that.

I hurt you too?

 

There are lotteries.

Your unlucky numbers tumble through

a bin of teenage years.

I never meant

to speak and so offend you,

to be a mother

to cringe from

and yet you say I am.

 

I remember before breasts and boys.

We were happy.

We lay together

in a moon crater,

swaddled and safe and bouncing.

Tall branched thistle

you were my baby,

my sweet girl,

the coup of all my days.

 

I am no longer

Precisely human in your eyes,

hardly divine,

only old and big.

You come to me with scorn

that rubs like sandpaper.

 

The trick is

to bear this jagged war

like labour.

The trick is to wear

protective gloves.

Where is Their Real Mother?

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painting detail: JEH pastel, 2013

This odd little flash fiction piece appeared in Litro Magazine, UK, yesterday.

Litro Magazine

Goodreads giveaway

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5 copies of Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes.  Enter by Dec 25.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/119536-love-will-burst-into-a-thousand-shapes

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