Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Closet Skeleton

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When my father was old enough to know better
He flipped out his dick publicly, but not his
Stones, and in doing so, embarrassed Muh Dear
And her mother, Auntie, so badly, they asked my
Mother and me to get a place of your own to live.
My mother knew it was out of shame that they
Had to ask us to leave. It was the first opportunity
They were given to get rid of us, and they took it.
Their duty was done: They had sheltered us from
The Southern angers of “Bull” Connors, the
Police chief, who ruled Birmingham in the late forties.
My independent mother, with me in tow, fled to a
Small room, where she paid rent, in some stranger’s
House in the same city, and then when luck turned
To face her squarely, she moved to public housing,
And finally to her own home, where she could leave
Her shoes in the middle of the living room on Sunday
Afternoons after church. When she was ill, my father
Would visit and be attentive. When she recovered,
He would disappear just as suddenly. Years in the
Future, death would accomplish what they were never
Willing to pay for: divorce. As an old man, I am still
Amazed at the embarrassment and tribulations a penis
And a little piss can accomplish.


Herbert Woodward Martin has had poems appear in Beloit Poetry Journal, HQ Poetry Magazine, The Kerf, CHEST, Grand Street, Presa, Nexus, Stand, Scintilla, Manifold, House Organ, and Jeopardy. He taught at The University of Dayton and has spent over three decades promoting and editing the works of the African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. His books include Inscribing My Name and Paul Laurence Dunbar: Selected Poems.

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