Not fit for publication

Trigger warning: this post and poem deals with child abuse and animal abuse. Please do not read if these topics will cause you distress.

Today’s poem is one I submitted for inclusion in a periodic journal of poetry. It was deemed not to be of high enough standard. It’s not the first time I’ve been rejected for publication, and won’t be the last. To be honest the only reason my book exists is because I was able to self-publish, of course that makes marketing and sales a truckload more difficult.

But back to today’s poem…this is a poem based on a compilation of stories, both close to home and far away, that I have heard over the years when people reflect on their childhoods. I hope it gives voice to the children too afraid to speak and the way that the traumas experienced in childhood continue to have repercussions years/decades later. And today it reminds me of the millions of children alive today experiencing trauma – be in through the wars fought in their own homes or in the communities where they live.

What the little girl saw
Last Christmas I was sitting innocently
with a bottle of my old friend Jack,
watching the clock in the hope I could retire for the evening.
My brother, in a sudden flash of nostalgia,
decided to recall some of the wondrous tales about life in the outback.
He was waxing lyrically about frogs in the toilet, scorpions in shoes and how he raised six puppies after their mother died.
I remembered that cattle dog cross.

Her name now lost to the mists of time, but I can see her in my mind’s eye.
She had a patch over one side of her face
and the stocky body of a dog who knew hard work.
She had been trained according to the ‘break their spirit’ model often preferred by bullies.
It was a well-honed regime having been used on everything he owned - horses, dogs, children, and the wife.

The day the puppies became orphans is clear to me.
We were home from boarding school and the house was tens:
we were waiting for the next storm.
It came at about 3pm when that stocky, patch-faced mother of six
did not come immediately when called.
She was probably feeding the puppies or asleep.
The offence was too great to go unnoticed.
All the things he wanted to do to us poured forth onto that poor dog.
It was beaten and in righteous self-defense bit back.

In the blind rage that followed a gun was retrieved.
His reputation as an excellent marksman crumbled,
It took him four shots to put that animal out of its misery.
I can imagine the light leaving her eyes.
When I finally drew my next breath time had relocated me to another point in the cycle.
The storm had broken, it was now time to quickly clean up the mess
and obey the unspoken command to never speak of this again.
The violence of it cut deeply into me.

And I couldn’t sit through more recollections.
I left Jack to see out the night alone,
brushed my teeth,
and tried to close my eyes to the sepia-toned memories that had returned. 
Photo by Ismael Sanchez on

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