Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Matriarch's Admonition

I return your greeting of peace, my son
but you and I know we can hope for none
I foresee a long period of strife
that will mar the twilight years of my life.
We must always be canny and cautious
the enemy is  subtle, ferocious
and you know that, then why do you let
the reins slip thus from your loose hands and fret
me so? The vultures circle, peck and pull
but does the lion give up his kill? Careful
now, you mustn’t allow others to dictate
the policies and running of the state.
I have heard disturbing news, and stranger
accusations, we are in grave danger
one misstep and the entire edifice
will topple, how could you be so remiss?
a leader must know when to delegate.
This is the time to hold tight, no debates
or internecine struggles.  Don’t spell
out who gave those orders, I know it well.
That’s wholly unnecessary.  You lied
about the arrests, the children who died;
you told me lightly that no-one ordered
them tortured and then ruthlessly murdered.
I am no silly sentimental fool;
far from it! I know that the ones who rule
need iron fists; even steelier wits
but children! that should be off-limits;
they can turn into PR disasters
and I’m afraid this surely will.  Faster 
than you can recite the sacred First Verse;
nothing could be less opportune or worse
now than the negative publicity
that’s sure to follow.  It is a pity
you can’t, or won’t, control your siblings
and all this petty relentless quibbling
over how and who; it’s time for a council -
they must come to lunch here.  And I will
have that special Tuscan, white goat cheese flown  
in, that my son-in-law has strangely grown
to have a particular preference
for. You must try and bridge the difference
if possible. If not make clear, henceforth 
children are not to be singled out, both
adult men and women targets are fine
and of course any child that’s in the line
of fire by mistake, that’s not our lookout.
Matters should settle, I must think about
the food too, what would you prefer? Chinese
or Russian? I don’t care. Though Tuscan cheese
is a misfit in both cuisines, a waste.
Why must you all have such conflicting tastes
from food to vital nuances of state?
I am too old, I tire under this weight.
If that man listens, good; or things get cruel.
It’ll have to be that, I’ll keep the ampoule
ready at hand, it’s lucky only he
likes his cheese platter brought from Tuscany.
This your father gave me and departed.
Such long days! Go now, love, don’t be faint-hearted
and remember, my leader and my son -
it’s a grave error to touch the children.

Shared at dVerse where the prompt this day combines poetry, first person narrative, and acting. 

This poem plopped into my mind as a response, lately surrounded by the upheavals in the Middle East. I have always wondered at the family dynamics behind the one-man shows.  I have also wanted to try out a dramatic monologue, and this prompt was the perfect opportunity to write my own version. 

The situation here is a mother talking to her son who is President, a somewhat weak man surrounded and swayed by his bossy relatives in high positions.  The mother is disturbed after a particularly harrowing episode where some young children have been targeted, tortured and killed for the first time during the uprising.  She is trying to recover lost ground after widely publicised media reports of the same.

The son-in-law holds powerful office and has different ideas as to running the country, and the mother plans the council to first try and persuade him, and failing that, to eliminate him.  Obviously drawn from reality but the individual characterisation and conversation are both completely imaginary.  Assad incidentally means lion in Arabic.


  1. wow...there is a lot in this...the part that really got to me was when you were talking about the role of leaders...and the lying...or trying to show a better face than reality...children getting hurt plucked my heart strings...

    1. That situation has been quite common in some parts of the ME for sometime now, sadly...thank you for reading

  2. This came like a sermon from the high mountains to a leader/son who doesn't know compassion and rules with an iron fist. Touching and killing the children is the all time low for running and holding on to power in a country or state.

    Superb voice...fantastic piece ~

  3. What a dense and chilling write this is...and it made me want to know the backstory. The ending took my breath away.

  4. I really enjoyed this… the style to me was intimate, like a letter, the back and forth between the very serious and the trivial (the choice of cheese) how like a mother and perhaps the mother of a dictator? This is a loaded piece… makes me wonder who is writing, who she is writing to… Thank you.

    1. Thank you both! Much appreciated. Edited to include the backstory now :)

  5. this is very good. I love the expansive attention to inner thought here. I think it's so effective when the inner workings play prominently in first person pieces. Such a neat story, definitely one that with each read something new is found each time. Great share. Thanks

  6. Thanks for a disturbing piece of writing. It's too easy to ignore what is happening "over there", whether oover there is Syria, Israel, Gaza or the US (I'm in Scotland). And it's too often the children, the innocent, who suffer the most for the posturing of allegedly great leaders.

    Finally, the back story wasn't necessary - at least for me.

    1. Thank you for being here and the feedback. It's always the innocent who suffer on both sides of the divide.

  7. I read the poem yesterday on my phone, but came back on the computer to write a review today. Discovered the footnote this time. Even without the backstory, the composition obviously reflects deep pathos about the ME crisis. It is so clear, but the way you've handled the admonition is something.... "and remember, my leader and my son/ it’s a grave error to touch the children." Such poignance in these words. Brings to mind the plethora of images that the media publishes every other day, begging the world, helplessly, to intervene.Your words do the same.

    1. Always good to see you here Ruby! many thanks. Glad that the poem stands on its own w/o the backstory, any writing should. The backstory of course pads out the enjoyment, I was thinking of Hamza Al Khatib as I wrote this, do you remember him? We seem to have gone slightly beserk over here, why should anybody even take a child into custody for out during a protest?

    2. *being out* obviously I haven't yet learnt to string two words together properly :)

  8. Hi Nilanjana,

    Beautiful post. What a message to give to one's son. Parents always wish good for their children but the times ahead for the children of today seems quite grim. They need to be equipped with better skill-sets.

    Keep posting :)