This poem is from the August 20, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from rix_scaedu and kelkyag. It also fills the "comfort food or item" square on my second card for the Hurt/Comfort Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series One God's Story of Mid-Life Crisis.
"It's like silk," Denore says to Shaeth,
apropos of nothing.
"Once you've spilled wine on it,
the stains just never come out."
He's drawing again,
because Denore is rarely found
without a stub of charcoal in hand
bent over scraps of cheap paper,
but Shaeth doesn't recognize
the worn face of the woman on the page.
She isn't one of his followers
who comes to the temple.
"Life," says Denore,
and then in a lower tone,
"people. You know."
Shaeth does know.
He's not altogether new
to the company of drunks,
because as God of Evil
he saw plenty of carousing.
Now he sees more
of how it can blot lives
as surely as wine stains silk.
Denore is a sweet lad,
eager to please, always
trying to make himself useful
around the temple.
He doesn't care that it's a shack.
He is accustomed to
spending his time in shacks.
As an artist, he sees everything,
sketching people's moods
and poses, alert to their whims.
Denore is exquisitely responsive,
ready to leap up at a moment's notice
and do whatever needs doing,
to smooth over conflicts
before they can erupt into violence.
There's a dark edge to him, though,
like a puddle under an oak tree
where the leaves fall in
and stain the water the color of ink.
Denore's moods are that way,
a flurry of shapes and hues on the surface
but then murky underneath.
Shaeth knows about that too,
knows what it is like
to gravitate toward people
who remind you of what you had
when you've none of it left.
That's how Shaeth met Trobby,
after all, and became the God of Drunks:
wandering alone in the woods
until he tripped over another outcast
and claimed a sphere of influence
that no other god would bother with.
"Have you eaten today?"
Shaeth asks, because Glenta
has drilled it into him:
drunks forget to eat,
so you have to ask if they have.
"Had a bit of bread for breakfast."
"We've soup today, if you want some,"
Shaeth offers. Denore nods.
He'll take whatever's on offer,
even though he rarely asks for anything.
The soup is mostly vegetable,
bits of carrot and onion
floating in golden broth;
but the broth is rich with chicken flavor
because Glenta bought some bones
from the butcher's boy.
The morning is a little chilly, still,
and Denore's hands in their fingerless gloves
clench around the plain clay cup of soup.
The tips are pink with cold
where they're not black with charcoal.
Shaeth keeps safe the supplies
while Denore is eating.
"I haven't seen her at services,"
Shaeth says, looking at the portrait
of a woman with a pointed face
and lank hair over her shoulders.
Denore says shortly.
"You knew her, then?"
"My mother," Denore says,
hiding behind his chicken soup.
His knuckles turn white around the cup.
Denore needs something to cling to,
Shaeth realizes -- for the boy almost never
appears in the temple empty-handed --
whether paper and charcoal
or broom and dustpan.
Shaeth picks up a disc of jewel-green glass
cut from the bottom of a wine bottle
to make a candle-lantern for the temple.
He turns it over and over in his fingers,
spelling the glass soft and pressing it
with the image of a bottle demon on one side
and a bottle angel on the other side.
"I'll trade you," Shaeth says,
"this for the portrait."
"I don't know," Denore says,
looking at the picture instead of Shaeth.
"She's my mother."
"I think you've carried her long enough,"
Shaeth says. "Maybe if you let her go,
she'll let you go, and then
you can see about finding yourself."
"If only it were that easy,"
"I've never found letting go to be easy,"
Shaeth says, "but it's often worthwhile."
The green disc sparkles in his hands.
"All right. I'll take it,"
Denore says finally,
setting aside the empty cup.
Shaeth hands him the disc
and watches his fingers close over it,
rubbing the textured surface for comfort.
"Remember that everything has
something of light and something of dark in it.
It's up to you which side to face," Shaeth says.
"I'm not very good at facing things,"
Denore says. "I'm ruined."
Shaeth rolls his eyes.
He only has so much patience
and is still new at being decent.
"Denore, we're all wine and wool here,
not silk, and you are not a tablecloth," he says.
Denore is startled into a giggle.
His thumb rubs over the image
of the bottle angel.
"Cotton, huh," he says.
"Just because your past
left marks on you does not mean
you're no good at anything," Shaeth says.
"You're a fine artist, a sensitive friend,
and a capable servant in the temple.
Try keeping track of your accomplishments
instead of just your failures.
There's a lot more to life than winestains,
even for the God of Drunks."
Denore looks at Shaeth,
and Shaeth wonders if maybe
he said a little too much,
because some people get nervous
if the whole former-God-of-Evil thing
comes to the front of their attention.
But no, Denore seems to be like Trobby;
he doesn't mind Shaeth's past
so long as there is soup and a roof,
simple work to do, and a safe place
to do a bit of sketching.
Denore goes trotting off to fetch the broom
and sweep the floor in return for the food.
He still clutches the glass disc
and Shaeth hopes it will help him focus.
Sometimes, even after the wine is gone,
the bottle can do some good.
* * *
Adult children of alcoholics have a common problem with recognizable symptoms, characteristics, and qualities, so they need help. They often fall into dysfunctional family roles or personality subtypes. These factors shape their lives. They face a challenging journey as a result.
Adult children of alcoholics tend to have dysfunctional relationships, because that's all they know. This affects their romantic partners and friends -- everyone close to them. The warped messages they learned in childhood continue to influence them until replaced with something more constructive.
The healing process can be long and difficult. Recovery goes through stages. There are questions and implications to consider. People seeking recovery have rights, and there are coping techniques that can help. Storytelling is one way to deal with the aftermath of growing up in a dysfunctional family. It helps to have a stable environment rather than a chaotic one, and perhaps a support group.