Tag Archive: Parental Alienation

November Poem-a-Day: Day 5

Prompt: For today’s prompt, take the phrase “Keep This (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: “Keep This a Secret,” “Keep This Letter,” “Keep This Moment,” or “Keep This Poem.”


Keep this with you at all times
I know how you lose things
And even people sometimes
But you need to keep this close.

Fold it up and stick it in your pocket
Wear it on a chain around your neck
Or swallow it whole if you like
Whatever it takes to keep this here.

This is where truth is written
That you matter, you are loved
You are made of stardust and light
And your smile can save the world.

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

no man’s land

My head is on fire
A pyre full of pain
Because my small brain
Can’t contain the aches
From mistakes I keep making
I am shaking, fingers pressing
And caressing
At the edges of a bruise I didn’t choose
I’ve been used and used up
An empty cup and still you reach
Beseeching but rehearsed
Oh you’re all about your thirst
But I’m all dried up like sand
I am no man’s land
So take your sad quaking
And your taking, and goodbye
Now please fly
So that I can leave the desert
And find myself a sea
Just for me, just for me
Just for me

~Liesl Dineen 2014


She tied her love for me into a knot
Twisting the rainbow sparkled thread
In impossibly complicated ways
She studied it there in her hand
With tilted head and wide brown eyes
And then she swallowed it whole
Struggling with the lump in her throat
Wondering if she’d ever breathe again
Survival instincts pushed it down
Until it landed there in the acid

~Liesl Dineen 2014

July 25

This one is meant to be read fast and out loud, like in a poetry slam style…


I wish I had known back when I had amnesty
That no matter what, a broken heart beats a broken family
But reality is anxiously speaking up and reminding me
That tragedies and casualties will always end up finding me

And it’s better to stand up for meaning in this place
Than smother with some sick narcissist’s gaslight in my face
And even though there’s steps I made I wish I could retrace
I’m embracing what I’m given while I mourn what was misplaced

Now every day begins with the serenity prayer
Because that’s all I can control, I’m getting wiser now I swear
Some days I know I’m lucky if all I do is breathe some air
It isn’t fair but there it is, I won’t give in to despair

And now I’m in control of all the things I can modify
Oh it may not be much but I am willing to simplify
I am occupied, preoccupied with trying to optimize
Because my only other choice is sit and passively fossilize

I hope you understand this doesn’t mean I’m not broken
I am damaged and I’m bleeding like my heart is split open
Still I’m hoping that you notice I am living in full motion
I’m devoted to my life and I will live it outspoken

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

July 20


You come to me in memories,
All outstretched arms and sticky smiles
Laughing carelessly, free and sure
Explaining to me in that way you do
Just how things really work in the world,
Stunningly accurate for one so small
Already certain you have something to say
And I listen as I used to do, enraptured,
Thinking about the miracles we are
How making a child seems so simple
Until you see it happen for yourself
How you were once a pink wrinkled thing
Born screaming with hunger and fury
Not even a little bit afraid to live out loud
Demanding everything now now now
How I was putty in your hands
And you shaped me into mother
Letting all the pieces not fitting the image
Fall to the floor like crumbs
Like memories

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

July 9


The child held me hostage
With razor blades and pills
Blades pressed to her own flesh
Pills swelling in her own stomach

A wise man told me long ago
Do not cut off your nose to spite your face
And I let go of my nose, or blades and pills
And walked into my own life, free

Until the child discovered rage
Like an archeologist in the dirt
Believing she was first to find satisfaction
In cutting off her nose, or cutting off her mother

I don’t know what it’s like
To lose my nose in battle
I can only hope with a mother’s heart
That it doesn’t hurt too much

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

July 2

S’mores in Heaven

Long ago, child, do you remember still?
When I was a good mother and we made s’mores
You stabbed each marshmallow, dead-center,
Always careful to get it just right, delighting in your skill
I can still smell those nights, all damp wood and sugar on fire
You couldn’t resist the urge to watch them burn
And hold them, torch-triumphant, in upraised fists of glory
I loved to watch you waving them like power
Your face clenched in victory over the elements of life
A simple bag of sugar can make us into gods
But finally, hungry and ready, you placed your fate into my hands
And asked for golden brown with full faith
You knew, you knew that I was patient, capable and kind
So I took my time, spinning and spinning over glowing embers
While you watched like it was church, silent and still
And when it was finally perfect like the night
You kept vigil as I slid it so carefully, golden and plump
Between graham cracker and chocolate, slowly like a prayer
And when I delivered it safely into your waiting hands
You knew that it was never just about giving you dessert

~ Liesl Dineen 2014



We couldn’t really be much more different and still be nice people

You carry everything inside and I’m, quite literally, an open book
But who you are shows to me clearly if I pay attention to the right things
The way you care for the dogs with love, and sugar-talk, and frequent baths
The coffee you make and pour for me before I leave for work every day
Even the way you worry with a wrinkled forehead, the look I often mistake for anger
Four years ago I promised you I would indeed screw up often, and I have
And I promised to keep trying harder when that happens, and I am
When I’ve tried to break this vow, you’ve called me out and called me back
And I’m never sorry for trying, only for failing and falling like I do
So thank you for making me walk the walk, and reminding me to stop and think
And thank you for loving me in spite of the excuses I keep giving you to stop


July 1

After the stroke

Sometime in the middle of New Year’s Night one year
The blood clot finished its long trip and made its big premier
It lodged itself there in my brain, cutting off some air
And that is when dear Death and I started our affair

But I didn’t have the slightest clue until I woke up tired
And I noticed my left arm was weak, as if it was mis-wired
I spoke in words I hadn’t planned, and yes my voice was slurred
My ex told me my face had fallen and my vision blurred

And in the hospital I knew that I had tasted Death
And Death had sampled me indeed and nibbled on my breath
He took some nerves while feasting there, oh yes, I lost my nerves
He took small pieces out of me like delicate hors d’oeuvres

If you’re like me, this feels unreal, a little hard to take
Because I’m so alive and HERE, smiling and awake
You can’t see Death masquerading as paralysis in my throat
I dare not swallow hard to the left, and give him room to gloat

And even if I point it out, you may not see awhile
How the left side of my mouth droops slightly floorward when I smile
That’s Death there tugging on my lips in asymmetric glee
He’s a prankster and a vandal, and I’m his playground, see

And because I’m such a gracious host, and a friendly face as well
Death has also turned my brain into an oyster shell
He watches my unfinished work, an aneurytic pearl
As it gathers blood like sand in every iridescent curl

But I owe him thanks for guarding me and giving me more time
So when he takes me over don’t accuse him of a crime
He’s just collecting on his debts, which you know we all must pay
And I’ll hold him like a lover when he carries me away

~ Liesl Dineen 2014



You rule over your two castles
They are enemy camps at war
You’re holding each side hostage
With razors on the door

But there’s terror building in your throat
And you think you have to choose
Maybe you can find your way to peace
Because I hate to see you lose

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

Day Nineteen


3205899Today’s prompt over at napowrimo.net was to pick an unusual seashell name from a list and use it as inspiration (and in the poem). I chose Unequal Bittersweet, bittersweets being clams from what I can gather on the Internet, and readily found on the Carolina coast I like to visit. And the name itself is poetry, isn’t it?

I’ve been missing the beach, because it really is where I learned to breathe. And so I took a somewhat spiritual walk today.




Unequal Bittersweet

She walks deliberately
Where water meets sand
Leaving behind bare footprints
Which disappear in seconds
Her jeans rolled up but damp
She’s never been good at resisting waves
It’s home, the beach, her heart’s habitat
This is where she learned to really breathe
The belly breath of ocean rhythms
She follows the shoreline
Looking at the washed up shells
And sometimes picks one up
Her gritty fingers polishing whorls and curves
But she releases all of them in time
Apologizing silently as she lets them fall
Remembering little hands
Carrying white handled plastic pails
That filled quickly with the most ‘mazing shells
Each a greater treasure than the last
She brought them home, every one
Souvenirs of time and place
Metamorphosed now to artifacts on shelves
Unequal bittersweet remembrances
And as she combs the past she knows
That she is becoming seashell
Losing vital soft insides
And destined before long
To lie hardened on the sand and wonder
If anyone will ever pick her up again

~Liesl Dineen 2014



1397834658I wrote this poem a few weeks ago, so I can’t use it in the NaPoWriMo stuff. But in honor of a birthday yesterday, my child’s 14th, I’m putting it here. I know we all have our own paths, and I know I can’t fix things for everyone. I’m lucky if I can fix myself.

I also know that I can’t control the earth, or make it split under our feet. Or heal it, not alone. I can only keep moving, and hope we keep going on our own paths in better directions, and that they meet again sometime soon.




We backed away
as the earth tore itself apart
creating a chasm
wide enough for us to see
into the fire that always rages
under cool green grass
and soft brown dirt.

Reach out to me
I cried through the flames
I can get you through.
You looked across at me,
your tilted head
and sad brown eyes
telling me no, you can’t.

I’m sure there was noise
an uproar of splitting earth
but all I could hear then
was the rushing sound
of my world blowing away,
the sound of knowing
you were out of reach.

~Liesl Dineen 2014

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