Day mother, night mother

“Your mother’s such fun, so smiley, so laid back,” 
my friends always say.
And I just smile. I give nothing away.

The truth is sadder and more prosaic.

My mother’s a drunk-
A boho phoney, a hippy fake.

She lives in the altered state of semi-numb.

Trite but true,
alcohol really is her best friend, 
her only friend — except for me.

It smooths away the spiky,
sharper edges of her day.
It oils the wheels on which she glides through life.
It feeds her joie de vivre.

The sun is always shining for my mother, 
or she’s dancing in the rain.

When I was a little kid, that live-for-the-moment, 
happy-sad, dulled-joy 
was fun — 
making under-table forts,
manic dancing in twirly skirts,
storytelling in the long grass,
skipping in puddles, umbrella-less,
and skipping days at school;
now I need her sober and supportive?
it’s not so much.

I’ve grown up.
I study, take exams, go out to work
(someone has to).

She’s still wafting through her days,
slightly tipsy,
choosing not to feel reality.

My friends all love her, 
think she’s cool and chilled or giggly, 
(how many bottles down are we?).

They only see the daytime mum, 
bohemian, beaded, barefoot and smiling.

Not the darker, night-time mess of self-loathing, 
self-reproach,
self-harming.

They don’t hear her crying in the night, 
or see her stumble to the bathroom at 4am, 
or find the bloodied tissues when she’s cut her arms.

I try not to see it either.

First time I did — at seven —I was scared;
midnight commotion, me bleary-eyed,
I thought there’d been an accident. 
I became the mother, arms round her, 
soothing, cleaning, 
leading back to bed.

But the accident is life and it befalls her every day.

Ten years on
I’ve learned to turn over in bed, 
pull the blankets over my head, 
and pretend I haven’t heard.

And in the morning she’s daytime mum again, 
with the smile and the brave face and the glass of wine.

And we both pretend that’s fine.

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