No relation between the subject of this poem and anyone–
fictitious or you know who–intended.e


Shay was never good with men.
She always ran with the ones
who ran over her in the end.

Maybe it’s all Bad Dad, she griped
to a girlfriend one night over
tequila shots and beers at the bar;

a grim succession of dirtier shades
pulled over the old man’s grave.
Lord knows they all drank like him,

proud and cocksure at their end
of the bar, little boys so pumped
on bullshit you’d think their tattoos

glowed like the neon Bud sign at the door.
She’s danced for ’em, rode astride
their Harleys, fucked ’em every

way and how, even placed a white rose
on two or three  of their graves.
She lights a Marlboro and inhales deep,

staring at herself in the bar mirror.
She’s not young enough anymore for hope’s
fake pink charade. Now there’s only

the same slow dance at closing time,
late leers poured down onto the next
morning’s chilly cringe, rants and beatings

like a metronome clocking their
last footfalls out the usual door.
She remembers Saturday mornings

watching cartoons while Daddy slept
off his binges on the couch. How he’d moan
and curse behind her as if stranded

far at sea. Once in a while he’d sigh
and whimper Baby I’m so sorry and
your Daddy loves you. He never

rose much higher than that couch
before falling in his grave. All
Shay asks of the always next man

is that one I love you before
high times turns to sad and blue
as he commences falling through.


Submitted for real toads’ Open Link Monday.
Apologies if I don’t get round to you til tomorrow morning.


Filed under Alcoholism, Art and Heart, Grails

11 responses to “Shay

  1. Marian

    oh great sigh, well done. whoosh.

  2. Glad you put the disclaimer up there, Brendan! This doesn’t describe me– and I understand that it isn’t meant to– but it does describe women I’ve known and been friends and stuff with.

  3. hedgewitch

    Sad tale of wayward girls and lost causes–used to cry when I was kid about not having a father–when I grew up and met some women who had, decided it wasn’t totally a bad thing. Last stanzas here are chilling.

  4. You have captured a soul in these lines – the art of a masterful writer to make a character seem so real as to be recognizable, and beyond a simple ‘type’. I read recently that everyone is damaged by the growing up process: in different degrees. How could we transform into adults otherwise? This kind of damage hurts me, even in theory, and makes me wonder why we need credentials in life for everything, except raising children.

  5. You have captured well the unloved girl’s search for love in all the wrong places. I’m with Kerry – we need courses on how to nurture children.

  6. The writing in this is adroit, precise, filling in the life of a woman who becomes recognizable as a friend, sister, acquaintance, because of how real you make her and her life’s story.

  7. Thanks all — back in my cups, a Shay was just the sort of woman I desired most, what one fellow AA once described as a gal “who could drink as much as me and take a punch.” Not that I ever, ever hit a woman, but was so attracted to one who’d taken plenty of knocks from the night. Whether to rescue or savor the awfulness, who knows. Thankfully I can report that Shays like this have recovered and gone on to live heart-full lives.

  8. ruthie822

    It’s terribly sad that much of the worst pain in life comes from family members (not mine, thank god, and I’m chilled by Hedge’s comment about having a father vs not having one). What does Shay see when she stares at herself in the bar mirror? Does she say, “I love you”? Well it’s good to hear you say in your comment that some you knew did pull through and find love, which has to come first of all from loving themselves. Thanks for showing the shadow side, and that metronome is a brilliant touch.

  9. Sad…family can be our destruction…a safe haven become hell. Great write

  10. She’s not young enough anymore for hope’s
    fake pink charade

    If only hindsight could be glimpsed at the beginning… maybe it would be enough to dissuade some very bad decisions. I could feel the heaviness of this poem…

  11. You’re truly talented, I was swept right into this story, Brendan! Thank you!

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