.

Be Gone

an angry teenage daughter to her absconded mother

What irritant incited you to leave
And not come back while I was left to grieve?
Was it the man you wed, the girl you bore,
Your dispositions? Tell me: Why? What for?

I learned to live without you and adjust.
When you aspired to renovate my trust
My soul recoiled at something I detest:
You came and left; that is what you do best!

Do not return! Do not come near!
I’ve learned I do not need you here!

You want me to believe you care for me,
A claim refuted by reality!
Though some believe, my own conviction fails.
When all is done, the same design prevails.

You might secure his trust but never mine,
And if you win his confidence, that’s fine,
But I cannot abide your status quo—
The role you play, as though you did not go.

Do not return! Do not come near!
I’ve learned I do not need you here!

My door is closed, your distance perseveres,
And though you pacify my father’s fears
His vain attempts to mollify my rage
Will ever fail. My wrath you can’t assuage.

But did I hear your vow to rise above
To be more wise to those you claim to love?”
I fear that promise is not so sublime,
So read my lips; I’ll say it one last time:

Do not return! Do not come near!
I’ve learned I do not need you here!

.

.

Your Agony Is Mine

What Jesus might say to a teenager
who maliciously cuts
herself

I bore your healing lashes on my back
To rescue you from your condemning hands.
Dear child, do you believe you can attack
Your agony by etching your own bands?
Your agony is mine and not your own.
Do not give in to alien demands;
Do not deface my image or my throne
And force you to a heartless cul de sac.

So I’ll cut to the quick: I, Jesus, wept
When they told me that Lazarus had died,
And why did I say he had only slept
Yet prior to the miracle, I cried?
And no one understood. I cried for them;
I cry for you. I’m sitting by your side
To dull the edge of desolate mayhem,
And further chiseled wounds to intercept.

They knew not who I was. I ask: Do you?
I slashed the grief wherein they were detained
To show them I embody what is true:
Their agony was mine! They ascertained
When I was through, that I had borne their grief
They knew not how. The torture-stake remained,
To cut my flesh, not yours. For your relief
I died: my blood, not yours, poured out for you.

Forego the cul de sac and face the pain
And leave my image lovely and uncut.
Have done with vain illusions inhumane;
I own your pain, your horror I’ll rebut.
Hand me your weapons; break your status quo;
And now, dear child, etch not one novel rut.
I rescued you before your birth, you know,
I bore your gashes, terror, and disdain.

.

.

Jeff Kemper has been a biology teacher, biblical studies instructor, editor, and painting contractor. He lives in York County, Pennsylvania.


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17 Responses

  1. Russel Winick

    Jeff – I liked both of these, and know a number of people who could relate to Be Gone. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Jeff Kemper

      Thanks, Russel. These two girls are so dear to me. “Be Gone” was my rewrite of a poem one wrote for a poetry class when she was 14 or 15.

      Reply
  2. Mary Gardner

    Jeff, you have deep understanding. Would that I’d read “Your Agony Is Mine” as a teenager! The line “So I’ll cut to the quick” is brilliant.
    In both works, you capture emotion flawlessly. You demonstrate mastery of poetic forms.

    Reply
    • Jeff Kemper

      Thank you so much for your kind words. It is a sad situation some kids are thrown into.

      Reply
  3. Bob Rosenthal

    Today there prevail well dressed young people with smiles who claim to want to tell you of jesus’ love. and when you get into it you see they’re just the new generation of marketing gurus. first they burnt down constant values to build up their own to sell their own concoctions. now that that’s all burnt out, they go back to the constant values to package and sell in their image. poems like these cut to the quick. it’s not about another drug that’s the opposite of what everyone’s become addicted to. it’s the thing itself which is powerful to cut through whatever hell a person has been artificially made to live. and for those who aren’t in such bottom, it’s enough to sustain them through all life’s mindless hoops. and transform all around to their original purpose.

    Reply
    • Jeff Kemper

      I am fortunate to have had a great situation I had to grow up in, but I had an altogether different set of issues. Adolescence is hard!

      Reply
  4. Joshua C. Frank

    These are both wonderful! “Your Agony is Mine” shows how we hurt Jesus when we hurt ourselves, because He loves us more than Himself, as one would expect from a loving parent.

    I’m always horrified when parents walk out on their children and then demand forgiveness just because they changed their minds on a whim. “Be Gone” expresses so well why I feel that way.

    Reply
    • Jeff Kemper

      Thanks, Joshua. I’m not sure I understand how Jesus hurts, but my hurt for these two girls runs very deep.

      Reply
      • Joshua C. Frank

        I wondered if these were based on two real girls. Are they yours?

      • Jeff Kemper

        Joshua, it’s a long story. These two girls (along with three others) are not related to me, but they have spent lots of time with my wife and me and are as dear to me as my own children.

  5. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Two of the most melancholy poems I have ever read! Both well-constructed in moving rhymes that seem to come from the depths of your heart! They “cut to the quick!”

    Reply
    • Jeff Kemper

      Thank you, Roy. I have endured my own depression over what these two girls have suffered. I can’t imagine what their pain is like.

      Reply
      • Roy Eugene Peterson

        I thought there was a personal connection! Thank you for sharing.

  6. C.B. Anderson

    You have outdone yourself, Jeff. The second poem, especially, strikes deep chords. I do wonder what Jesus might have thought about body piercings. It’s not as though He never underwent them.

    Reply
    • Jeff Kemper

      Thanks, CB. The second one is about someone as dear to my heart as are my own children. I always ache for this beautiful, troubled child.

      I personally dislike body piercings as I do remapping eyebrows, fake eyelashes, and tattoos. But who am I to say these are inappropriate adornments. Cutting as coping is an altogether different animal.

      Reply
  7. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Jeff, both poems are beautifully composed and heart-touchingly significant. The repetition works perfectly in “Be Gone”… ensuring that the depth of feeling echoes throughout. My favorite is “Your Agony Is Mine.” I have never looked at self-harm from this viewpoint – a powerful viewpoint that makes a compelling case – a case that could well be life-changing… and all written in fine poetry which makes every word of your message shine. Jeff, thank you!

    Reply
    • Jeff Kemper

      Thank you, Susan, for your thoughts. It is one thing to know about kids whose parental flaws have caused them deep pain and quite another thing altogether to know them personally and to keep discovering new angles of their depression that I hadn’t understood before and still do not comprehend. It indeed overwhelms me to the point that I feel unworthy to have had such caring parents while others have been so hurt by theirs.

      Reply

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