Words I Didn’t Know

 Being a kid is scary sometimes; you do things, not knowing they’re wrong, just being in the moment and having fun. You get dirty, ruin your clothes, make a mess; you know, just being a kid those things happen. You find out early that “I didn’t know” and “I didn’t mean to” are not good answers.

Words I Didn’t Know


Mom was gone, don’t know where

It was a long time ago

I was five… I think


I slipped by the guy in the chair

My new dad, reading the paper

How’d the Yankees do


Wandered around the side of the house

Through the backyard, into the vacant lot

Where’d that big rusty pipe come from


A playground just for me

Run through it, lay in it

Rollup one side and then the other


Smiling big, trudging back to the house

Exhausted, walk in the front door

He looks over the top of the paper… then loses his mind


I never heard such hollering

Words I didn’t know hurled at me

Get those clothes off and get in the tub


Cleaned myself up, then stood in the corner

Wait ‘til your mom gets home

I watch a spider build its web down by my shoes


Mom finally gets home

Looks at me, looks at him

What’s going on, she asks him


He yells some more, even louder than before

Mom cries

I know somehow it’s my fault… and so it begins


Copyright © 2013 C Mashburn

Sharing this on dVerse Poets Pub’s Poetics this afternoon.


  1. claudia said

    oh heck…that’s a hard place to be… if grown-ups would just use their imagination and try to understand how a child’s mind works…so sad that most forget…

    • The sad thing is, there’s no manual for raising kids. I look back and try to give him the benefit of the doubt. He was young, took on three kids that weren’t his… a long sad story; and I wasn’t kidding with that last line; so it began.

  2. WoW. Tough memory…((( ♥♥♥))) Such a beginning….((( ♥♥♥)))
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. anl4 said

    Some memories just make us feel bad, memories of others, or memories of our own. Poor guy, just think what he could have been, lots of people miss their opportunites in life, he could have been #1 Dad…another missed opportunity.

    • All kinds of ways to look at things like this. Nowadays, I can write about it and forgive him, but I can’t excuse the things he did to us.

  4. and so it begins…inplying this is only the start of it…ugh….you are right there is no manual…but it frustrates me those that dont let kids be kids you know….

  5. hypercryptical said

    Sad and painful to read Charles. I find it hard to comprehend how someone could be unkind to a child – although perhaps his ?cruelty towards you was an echo of, all he had known as a child himself…


    • I think maybe you’re right, Anna. I don’t know what his childhood was like, but I have a feeling it wasn’t that great. He had two older brothers that were/are wonderful husbands and fathers, and another brother who was in and out of prison.
      Thanks for the visit and comment.

  6. Tino said

    This is starting to become a theme for today/tonight. Been there, done that got the t………………blah de blah. I empathise all the way here. So it began just fills me with an impending terror because too many of us have been there and have known what that was like.
    Tough subject matter, written in such a way that I am in that empty lot enjoying that time with you.

    • That’s the thing, Tino. There were lots of empty lots and good times, and I made it through it all in spite of the bad stuff. I consider myself lucky, and credit Mom for balancing the scales.
      Thanks for the visit and comment.

  7. shanyns said

    Charles – my heart aches for you. This poem was hard to read, I know that child. I know that place. Glad you made it out.

    • I’m glad, too! I think we all turned out pretty good considering.
      Thanks for the visit and comment.

      • shanyns said

        Charles – we did make it! And we are okay. Most days 😉 and that is okay because we have our voices and our words and the courage to speak. Bless you.

      • Thank you very much, Shanyns!

  8. Hi Charles; Your story is so familliar… Should I ask what you ment after your words” so it began”? thats OK I think I know… Blessings Bro Pat. 🙂

    • That was just the beginning of many years of terror, Bro Pat. I think you may have already read my story “Those Dreaded Friday Night Lights”. but here’s the link if you haven’t and would like to. Those Dreaded Friday Night Lights

      • Hi Charles; I visited your story and must say that it is very touching … Thanks for sharing it… Blessings.. Bro Pat 🙂

      • Thank you, Bro Pat. I appreciate you!

      • U R very welcome brother Charles; and I appreciate you as well.. God Bless… Bro Pat 🙂

  9. Mary said

    Well, from the last line it doesn’t seem like things got much better. No use to holler at children, I don’t think. You are good to be able to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it must have been hard to endure nonetheless.

    • A lot of bad stuff got planted in my head, and it’s taken me about fifty years to get it out. Can’t say that I’m finished yet, but I’m working on it.
      Thanks, Mary.

  10. heidi said

    You got that moment of “wait, what? what did I do?” and the certainty that kids have that it’s their fault and it breaks my heart. Nice job.

    • We walked on eggshells constantly, in constant fear of making him angry.
      Thanks, Heidi.

  11. That’s a hard one…very sad going through the years of tears, and always thinking it’s you’re fault…sad poem Charles.

    • It’s taken me years to understand I’m not a bad person, and it’s not my fault–among other things.
      Thanks, Dianne.

  12. Grace said

    The ending made me sad Charles ~ Children always feel its their fault and we remember the times we were shouted to ~ Thanks for the personal share ~

    • I don’t think we realize how much, and what, children remember.
      Thanks, Grace.

  13. Painful poem. Spider web from foot up. k.

    • Yes, it is painful, but not so much these days. I feel I must write about it though.
      Thanks, k.

  14. Aww, I hated it when my mom and stepdad fought

  15. Charles, you echo a common, melancholic story–one that’s even more prevalent now. It takes so many years to realize that truth, that we are not bad people. I loved the detail of the spider…that wove it all together (pun intended.)

  16. zongrik said

    kids in the middle of something that’s not their fault 😦

    for the thousandth time

  17. kkkkaty1 said

    oh my, the beginning of a lifetime of anguish…so simply and openly written…at least you are not alone…although you felt alone for so long..thanks for sharing

    • No, definitely not alone, but when you’re a kid, it often feels like you are very alone.
      Thanks, Katy.

  18. Tony said

    As another commenter said, I do wonder what his own childhood had been like – we tend to either repeat the mistakes we see others making, assuming that our normality is everyone’s normality, or we overcompensate.

    Sorry that you ahd such a tough upbringing. We hadour share of being shouted at and occasional punishment beatings in our home – but we knew we were loved, and still do.

    Although hard to read emotionally, your poem is strong and I can imagine some people finding it quite cathartic as it helps them toface up to their own painful memories.

    • I hope it is cathartic to some. The main goal of my blog is to encourage others, and maybe by telling my story–even the bad parts–others can take comfort in knowing they’re not alone. And, yes, we seem to repeat the pattern, and that’s maybe the worst thing about it.
      Thanks for the thought-filled comment, Tony.

  19. lucychili said

    the pipe sounds like a great escape. other worlds are sometimes important. brave poem.

    • I remember playing in that pipe so clearly; in the moment, just loving life.
      Thanks for the visit and comment, Lucy.

  20. How sad.
    How long did it take for your mom to dump that guy.
    I hope soon.
    The spider, oh the spider — what a perfect line.
    So tell me:
    Have you rolled in a tube since? Have you overjoyed in dirt to celebrate freedom from such control?

    My wife is a clean freak — and sometime at the expense of happiness.

    So me and the kids, with great joy, get dirty when she is shopping or traveling.

    A few weeks ago, we put our bathing suits on, went in the back yard and rolled in some mud and then hosed each other down — just to celebrate dirt. My kids think I am crazy, but damn if they don’t love it.

    So, how have you celebrated dirt after those horrible childhood experiences?

    • Believe me, I’ve rolled in the dirt many a time since. I like the way you and your kids celebrate it too.
      Thanks for the great comment, Sabio.

      • I figured you rolled around to celebrate freedom from tyranny!
        Again, fine poem.

  21. Goodness, how tough. I remember all the times I took things on as my fault when it wasn’t.

    • Unfortunately, it is an all too common occurence. Thanks for the visit and comment, Susie!

  22. …the entire piece gives me an uneasy feel sir… i guess, not a good gesture & manner for someone older to treat a child like that even if it gets naughty it’s still a child… your last stanza doesn’t portray a good relationship bet couples & sets a bad impression in the eyes of a child.

    • Sometimes life isn’t the way it should be.
      Thanks for the visit and comment, Kelvin.

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