The Hidden Truth
© Milton Taylor

Winner, Free XpresSion Literary Competition, West Hoxton, Sydney, NSW.
                                                 
There’s a photo on a mantelpiece commanding pride of place
With its image of a bridal group; a girl with gentle grace
Looks up in adoration to a young man by her side
Who’s reciprocating tenderness with open, loving pride.

Slim fingers grip the portrait, then, with knuckles turning white
Her rigid body trembles in a mix of fear and fright
And familiar apprehension (“Can I stand this anymore?”)
Whilst dutifully attending to the knocking at the door.

“It isn’t him! Thank God for that!” But lifting of that curse
Provides a fresh conundrum - one whose outcome may prove worse
In the dominating presence of the daunting Mrs Brown.
It’s ‘Her Highness From The Homestead,’ social conscience of the town.

“Oh, Lord above! She can’t come in! This joint’s a bloody mess!
I’ll tell her I’m too busy or she’s got the wrong address.”
But her visitor stands solid with no hint of budge or baulk
And the chilling ultimatum.  “Let me in – we have to talk.”   

So, numbly, dumbly, timidly, mine hostess leads the way
Where a kitchen table’s clutter showing scraps in disarray
Intensifies embarrassment, though madam shows no sign.
Just, “White, one sugar, sweetheart, and a tea bag will be fine.”

 “Am I renting from this woman? Does she own the rotten place?
Has she come here to evict me and to rub it in my face?”
But her panic proves unfounded as she hears the matron say,
“You’re coming close to breaking point – you’ll have to go away.

“Your marriage has collapsed, my dear; your man’s a drunken bum
Who’s brutalised you badly and there’s further grief to come
Should you choose to stay around and vainly hope for better days,
For he’s got you where he wants you and he’ll never mend his ways.

 More scathing comments surface and the truth within them grates.  
  ‘A mongrel to his missus but a ‘great bloke’ to his mates.’
  ‘A bully to his little kids, but famous in the bar.’
  ‘He’s skilled in mental torture in the way true cowards are.’

With predictable responses self-destructive in defence,
The girl extends excuses lacking basic common sense
Which are clearly free of logic, so she dares a hapless shrug,
Then succumbs to wretched anguish in the older lady’s hug.

And - she cries! She sobs and shudders; from her fractured, fragile shell
A shrieking creature gains release from latitudes of Hell,
Whilst her saviour stays impassive with the hatred of ‘that man’
Motivating her agenda: “Listen up – I have a plan.”

As she gives intensive details of her scheme for cutting loose,
Her student glimpses sanctuary from beatings and abuse
As welcome sanity prevails to open up the gate
To a safe house, airline tickets, and a new life interstate.

With the deal secured and settled and another victory won,
The broker briskly bids farewell and blithely travels on
And with barely scant acknowledgement or parting word to say,
‘The Woman From The Big House,’ starts her car and drives away.
 ..........................................................

There’s a photo on a mantelpiece commanding pride of place
In portrayal of a wedding scene; a girl with gentle grace
Looks up in adoration to a young man at her side
Who’s reciprocating tenderness with open, loving pride.

Strong fingers grip the portrait, then, with knuckles turning white
Her weary body stiffens in a mix of fear and fright
And familiar trepidation (“Can I stand this anymore?”)
Whilst robotically reacting to the pounding at the door.

It’s him! – The conquering hero, drunk and spoiling for a fight
With horrendous accusations fuelling blinding rage and spite.
From her well-spring of experience she heeds the warning signs
While preparing for the consequence from oft repeated lines.

Yet another night of nightmares in a guided tour through Hell!
It’s not ‘cherish, love and honour’ – there’s no magic marriage spell.
In its place the brutal barrages of vicious, verbal spew
Combined with physical assault, as thugs are prone to do.

There’s no random acts of violence here nor, ‘Sorry it’s the grog
That made me turn irrational and treat you like a dog.’
For his method’s ultra clinical; each calculated blow
Is placed to best advantage where the bruises will not show.
 
And tomorrow she‘ll continue to conceal her rank disgrace
In deception that obscures the facts behind the public face.
So, in shamefaced resignation she confronts her foe again
And, - ‘Her Highness From The Homestead,’ steels herself for further pain.


---

RETURN TO AWARD WINNING POETRY INDEX