Family Chains

a poem by Jan Oskar Hansen

I detested the smell on mother’s clothes
when she came home from late shift at the canning factory,
brother’s sweaty reek when arriving from the building site,
sister’s shop girl scent and father’s odour
when coming in after boozing with his mates in the basement,
drinking a brew made of sugar, yeast, potato peel and prunes.
My folks were at ease being working class,
didn’t dream of a better life and enjoyed Sundays.
Their docility and acceptance made me angry,
they feared my scalding tongue and tantrums.
Left home early but couldn’t escape their imprint on my mind
and that’s why my home stinks of stale tuna fish,
tomcat piss, cheap after shave lotion and empty beer bottles.
Now that I’m old they are shadows, whispering voices,
getting louder and keeping me awake at night;
they can’t forgive me for not loving them.