Last month, we invited readers to share their responses to a writing prompt inspired by Deborah Serra’s essay, Bouncing Off Rock Bottom. We asked, “In what way have you, either voluntarily or involuntarily, abandoned or diverged from a prescribed or preapproved path in favor of a journey into uncertainty? How has this departure from the norm informed and impacted who you are as a mother?” Below is FJ Doucet’s response.
Where the steel tents never surrender I was twenty-six when I ran away from home. Just left the ruins of all I had failed to build. School. Work. Ambition. Stuck up a thumb to a traveling carnival. Alone, I was free to seize place without expectation. Sleeping in a trailer and freezing by nightfall. Sweltering in the August sun. Calling the easy marks to play what they can't win. The work was harder than I had thought. Raising steel tents. Oiling my voice with persuasion. Setting the bait on a hook for children. Children like you, my dear one. But the empty space was worth all of it. Yes, the deception. The pressure on my muscles and mind. The filth of a used-up lot after closing. Worth it to know not one soul held claim on my will to come or stop. Dream or go. And so by close of summer, I remained, the last carnie hustling for a Fish-Bowl game, but Fall ushered in knowledge of an end. I balked and scrambled for continuance. Thought to leave Canada. Traverse continents. Ascend into the liminal, secret places where the steel tents never surrender to winter. Sometimes still, my son, when I see you on the ground, pounding your fists and wailing for just one more game or treat, I think of funnel cakes and cotton candy. I think of the marquees flashing in far away New Zealand, Australia. Picture the mountains carved by time rust-red. Stone cut in two by the line of a lost necklace, a caravan stretched across the whole length of the desert in December. Where, who, I wonder, Child, might I now be were it not for your sweet, small hands, your voice.
FJ Doucet’s work has most recently appeared in Feels Zine, Prometheus Unbound anthology, Martin Lake Journal, and CommuterLit, with verse forthcoming in Yolk, a Montreal-based literary journal, and Andromeda Spaceways Magazine. She is the newest president of the Brooklin Poetry Society, located in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada, where she lives with her husband and two children.