January 2014

MARY MUELLER is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Providence, RI.  She lives in Pawtucket, RI.  Born in a small town in Minnesota, she can attest to the Lake Wobegon way of life.  She has turned her attention more seriously in the last several years to creative writing of children’s books and poetry, and to incorporating journal writing into her therapeutic work. Her poetry has appeared in New Verse News. Her poem “Embedded” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  She is a member of The Poetry Loft and Origami Poems Project. “The Blame Machine” first appeared in The RI Writers’ Circle 2008 Anthology.  She writes a humor blog at www.corgiconfidential.com.

                                              THE BLAME MACHINE

A mixed-up girl by the name of Jane
had worried eyes and an aching brain
from a mean machine inside her head
and no escape from what it said.

When something went wrong,
it was always the same;
the button switched on –
“Jane, you’re to blame.”

She blamed herself for rain.
She blamed herself for snow.
It especially strained her brain
when the flowers wouldn’t grow.

When her father drank some beer
or her mother gained some weight,
the beer would disappear;
then she’d drop her mother’s plate.

She thought it was her job
to always be alert
to fix what might go wrong
so that no one would get hurt.

When her brother got in trouble,
as he did most every day,
she would lecture, nag and scold him
in a most superior way.

She also acted oddly
if her friends got in a fight,
she would jump right in between them –
it was not a pretty sight.

Her parents shouted “STOP!”
Her brother laughed and jeered.
Friends just shook their heads.
Jane knew she was weird.

So she read some funny books
and talked to her best friend.
She wrapped her head in towels,
but the racket wouldn’t end.
In school it clinked, she couldn’t think.
How could she play?It clanked all day!
At night it beeped – no chance of sleep.
The constant whir made life a blur.

Banging, clanging, knocking clatter –
her ears rang from awful chatter -
“It’s all your fault.
You should have known.
You’ve been so bad” - the gears moaned.
“You’re all alone” – the valves steamed.
Jane shook and cried
and hid and screamed!

Her parents heard that piercing yell.
“We’ll go someplace where you can tell
the truth of why you’ve gone amiss,
what makes you cry and frown and hiss."

“We’ll go right now” -
Jane’s eyes filled with tears -
“to the lady you talk to
who watches and hears.”

The place was a house,
not the dungeon she feared.
They knocked on the door,
and a lady appeared.

“Jane, Jane” - the lady smiled -
“so old for such a little child.
What can I do for you today?
Please sit, so we can talk and play.”

Jane held her head and looked around.
The Blame Machine made the only sound.
“Can you hear it?” Jane whispered.
Said the lady “Not quite.
Please tell me about it to help make it right.”

Jane took a deep breath and heaved a great sigh.
“A machine’s in my head and, hard as I try,
I can’t turn it off, I don’t understand why.
It’s making my head ache, the noise goes all day.
I spin in a circle while other kids play.”

“Ah”, said the lady, “I do hear it now.
It’s a terrible racket we cannot allow.”
Jane slumped in her chair -
“That’s the trouble, you see.
I can’t find the OFF switch, it’s hidden from me.”

“You’ll see,” said the lady, “you’ll know what to do.
I’ll tell you a riddle to give you a clue.
How old is a baby? How deep is the sea?
Can a baby swim in it or climb a tall tree?”

“Can a fish walk on land or a dog milk a cow?
If you think of the answers, you’ll understand how
to stop the machine that’s the cause of your tears,
your worry and anger, confusion and fears.

“Now come back again -you’re as precious as gold.
Please put on your coat to go out in the cold.”

Jane’s head pounded still, but she started to smile.
Her heart was quite light – she’d go think awhile.

She went to her room and sat on the bed.
She looked in the mirror and rested her head.
“How old is a baby?And how old am I?
I look like I’m eight years – can this mirror lie?”

“Can babies climb tall trees or swim in the sea?
No, is the answer; but what about me?”

“Dogs can’t milk cows, and fish do not walk,
so why do I worry and watch like a hawk?”

“If I am to blame for the weather and sky,
then flowers could sing, and tigers could fly.”

She looked at her feet and stared at her face.
“It isn’t my fault, and it isn’t my place.
I’m only a kid.I can’t do it, I see.
To fix all the problems is too hard for me.”

Then all of a sudden, she heard a loud click.
The noise in her head disappeared with a flick!

No clinking, no clanking
no screech of the gears -
no hissing, no banging,
bombarded her ears!

“I found it!” she cried.
“I followed the clues.
I’ll act like a kid does.
I know what to do!"

She ran through the house. Her parents were there
eating and drinking, but Jane didn’t care.
Her pest of a brother was teasing the cat.
Jane just ignored him and grabbed her blue hat.

Outside it was snowing,
white covered the ground.
Snowflakes fell gently
as Jane twirled around.

As she moved through the softness
a hush whispered low.
She stood still to listen –
it was the sound of the snow.