Family Time














Next to us are two families, local faces

neighbors stretched on beach towels


One family a lot like ours in the usual ways

whilst the other one is small and broken

like the china teapot they used to breakfast around

the pieces now scattered, or hidden

in the blazer pocket of an abusive father.

The remaining pieces since traded

as shrapnel between two battling brothers,

the shards of decoupage flower print

offered as penance by a guilt ridden mother


We sit side by side the sandcastles, doing our best

to say something whilst meaning nothing

ring fencing our own failures in a bid to

maintain safe distance from the distemper brewing.

I’m watching when, like the seagulls swooping the bay

one brother releases his message in a bottle of fury

on the young son of the family that sit alongside

circling the sand with bare feet and salted brows


For a second the fallen prey becomes litter in the foam

crashed amongst some bottle tops and a festering crab

and I scorn and scold as best as I can, neither are my kids

but the big boy needs a boundary and quick.

All around I see families drifting like ripples in a sea of sun burnt

strangers enjoying happy holidays, pulling down wide brim hats

as open mouthed children catch chocolate ice cream drips

ignore the commotion from behind billowing barbecues


We do what we can to help restore the picture postcard scene

then say ‘let’s quit while we’re ahead’ before heading home



Written for dVerse Poets prompt for Poetics.  This week we were asked to write about someone or something we see and describe the process or method of what unfolded. 


31 responses to “Family Time

  1. Some people do make you cringe when you see or, hear their behaviour in public and it does leave you wondering what they are like behind closed doors, still cringing. Very well painted (sad) write.

  2. Ok- firstly- you’re full of CRAP- because this poem is GREAT. Such a great way to observe the differences in family life. I really like the line ‘doing our best to say something whilst meaning nothing’- completely honest….we’ve all done this….and ‘ring fencing our own failures’- for me ( and you prob know what I’m gonna say) but there no such thing as a perfect family- in fact, in many cases the opposite can be true. ‘small and broken like a china teapot’- you have some fantastic descriptions here….and metaphor- the family china….chipped and broken…..I am liking the cut of your jib mrs matthews! This is my ‘cup of tea’ for sure- oh I just made myself laugh at perhaps the worst dad joke ever….

    Thank you for your amazing comment btw- seriously beaming 🙂

  3. This is a lovely poem, although sad in its way…I find those people always end up sitting near me, too…;) great descriptions & writing, Vanessa

  4. …..and that is how reality strikes. Often we find ourselves in these positions and try to cover the childrens eyes and ears but its all a little too late. They’ve seen and heard and the pieces cannot fit in their original state. Life… *sigh*

  5. ugh…all too real…and sometimes sad and sometimes scary to see the remains of a family obviously torn from within…it can def be pretty raw…def lik eyour honesty too in handling the conversation….you def dont want the bomb to go off again…in your hands….

  6. Yes, absolutely real. Things come out on holidays with sun and sea which would never surface in the mundane day to day world of work and school. I have seen it so often with holiday makers in summer here in Spain- they seem to go crazy like ‘mad dogs and englishmen who go out in the midday sun’-

  7. small and broken like the china teapot… great image and it’s sad when watching families where everything seems to be broken and what can we do to change it.. i’m coming from a family that was kinda broken in a way and i hated the pity in the neighbor’s eyes..well written vanessa

  8. sharp and fierce
    somehow beaches are raw and fierce too
    hope that things resolve or soften
    like glass in the surf.

  9. It’s really sad, especially how it affects the young ones.

    Really like how you wrote this — the metaphors and wordplay really work. Emotion of frustration and tension ready to burst.

  10. This is really good Vanessa. So descriptive that the awkwardness extends to the reader, and we all want to get out of there. Been in that situation a few times, and it is excruciating- you get this across so well. One of your best I think. 🙂

  11. WOW. The story is a familiar one made NEW by you, powerfully, with well chosen brush strokes to make me want to leave with you, another way of

    “ring fencing our own failures in a bid to
    maintain safe distance”

    Is there a harder position to be in that in between on a scale from better to worse? Or in a society where you seem to be the only one who cares? I too would have to retreat, or my next move would be to the soapbox–and then all the rest would leave too and all of the castles we dream will be made of sand.


  12. Ooooh–I really like this piece, Vanessa! The contrast of the family battles and seaside idyll are great, but my favorite bit is the comparison with the broken teapot–not just broken but hidden and traded. The descriptions throughout are fabulous–I felt I was there, and hoped I was sitting with your family and not the broken one. Great take on the prompt!

    • Ha ha thanks Julie, although you may want to wait until you meet them all before committing to that… They are a rowdy little bunch! Lovely to see you here and thank you for taking time to comment.

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