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Inter-Generational Trauma

Trauma slithers epigenetically through time with nipping-sharp teeth. It fastens to bloodlines with atomic grip.

In 1796 the cut of chain through coarse cloth
Gouges deeper-sharp with each roll of the ship
As my convict ancestors cringed down the path to Australia’s wroth
With the sting of trauma graft-bolted to hip

In 1925 there was Mother mine
A child of the fostered abuse
Her capacity for love blunted and brined
By those pleading afterwards for a god’s excuse

In 1944 there was Father mine
A front-line sailor of the Pacific War
Head-bombed to emotional decline
By all he did, and all he saw

In 1952 Father and Mother mine
Two hearts dogged by calamity
Failed to reach into their child’s heart-time
And couldn’t exhibit a touch of love or amity

In 1957 Father Mother mine
Vanished away no word or consoling
Orphanaged me into the maw of that silent crime
As the priests bore down with their sadism and their rape and the nuns perfected their cruelty of mind and punched me down under their fisted controlling

In 1986 my Son gained his Father mine
A gagged-mouth injured mute voice silenced by memories of trauma within
And my Son over time could not reach his Father mine
So in despair dumped his happy family hopes into the refuse bin

In 2017 my Granddaugher gained her Father mine
When I learn to speak I hope we meet
Until then I sit alone in the memory hiss
Of Father Mother Son Granddaughter and Self incomplete

In 1796 …
In 2205 …

Trauma slithers epigenetically through time with nipping sharp-teeth. It fastens to bloodlines with atomic grip … until arrested.


(Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviours and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. I imagine that many people could write their own version of this poem.

While my poems on






have their own place in the sun for me the title


is a heart-writ summation blasting high decibel from the speakers of a lived and very personal reality.)


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  1. Michael Taylor

    From someone on Twitter:

    This is a moving piece on a universal theme. I’ve already read it a few times to adsorb the nuance & rhythm.

    High praise. Deserved praise.

  2. Nelly Jane

    You speak to my families life & I’ve often thought about the gene thing & trauma

  3. Canguro

    Keith Davis, thank you for this eloquent and moving account which almost exactly mirrors my own experiences of family and intergenerational – at least three generations which I can piece together historically – dysfunction and trauma surrounding such facets as the first and second world wars, deaths of my father’s two younger siblings at or soon after their births, loss of siblings on both of my paternal grandparent’s sides as a function of WWI involvement, my father’s war experiences as a Japanese POW which only served to compound his own early awful childhood amidst a home defined by grief and dissociation and a mother who never stopped grieving for her two dead babies, all of which were then reproduced within my own family environment with a wrecked father and an invalid mother incapable of any degree of emotional normality… it seems suffering has this plastic capacity to attach and never detach, its tendrils drilling deeply into one’s psychological makeup.

    My own children, both brilliant in their respective fields, wisely decided after my divorce from their mother a quarter of a century ago that they were best served by severing all relationship with their deeply dysfunctional father, and I can’t disagree, sad as that fact may be.

    Though there has been a large degree of objective recovery, the early years of their lives and their subsequent experiences of being raised by a single parent albeit within an extended and supportive network of others have, it seems, indelibly fixed their own views on who the person their father is, and that may well persist until the finish line. The one bright light in all of this is that they, miraculously, seem to have dodged the curse of that intergenerational trauma being passed down to the fourth.

  4. Keith Davis

    Hi Michael, Nelly, and Canguro. Thank you all for responding.

    Nelly and Canguro .. you both have lived/still live … as I do … all of those things that wrench at our hearts. I wish better things for all of us.

  5. Clakka

    Excellent story well put.

    A tale of our propensities and apparent mandate.
    Which sometimes may get the better of us and others.
    Which sometimes we may pay others to reach into us to explain.

    Seems that at first we a driven to know of the world, and whether we do or not, we have an ear for storytelling. Via some series of subliminal binaries, that which we hear may be brought on board or not by a yes or no. Invariably we will be brought to ponder what makes our own story. More than an ego-challenging gaze in the mirror, there will likely be a draw to venture into our inner reaches to conjure an explanation.

    Oh, and of course, rather than delights which will be enjoyed in passing, there will be many beasts and wild horses in there, so many dark lanes and blind alleys, so much burning and blood, deep oceans, jungles and deserts that stand out so we have reminders by which to navigate.

    Do we venture in so as to put a stop to the irritations of existence? Do we, as Reich would say, look over our shoulders to times, maybe even before we are born, to add up the score, and then set to balancing the books? Or even to understand how we may armor our souls? Perhaps to improve ourselves so as to have peace?

    Do we understand how we have fashioned the books. Do we understand the constituents of our soul? Do we understand that our peace wanes and fluxes as everything ever-changing?

    Or is it so others may look upon us, and as much for our choice of clothing, have regard for our apparent equanimity?

    That we all leave the footprints of our existence, that we go lightly via the weirding way might allow nature to take its course.

  6. corvusboreus

    Thank you, Keith Davis, for shaping your pains into words that both confront and comfort. May your own path of healing help dilute the handed-down effects of traumas inflicted.

    In appreciation…

    (by me)

    As you try to engage me I’m gauging the distance
    Until struck by an instant of random surprise,
    As I find that I gaze with dispassioned amazement
    At the droplets that are forming in the folds of your eyes.

    You mention the cold in my basilisk stare
    And my constant despair at the state of mankind,
    And you find a insistence within my persistant
    Resistance to sharing the thoughts in my mind.

    Should I reach for your hand as I’d reach for a star?
    Should I reach for a glass of anaesthetic clarity?
    There’s no harder task or ask than the removal
    Of cognitive dissonance and lucid disparity.

    Should I cry to the wind or pray to the oceans
    To erode the obstructions between you and me?
    Or surrender the will of my bones to the flow
    Like a droplet if rain falling into the sea?

    You ask how to change the estrangement
    That’s forming within our arrangement, unfortunately
    The answer may not lie within you if the problem’s with me.

    I’ve been called mildly autistic or severe Asperger’s,
    ADHD (with bonus ritalin for the purchase)
    Manic depressive manifesting cannabis psychosis,
    Dissociative personality turning schizophrenic by process.

    Such perspicacious assessments of my mental situation
    Feel like generic platitudes to justify repeat medication,
    Progress in programs of embetterment script-fed
    As pharmaceutical spakfill for the cracks within my head.

    Mixed dysfunctions and divergences of mind
    So easy to define when they shine forth so indicatively
    Confused conclusion, just part of the profusion of problems with me.

    My mind returns to the room and assumes
    That the atmosphere of gloom is a consequence
    Of the impart of my words

    And the notion that sustaining some devotion
    Might normalise my emotions is a concept
    That is seeming less absurd.

    So I’ll reach for your hand, try to catch that falling star,
    I’ll soften up my gaze and try to counterfeit compassion,
    Refrain from referring to our species as ‘rank faeces’
    And assess our future prospects in a less depressive fashion.

    I know the wind and the ocean are not at my beck and call,
    And all obstructions to connection are constructions of the self,
    That the flow of the verse has no pre-booked destination,
    And no particular interest in my state of mental health.

    But, as we walk hand in hand, trying to reach that promised land,
    Please try to understand that within all the difficulties,
    There is no clear marked map to navigate the minefield of
    Problems with me.

  7. Keith Davis

    Clakka and corvusboreus … hi … well you are both in better word-flow mode than me this instant … it is never easy to lay out the raw truth of hard journeys as you both have just done … so a genuine Bravo to you. I hope many people read what you both posted here …

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