A poem about how various family members abuse one member in the family, and then make that person out to be the mentally ill one because of how s/he reacts to their abuse.

What’s Wrong With Bess?

Author: Liz Purcell

What’s Wrong with Bess?


  1. What’swrongwith Bess? They like to say.

She seldom everWants to . . . play.

Or have her hair. Done up in curls.

As is the way. Of normal . . . girls.


What’s wrong with Bess? She sure is queer.

It’s good the rest of us. Are here.

To save her from. Her own poor brain.

When she triesHerself to . . . hang.


What’s wrong with Bess? She’s oh so strange.

She really seems. Quite de . . . ranged.

Like when she staresInto space.

With no expressionOn her . . . face.


Or suddenlyStarts to cry.

Though we can see. No cause . . . why.

Or runs awayThrough the snow.

Though the temp be. Ten be  . . . low.


MotherFatherUncle Lou.*

Sister. BrotherCousin . . . too.†

Have family chats. To try ’n guess.

Just what could. Be wrong with . . . Bess.


  1. What’s wrong withyou,ya dumb shits?

You beat me and. Touch my . . . tits.

That’d be my guess.

At what’s wrong with . . . Bess.


*I had two uncles, neither of whom were named Lou, but used the name “Lou” to rhyme.

†Not all of the relatives listed physically and/or sexually abused me, and some of the ones who did are not listed. I listed certain relatives instead of more of the actual abusers for the rhythm. Plus, the ones who didn’t abuse me themselves knew about the abuse, and participated in talking about what was wrong with me with the abusive relatives.