Sinta Jimenez Explains “Afternoon Chieftain”


Upon publication of her poem “Afternoon Chieftain” earlier this week, we asked for Sinta Jimenez to talk a little bit about this outstanding poem and her process of writing it.

Sinta Jimenez says:

Perverse attachments between mothers and sons have always had dire consequences, from Oedipus to Norman Bates. “Afternoon Chieftain” is an exploration into the genesis of one man’s emotional and mental disorders as a result of child abuse at the hands of his mother. It discusses the emotional incest that occurs when a deeply disturbed mother places the exploitative burden of her emotional distress and neediness onto her young son, making him fill the role her absentee/unavailable husband failed to do. Instead of encouraging her son’s growth and supporting his spirit, she debilitates him by violating his boundaries, repeatedly engaging in self-harm, effectively shaping her son into a cowering, insecure, angry man that trusts no one and believes in nothing.  Her son’s life will ultimately be marked with personal ruin, criminality, financial loss, lack of achievement and most of all, loneliness, having never developed empathy or maturing emotionally from the incestual abuse.

This piece was drawn from encountering such a nihilistic individual and though fleeting, as he was wholly repellant, deeply disturbed me. As a mother I am keenly aware and in awe of a child’s empathy, the wonder of a force of nature growing into its humanity. Though I believe for some the damage is done, there is for me a remaining mourning for all of the children who do experience the ability to live in love, to seek joy and meaning in life, but then are eroded by abuse. In Buddhist theories of reincarnation it is believed each soul has the whole world of women, millions of potential mothers to choose from, but we choose to be born into the woman for whom we will fulfill our karmic destiny. For those abused by their mothers what is that horrific karma that must be burned?

I admire writers who are able to bring humor and levity into their work but my writing comes from darker, hidden places. It is a means by which I work out experiences and encounters, sourced in pain, made into art in its exposure. Each line is of great importance to me as I consider both its aesthetics and its logistical efficacy in moving forward the narrative or emotional plot.


Sinta Jimenez is a writer, journalist, and editor. She has been published in literary magazines such as the Sheepshead Review, Otis Nebula, and Underground Voices. She is currently the Managing Fashion Editor at Meets Obsession magazine. She received her Masters in Fine Arts from Otis College of Art and Design.


Chelsey Clammer
Chelsey Clammer is the author of the award-winning essay collection, Circadian (Red Hen Press, 2017) and BodyHome (Hopewell Publications, 2015). Her work has appeared in Salon, The Rumpus, Hobart, Brevity, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Normal School and Black Warrior Review. She teaches online writing classes with WOW! Women On Writing and is a freelance editor. Her next collection of essays, Human Heartbeat Detected, is forthcoming (Fall 2022) from Red Hen Press.