Push

My husband pushes me with prodding questions about my sexual history

It enrages him that I don’t display the intimate details of my past like trinkets at a flea market

He pries with jealous tones in his voice

He has nothing better to do than ‘solve the riddle’ of how many men have slept with me

I tell him the truth; I don’t know

I don’t tell him why there were too many to count. Early abuse trained me to be sex-trafficked, I was overworked and undersold

There are experiences in my life that I didn’t ask for

Uninvited guests who ruined my party

I have been violated more times than I’d care to tell

I don’t want to relive that hell

He is undeserving of such personal and painful information

His prying unlocks in me that deep dark, that suicidality that was once my constant companion

Standing face to face again, it is clear how much I have healed over time, and yet

I understand why ending my life is a natural conclusion

To take back my body, reclaim my flesh as my own

To liberate myself at last from the unbearable physical memories he invokes with his dredging interrogation

He cannot fathom the damage he causes

We end this round shouting

I dread and prepare for the inevitable; the next time he broaches the topic

When he demands out of the blue that I recap the worst moments of my life, I feel energetically destroyed

I start to count the cars on that long train of trauma and feel like a trapped animal, desperate for a way out

My old friend suicidality extends a hand, ‘I am here for you, when you feel pushed.’

He and She

He

He drugged her and got her drunk

He did things to her she’ll never forget

I wonder if he’d regret it if he could fathom the depths of the wound he inflicted so easily

She

She started to cut herself to release the pain

She smoked, swallowed and sniffed but could never escape for long enough

Does he ever think back to that night and wonder how she must have felt to be violated

Does he ever imagine the horrors rippling through her body still?

Does he see the selfishness and the cruelty of his actions?

She overdosed last month

She was revived in time

She is still alive

Tears flow from her eyes

She comes to me for relief

I hold space for her grief

I cannot undo the wound or the crisis which ensued

I can only offer a new way for her to view her pain today

The struggle is real

She will feel how she feels

But in harming herself she only perpetuates his actions against her

Together we form a plan that will allow her wound to heal

Mantra

I have a false belief that I should be able to handle all of my mental and physical ailments without any assistance; no therapy or medications.

This false belief comes from the mantras of stoic ancestors echoed by my parents that I am fine simply because they say I am fine

In fact, I am pretty fucking far from fine, and have hovered over the abyss of suicidality most of my life

When I made the mistake of mentioning my thoughts to end my life to a friend at age 13, I was not met with concern but consternation and reprimandation from my mother, who was called by the school guidance counselor

She yelled at me ‘only crazy people go to psychiatrists’, naturally implying that I was not allowed to be crazy, because to be crazy would mean to be less than perfect, less than what she desired, which was forbidden

She pronounced the word ‘crazy’ with disgust and disdain, with smug judgement, as if it were an abhorrent personal defect, an unforgivable sin

I learned to ignore my feelings, emit the illusion of perfection at the cost of stunting my personal growth

To be myself was inconvenient for others, and to be an inconvenience was to be unlovable

Though I remain chained by fear, I am ready to break the shackles of false beliefs that have held me back and kept me from receiving essential help for too long

One mantra rang true: I am strong

Figure

Notions in my nervous system leak out from time to time

Potions in my stomach leap back up from time to time

I zombie-shuffle around the hospital on a 24-hour shift pulled between urgencies and emergencies, my ID badge clipped to my scrub top, dangling like a nipple tassel, swaying immodestly with each step.

Despite the stress of my current life, I feel deeply blessed

In the dark of winter, I feel the sun rising below my feet, supporting and uplifting me

The sky’s the limit

I feel it all- my invisible mental illnesses concealed by my silence and my simultaneous self-healing chipping away at the the plastic false-front I put up for survival, replacing it with vines organic growth that I hope will one day blossom with radical authenticity.

‘Did you come?’ he asked me, I didn’t know what he meant by ‘come’ but I was used to faking it when I didn’t know the answer so I said yes because I was raised to tell people what they wanted to hear, and never appear flawed, weak or wrong. I believed my ‘yes’ was the truth because I didn’t know what ‘coming’ was outside of arrival, so I figured that my coming had happened without my knowing, and I said yes because I figured it was the right answer- the answer he wanted to hear. It didn’t bother me at the time that I hadn’t wanted him to put his penis inside me- I was hard-wired to do what everyone wanted of me, and still am. I had suddenly entered a world of new vocabulary and new unpleasant sensations. We were kids, barely adolescents, yet he knew things I didn’t and had done things I hadn’t. The honest, informed answer would have been a resounding ‘What does it mean to come?’ followed by a ‘No, not even close’. Jersey boys grow up fast, didn’t even seduce me before they induced me grow up fast; the recovery is slow. Trauma lasts; a few seconds echo across a lifetime.

‘Don’t go in there- he’s a bad man’ was the stern and tremulous forewarning from an elder woman on a stoop watering her urban flowers. I wish I had followed her suggestion or asked for an explanation. Ever the workaholic, I brushed past her, attributing her words to eccentricity, and knocked on her neighbor’s door. I had told this man I was coming to visit, and I follow through with my word and maintain utmost punctuality, on principle. Hungry from a lifetime of poverty, I was determined to make my fortune on the high seas of the internet by socializing with rich men who I later learned were impoverished in spirit and cost me far more than the pittance I garnered. He locked me in his apartment and shouted commands at me to take off my clothes and get on my knees. He proceeded to rape me in every orifice and slapped me hard across the face, choking me as silent tears streamed down my cheeks. I had mastered the art of silent crying in early childhood. The man and I were both deeply disappointed by the events of the evening. He was furious when I hesitated to follow his commands. He asked, ‘didn’t you read my profile?’ I hadn’t, but I figured he wanted me to say yes, so I said yes. He followed with, ‘what did you think of my profile?’ I replied, ‘I liked it’. I never read his profile, but I imagine it might have read something like ‘heinously unattractive morbidly obese abusive alcoholic with tiny, foul-smelling penis seeks young woman to verbally and physically abuse through rape and violence.’ Hours after I initially wanted to leave, he released me from the hell-hole of his apartment. The city air never smelled so sweet. After fearing for my life that night, he motivated me to quit sex work. Silver lining. I wonder if the truth would have set me free sooner- if I had simply said ‘no’ when he asked me if I had read his profile or told him that I didn’t like it if he had paraphrased it. How much waste can one haste make. Speed made me sloppy. It still does from time to time.

Despite the horrors I have survived, I feel most distressed by those closest to me- my explosive nuclear family who I care about deeply and who hurt me deeply. I didn’t imagine that my own happiness could cause so much upset amongst them. They take what is beautiful and make it so damn ugly, shitting on my truest joy- my union with my life partner- with their dramatic accusations in which they mistake their feelings for facts and make my ‘special day’ about them and their insanity. They already ruined all the special days of my childhood- I shouldn’t feel shocked or even mildly surprised. It seems they only celebrate alongside me when I fit into their vision of vanity, when it is convenient for them. The frustrating part is that my partner is a good person who loves me and we are happy together, although he doesn’t fit into their narrow ideals for race or finances. The aggravating part is that we got married in part for them, to keep our love proper and kosher and acceptable. I figured it was what they wanted. The enraging part is that we got married in part for our future children, after I aborted my first three pregnancies partly for my family’s honor, without stopping to reflect how they dishonor me. I am now struggling to become pregnant at an advanced age. My uterus has suffered untold abuses. There is nothing I can do to make unhappy people happy. All I can do is cultivate my own inner glow and shine.

As usual, I am frozen in fear and anxiety, and also exhaustion. I’m tired of the indentured servitude of residency, tired of battling on the front lines of the pandemic, and tired of a lifelong pattern of catering to the emotionally labile who believe I owe them my life and that I am responsible for their unobtainable happiness. For the longest time, I believed them. My bleeding heart didn’t know any better.

I choose to collect my thoughts before responding without reacting from a place of hurt. Overwhelmed with emotion, this will take time. I want certain family members to think more thoroughly and compassionately before spitting venomous words at me. They want me to speak on demand, yet are quick to give me the cold shoulder and now that I am older I want to cut the cord between us like surgery to free myself from the malignant tumor of their energy.

May I stop trying to figure out what other people want of me- it has only lead to my misery, over and over and over and over.

Back at work, I hear the whip crack. I haven’t met most of the people who are getting rich off my back.

I observe people’s bodies with judgement even though it tastes bitter- ranking them in attractiveness- what an unattractive habit. I remind myself to stop imagining their thoughts, to focus on the flame instead of the candle, to behold the melting wax in awe- the interface between spirit and physical form.

I’ve put forth an immodest amount of effort in my life, pushing through severe anxiety and depression without accepting help, least of all from myself. I did seek help a couple of times during childhood when I told my mom in my little voice that I was depressed, to which she reprimanded, ‘you are not depressed’. If she only knew how frequently suicidal thoughts have dropped in to visit me. I no longer invite them in for tea- social distancing. My mother taught me to replace my feelings with everybody else’s feelings.

I feel emotionally ready for retirement even though there are many moons before I will receive my first real paycheck. I have come to treasure quiet peaceful moments. Doing less is my goal, even if I rarely allow time for it. Simply being present in the now, basking on the soft moss of inner calm, feeling that I belong, that I am lovable just as I am. I hope the same for you, and not because I figure that is what you want to hear- I sincerely wish that all beings be happy, healthy and free.

Artist

I’m an artist without artistic talent

A visionary with no eye-hand coordination

Keeper of vibrant dreams, seen only by my third eye

I’m a wordsmith suffering from silencing anxiety

Collector of hand-me-down ideas

My vocal road rage surprises me

I’m a better driver when I’m alone

I’m a workaholic with a new year’s resolution

To not work next new year’s day, one long year away

I’m a night owl working day shifts

I’m a closet non-binary person missing her gay best friend

One killed himself, the other I dated

Relationships with friends are ill-fated

Not that I recommend dating strangers either

But at least you won’t lose a friend in the end

I’m a newly married polyamorist

I’m currently in the market for amethyst

I fear hurting others so much that I withhold truth

Thank you for letting me share these self-evident truths with you

Whatever your hopes are for the new year, I hope you receive them

Though things often don’t go the way we want them to

Know that you are enough just as you are, and many people are sharing the struggle alongside you

When feeling trapped and overwhelmed, open the door to liberation

Remember that you are not your thoughts

When in doubt, take a breath

Even while standing, sit and pause

Soar

This body is my prison

Everybody has a body
Everybody is somebody’s son or daughter or both
Everybody is somebody
I’m tired of trying to be somebody and failing and flailing
When I could shed the skin I’m in
Crack open my ribcage and fly free
I’d let go of my eyes that once gazed into yours and kiss goodbye my lips that once kissed yours
I’d let go of my strength and my softness, my curves and my curls
I’d give up my form, vanities and imperfections
I’ve flirted with suicide my whole life
And spoken of it to no one except the one who pulled it off
I heard his rib cage crack open on the concrete below our college dorm
I understood
Afterward, we sad survivors put on a show- a tragedy!
But he just did what he wanted to
What many of us want to
Those who want to be free from their body know
The temptation to empty the lead from their pockets
And soar

Trapped Truth

He demands the truth from me

I want to tell him but I don’t think he wants to hear
That his fears are both false and true
What’s a battered girl to do
You prod and poke
I divert and joke
Gasping for air under the heaviness in my heart
You want to know my story, where to start?
You can learning everything there is to know
Without asking questions, simply observe
I’m trying to move on from the past
Why do you bring me back
How many times will you bring me back?
I know he knows in his heart
The truth of the depths of my womb
Truth trapped in my mouth like a tomb
I’m sorry
Please forgive me
I love you
Thank you

Swallowing Fire

My unspoken sadness and madness

Burn like hot coal in my throat
My sore neck holds the tension of another night’s nightmares
Running from persecutors with unknown motives
Even in my waking life, I don’t know why some people get so mad at me
How tempting to cut them off like a gangrenous limb
I hesitate when my persecutors are my family
Stubborn old fashioned tradition of gritty endurance
Ancient dynamics, drama on loop
My sister, abusive and oppressive
My parents either didn’t notice or didn’t care
I used to want to be saved, wanted my parents to protect me, to show my sister that I mattered. That will never happen because it hasn’t happened yet
My rescuing is entirely my responsibility
We are grown as hell
I notice and care about the years of mistreatment and terror
I will protect myself
Though I’m not sure how
Though my throat is scalded with all the fire I’ve swallowed
Fire I’m getting ready spit when I tell you what you are

Carnival

Welcome to the carnival

I offer all manner of novelties to delight you
Are your thoughts as wild as a flying trapeze?
I’ve got pills to set your mind at ease
Does your heart feel like it has been trampled by an elephant?
You don’t need to use booze to get bent
I’ll flood your blood with chemical love and adjust the dose to fit like a glove
I’ve perfected my performance to be your ideal physician despite my perpetual exhaustion, hanger and burn out
Ignoring my own pain as I eliminate yours
Neither one of us is listening to the sacred wisdom of our bodies
I suffer long and hard so that you don’t have to feel a thing
In my side-show alley you’ll see that if you want more than an endless stream of candy refills, if you want me to be your shaman instead of your drug dealer, at any time you can feel your feelings instead of suppress them
Take a plunge from the high dive on the wild horse of your unmedicated body
Hear your healing lion’s roar
Let your self-expression soar
Allow yourself to fall into the safety net of the universe
Trust that you belong, that you are a star just as you are
Juggle fire and meet yourself with humor when gravity makes its presence known
Allow yourself to be shot from the cannon of self-doubt, trusting that you will be ok
If healing is a series of flaming hoops
The transformative way out is through
Show yourself what you can do
Dance to uplifting music every day
Cultivate strength and flexibility in body and brain
Remind yourself it is normal to feel insane
In this seemingly crazy world, only you can take the reins
Be the ringleader of your life
It ain’t me, babe
Though I have the hard-won power to prescribe the goodies you crave
To be in control of ourselves we must give up control of everything else
Welcome to the big time
The show can’t go on without you
I applaud you
My eyes are open to witness your marvels and miracles

Strong

Let’s start where we are

At the end of my rope again
Wanting to kill my body to liberate my spirit
Free myself from the grips of your jealousy
Your hands can’t grasp the air, can’t contain that which is intangible
Only the heart can do that
I want to throw a wrench and stop the drama-go-round with a screeching halt
Would it shake you awake from the illusion of reality?
Would it finally lift your veil?
I have felt hunted by you my whole life
How refreshing to be the one to hold the knife
I want to get out of my own way
I balance a negative thought with a positive one
Remind myself that I create my life each moment through perception, attention, intention
Even now, you are another a poppy in the field, trying to keep me knocked out instead of awake, empowered, enlightened
Wrapped up in visions of destruction, I remind myself that I have a choice every moment
I turn my mind’s eye to that which uplifts me, and give a wink
How much more energy would I have for that which I love if I let go of that which I loathe?
I don’t have to prove that I am strong anymore
I don’t have to take your shit anymore
You are the one who needs strength
At my best, I pray for you and the healing of our relationship
At my worst, I fantasize about taking a shit on your grave