Des souvenirs fantômes

story behind the photo

I saw this photo today, and it reminded me. One year ago.

You can look into the eyes of an old photo and almost not recognize the person staring back at you. Is it because that person was preoccupied, you weren’t yourself? Or time has a strange hypnotic way of distancing yourself from memories that may even be recent.

In my case a year ago I went abroad for the first time since I’d become sick. It was a test of sorts. I figured, if I could survive the travel, and the reminder that I had become first sick whilst traveling in 2017, I could become stronger, and endure more things, prove to myself I was on the road to recovery.

The other reason I went abroad was I was running away from the memories. Everywhere I looked, memories like unwanted confetti seemed to harness me to the horror of being sick, of all that it entailed. I often asked friends who were sick, did you suffer from PTSD or some type of horror post-illness? Did you keep returning to the memories without wanting to, as if they would not let you go? Des souvenirs fantômes.

When I was sick I recall being in hospital when SA had very bad weather, and a hurricane was predicted. I was alone in my room, the glass windows were shaking violently, and I was throwing up almost in time to the shuddering. I recall hoping the hurricane would hit my room and spirit me into the ether, it wasn’t an idle wish either, sometimes when things are very bad you really do wish for it to just stop.

Since those days, I have been reminded of health again. There are entire weeks I feel well and I never thought that would happen again. I was told by over 4 doctors I would be permanently sick, never recover, have to go on disability, never work again, and probably need a pace maker in my stomach. I would also never eat solids again and may need feeding by tube. Everywhere I looked, the prognosis was the same, dire, hopeless, terrifying.

If it wasn’t for a handful of my closest friends, I honestly know I would not be here today. I’m not strong enough. I can’t do it alone. Some can, and to them I say, you are incredible. But I am not that strong. I need people to justify carrying on. I need to know I matter. I need to have something aside myself to fight for. Without children, or family here in America it was hard. My family back home were pretty hands-off and my mom eventually decided it was a good time to call it quits altogether and leave my life. I’ve always been told, you are tested the most when you’re at your weakest and this is true, I would not have expected my mom to walk out of my life when I needed her the most, but that’s what she did and I had to learn to accept it.

The other day I had this horrible feeling something had happened to her, but I have no way to contact her or find out if she is okay. Many times I find myself breaking down and crying because I miss her, although I have to remind myself, why would I miss someone who could kick me when I was already down? The reason I believe is due to the abuse from my grandfather. When he abused first my mom and then myself, and my cousins, he ruined or tried to ruin all of us.

The saddest part is he did succeed in ruining my mom and I, because she grew to resent me because of the trauma she’d experienced and when I worked on We Will Not Be Silenced, I wrote a poem about the legacy of trauma and how it is generational and affects so much more than just one person. Unfortunately that poem was my mom’s reason for deciding to cut me out of her life. She had not been in my life very much since she left when I was six but I truly thought we would get closer as we got older and I did not anticipate her quitting talking to me.

If you have ever been sick you will know, you don’t have the energies to fight someone when you’re sick and so I didn’t really fight to keep her, I only told her, I don’t want this, I want you to stay, I love you, I didn’t mean anything bad by writing that poem, surely you know that. Surely you can forgive me. She did not forgive me. And now I know, she never will, because prior to that she had quit talking to me for seven years and she mentioned this time around, she’d never really forgiven me for that either, so it’s clear she will never speak to me again.

Sometimes I try really hard to think of what it was I ‘did’ seven years ago. I know she has a long list, some of the things are justified in terms of existing, I am not perfect, I probably am a disappointment, I am not always congruent or do my best, but … je ne suis pas une personne maléfique, an awful child to have had? No, and no matter what my ‘crimes,’ they are minor in comparison to so many people I know, and yet their parents would never think of walking out of their lives. I never did Heroin, I never stole, I never asked for money, I didn’t sleep with her husband, I did not skin and gut the cat or do Meth in her greenhouse.

It is quite something when a parent leaves you willingly and wants nothing to do with you. It is perhaps the most invalidating feeling I have ever had. On top of the illness it nearly destroyed me. I thought about dying for days. Je voulais mourir. I wanted to have never been born. I couldn’t write, and since she left, I have been fairly unable to write consistently because it took something from me and I suppose I let it.

But as you know, if you have experienced great pain or sickness, you have to live through it or die – those are your only two choices. I chose to survive this time. I didn’t feel I had much to live for, I felt terribly lonely. Terribly afraid. But I also didn’t want something I thought was grossly unfair, to be the reason for my demise. I had fought too hard and for too long for that.

Fortunately I had finally found a doctor who correctly diagnosed me and it turned out all the other doctors were wrong, and what I had, was potentially curable. So now, a year later, or more, I am doing better. I have awful days when I feel like I am ridiculously sick and I cannot function, and that frightens me because I have only myself to depend on, but other times I feel relatively normal. I have yet to feel exactly as well as I did before all of this began, and I also know some of it is psychosomatic by this point, you throw up every day for a year, it’s hard to completely get rid of nausea or a hatred of eating. It’s a bit like having an eating disorder without the reason.

What all of this has taught me is; True friends are rare but they exist if you are lucky. Love is the only reason to carry on. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is probably the truest thing ever said. Avoir pitié! Have mercy. Because those who don’t, well they may succeed in hurting others, really hurting them, but is that something to ever be proud of?

I lost a lot. Financially. Physically. Emotionally. But I gained a knowledge that if you can get through the worst of it, and see the other side, you can look back at yourself and realize, you made it. So I look at this photo. I realize when it was taken I did not feel well. I was sitting on a corner café wishing I could have an appetite and wishing I would want to eat a tarte and drink a coffee, but instead feeling that horrible pit of stomach sickness that seems to permeate some days. I remember it was a cold day and I thought that day of all the days I’d sat at that exact coffee shop in Europe in that exact street and watched people walk around, and how so much had changed and yet, how so much never changes.

It is weird to sit in the exact place you know you sat twenty years previously. To imagine what you felt and thought twenty years before. To see yourself now, older, wiser (?), to watch the world change, to see all the differences and all the similarities all at once. I remember a certain theatre around the corner was playing something I had wanted to see and I hadn’t had the money to be able to go. I remember my mom coming into town and taking me to a restaurant préféré and our eating until we were stuffed and me drinking wine even though I was underage. I remember feeling sad when I left that we always went our separate ways, and how I had learned at an early age to say goodbye, many, many times and to accept somehow, that division of parents, of homes, of countries, of identities.

I remember my mother was so beautiful, she always had so much grace, so slim and petite and always immaculately dressed and I would try so hard when I met her not to look like a farmers daughter with my messy hair and my one good shirt and one pair of jeans and usually some old scuffed boots. In myself now, I carry around the pictures of her, this unassailable, untouchable, much loved woman, whom I have always on one form or another, chased, wished for, sought. And my father, cycling city streets, messy like me, si beau despite it, able to turn on the charm in a way few could, and how he would zip in and out of slow taxis and cars and I would see him streaking down the road and I would walk for the metro and all the while, feel this divide, two pieces of the puzzle in opposite directions, myself in the middle.

People say, you never get over things, you should get over things, the way to get over things is to get on with things. But as busy as I can be, I never forget. I am always still that girl sitting on the corner, her coffee now cold, her fingers blue with Winter chill, wishing someone would be running towards me rather than going away from me. What we are is who we become, our identities formed by the varied experiences we have or do not have. What if my mother had really cherished me? Wanted me? Needed me? How different I would be now, there is no denying it. There is no whitewashing the shifts and influences that swirl about us, at any given moment, causing us to act out and act upon those influences, comme des cordes de marionnettes.

It is not to say we are not self-determining. I am after all, here and I am not there, I am after all alive despite it all and I am after all not destroyed by her loss. Sometimes you can think you will be and when you find yourself alive despite everything it reminds you, very little truly destroys us, it just shakes us to the core and we change, in myriad ways, taking our baggage and our hurt lockers with us, into new things, with new people, who may never understand why we are who we are, what we are.

I always wore hats. It wasn’t because I hate my forehead although I do. It was because my grandmother said; “chapeaux donnent de la couleur à votre visage.” And I have a very wan, pale, longish face. So hats helped to give me a pinch to the cheeks I badly needed. My mom with her dark eyes and her dark hair never needed such accoutrements she was a natural beauty, with a finer brain than I will ever possess. When I told her I wanted to start writing she told me I was making a mistake because I didn’t have what it took and she was right about that and so many others things but maybe for the wrong reasons. And even so, we do what we do because we have to do it, and it is sometimes better to have done than to have only thought about and never stepped out and said; I’m going to do this anyway.

Since and still – I do it anyway. I feel the fear and do it anyway. Sometimes I fail. Often I do not succeed. I wonder sometimes if I am still at that corner, watching the varied timelines of myself, my mother, my father, my entire famille d’origine, walking these streets, living then, and now, up and down, sideways and inside, climbing the stairs of history, where once a good French restaurant existed and the young and beautiful went, and my mother told me stories of whom she saw there and what they did and we would all belly laugh and those days were good, because we were not apart.

One day I will receive a phone call from someone and they will tell me I will never see my mother rounding the corner again. She is limber still and walks like a teenager, light bodied, with hips that are not stiff. I wonder if I will walk like her at her age. I wonder if I will have anyone left who shares my blood or cares what happens to me when I am her age. I find myself obsessing over those moments, lost and gained, the blouse she wore with green and red, the puff sleeves and how I try to imitate and never quite … succeed. I have run after my mother since I was a little girl, calling her home just as I wished her well in her flight. I both wanted her happiness even if it meant not with me, and I longed for her to need me, to love me, to want me, this thirst that caused me to chase and feel shame for so many years, anyone who might replace or repeat, the pattern.

I don’t chase anyone anymore. I still wear hats. I still think of the dance classes and leaving them all sweaty and hot, how the city could be empty in those days, and you could walk into a little magasin de pain and stuff your face with hot dough. How I didn’t care about anything then, except this pretty belief all would work out and life would be beautiful. How naïve perhaps, but what happy memories, how lightweight they were compared to the darkness. I remember really believing I could dance for a living, I remember really believing I would find someone who would love me forever. I remember joking that I was not very good at doing things half-way and I was far too intense for just a short affaire d’été.

My love for my mother will always be with me. I am still somewhere in time sitting at the café, proving to myself I can recover from an illness, meet the love of my life, eat bread without a care in the world, return to a time when everything was unspoiled. I am still there watching the theatre close down and become a block of flats. I am still sitting there watching my old school friends walk their kids down the cobbled roads, telling them stories of when mommy and daddy were young. I am still a 16 year old running down the street in the night, the sound of music in my ears, trailing feather scarves between my best friend and I. All the time in the world ahead.

When do you say you are ‘better?’ or you are ‘recovered?’ when there are still days of lurching at sea? When do you stop giving thanks? How did you walk away when I was drowning and think I was deserving of that kind of betrayal? When does healing and recovery mean you have to get on with the rest of your life? Which means, getting up from the table, dusting off your coat, applying lip balm, pulling your hat to the side, shaking off your weariness and setting off into the distance.

Neither of us live in that city any longer, we are both tourists to the past. When you visit, you stay in the best hotels and shield yourself from the arms of the past in keeping preoccupied. When I come home, I walk with my arms open, down all the roads that carried all our blood and all our tears. I want to remember. I want never to forget, it’s my history, it’s who I am even as I wish I were not. There is beauty even in pain. Even in the remembering of you loving me briefly, of pleasing you once, of your deep laugh and the way we’d grin in collusion. Don’t you know those are the greatest moments I have? Why would I give them up? For an abatement of pain? I’d rather feel pain than be staring into nothing. il me détruit. C’est moi.

Mama. What are you doing today? Do you remember us laughing as we walked arm in arm back from the restaurant, high on life? And nothing between us? Do you remember when I brought you flowers every time I would visit, even as a little girl? Irises were your favorite. We liked to watch them come through at first thaw. Do you ever wonder what I’m doing? Where I am? Do you ever think you see out of the corner of your eye, a girl sitting alone at a café table, drinking chocolat chaud, dunking pain de massepain? I feel she would still, despite herself, get up and go to you if you ever called, if you ever waved your hand in her direction?

I was once told I love too much. I thought it was the nicest thing I’d ever been told.

Todays hat is burgundy. I gave up cigarettes and red wine many years ago. Sometimes I can taste her perfume, the one she wore when I was a child, as if it had briefly inhabited a moment, and then, just as quickly, retreated.

 

Two decades later & dye still runs

Backstage-Paris-Fashion-Week-1991-wearing-jeans-whiteAcid-dye denim might be

bad-luck or I

simply too old for

bare legs and

shocking rinses

(who the hell buys Manic Panic Vampire Red

seeks to re-cultivate original sin

desperate in disjointed

camouflage & need to impress

someone who is not watching?)

However, the real

surprise lay in

realizing I could shed

as many tears as a teen

who would not blink

at acid-dye-denim

or remember

when high-waisted was

in fashion

the first time around

when heartbreak felt

much, much

more hopeful

even if red dye

be it 1999 or 2019

invariably ran

transforming

tears

pink

Only child

pexels-photo-573266

I’m sitting in a linoleum room with ghosts, specters and occasional stranger

a girl with long legs like a foal, is pulling elastic pink lines of gum from her full mouth

and snapping them back, loudly

I wonder if I have ever sat so evenly in a chair, if I ever had peach hair, light on my skin like that

it reminds me of my friend who competed in gymkhanas, we made up our own horses, hers was called Mars and mine, BeTwix and we ran

so fast our hearts thundered up her grandmother’s hill in the La Roque-Gageac

her legs were like those of a foal,  even at eleven, the waiters watched her with wet lips

I think of The Object Of Beauty, how Liv Tyler gleamed, coming out of the oval swimming pool

What men must think when underage girls begin to fruit.

My ghosts routinely tell me, I am without worth, they remind me if I had anything worth having

my mother wouldn’t be absent

a life time of inadequacy, wouldn’t be my legacy

I disappoint myself, not just the ghosts, sometimes I think

I don’t belong in this American world, where women are proud to work sixty hour weeks and go the gym at 9pm

still feeling they haven’t worked hard enough.

I think I am forever running in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine, with my imaginary horse

watching a girl turn into a woman, aware of too much even then, and not enough

the specters mock my lack of confidence, whispering in my detached earlobe

nobody likes a wuss, confidence is the American calling card, haven’t you noticed?

Even silly people and indifferent people get somewhere, if they believe in their

silly people and indifferent selves. And brilliant people, who doubt, will fester

like a ring someone lost in a river, glitters too deeply for marbled birds to

pluck it out and restore to light.

I lost a ring once, you’d given it to me when we were 14 and I didn’t have coltish legs

or peach fuss on my skin, but rather, the strong bones of a kid who drank milk with her cereal and got a stomach ache

reading Asterix at the pine breakfast table, with her stuffed toys.

I can still hear the plastic clock and hum of the washing machine

a warm symphony of my childhood, as I delayed leaving for school

and the inevitable crush of humanity, I had long decided was not for me

in fact, my trajectory was so far from that world of push and pull

competition and attention, fan fare and nose-pick small talk

I inhabited the after school hours like an addict of one

rejoicing in the quiet and empty spaces where

my mind could roam and gallop

sometimes I would sit on the roof tops of outdoor storage buidings

eating my soggy paper bag of sweets, stuck together from being

crunched in my pocket, head stuck in a book about

beautiful places with kind people and fantastic things

wild roses growing like thoughts from arching cracks

in concrete, their soft heads and sharp thorns

not the decapitated baby bird, I buried beneath the acorn tree

its silvered blind eyes, swollen and bulging

wings pressed like cries of regret for having never spread

in flight

something horrifying in everywhere you looked

like the terror you feel when you realize you are truly alone.

That kitchen clock would change day and month

but never really the precision of its emptiness

I learned it is better, to rely upon fantasy and avoidance

than the pinch and grope of society.

Often, a stranger would ask

why are you playing outside so late?

I would run away into the eclipsing shadows

behind the corrugated iron fences that separated

the good neighborhood from the skeletons

those bombed, bleached, bones of former homes

where a kid of twenty years ago had lain

watching paper airplanes cycle

above their head, clutching something with glass eyes

and faux fur, as I still did

funny, to find some comfort in the inanimate manufacture

of nature

my toys looked at me in the darkness and spoke

words of love, I needed to consume

their salty fur held

the cups of my early disenchantment

when teachers commented on my red eyes

I said; hay-fever and they believed me

because I wore a dragon tail

this was surely an adjusted child

with avid imagination

cantering alongside her friend

with the honey colored hair and long bare arms

absorbing sun like a shining fruit

I knew then how different I was

how quiet pain, how loud silence

my mother always looked so beautiful in

floral dresses with her trim ankles and long neck

I, the stranger behind her

admiring and shameful in her artlessness.

it was among the lost in forest, I claimed my place

when first love failed, when promises became

paper envelopes containing no letter

dishing out school diner and homework

leaving my scuffed shoes at the door

I climb

into the ivy

away from the party

a reflection I see of myself

gathering stillness like a blanket

she is fetching her best smile

for the emptiness of years

staring into emulous clouds, watching

for signs and miracles and unspent words

the sound of others laughter

rinsing through tall green shadows

like echoes of

someone else’s life

 

 

From the outskirts of safety

A child whose concave chest was already filled with debris

had been told she contained no worth

that child grew up soon enough to an adult with

penchant for self-hatred and did not master, necessary ladders and confidence

she could observe herself holding back, broken pieces unformed and bad

not supporting a part of her who wished to climb

and believe those good things to try her hardest

she saw others with so much faith and belief

light footed reach their goals and she saw the disappointment in others eyes when her own

efforts were hardly made

she left really, no significant imprint

of course, because of this, she became a poet

and that poet, if you can call someone who simply writes

such a thing

I would argue, it takes more than writing poetry to be a poet but that is another story …

had become lost in her years of wandering, to the point where

looking in the mirror she did not see herself anymore, but a shadow

perhaps a wraith or something strange, replacing whom she’d seen

as a child when there were posibilities and futures worthy of reaching

these years later, she stares at the shapes in her face

the ancestry printed there like leopard skin

where her mother changes to her grandmother and her father

and back again

and in this face she sees the excuses and the weak blood

of people she knew and loved and she sees the strength and the fire

of which she has none, as if she caught a glimpse of who she could have favored

and then it was removed, blotted out in a great gush of time and immobility

a few years ago she had suffered under an illusion of being on the cusp of something, finally

after years of working toward it, many hours, lost in pursuit

for a time it helped her to believe she was about to reach this new dawn

until like all the other times, she’d hoped, it was revealed to be no more than potent delusion

and that feeling, when you take the canvas off the future and find

nothing there but the madness of bewitched fantasy

in the hands of one who has become old and wretched in her walk

and you turn around and nobody is there anymore

only the echoes of those who told you, turn away, choose a different path

she would have spoken to her mother and said; You were right …

all the hate you felt, all the bitterness and disappointment, you were right

I did not amount of anything and whilst love should not be based upon

such things, I can see why I held nothing for you, but a wish to remove

my existence from your timeline and walk alone without reminder

of someone you birthed, who gave you only regrets

if you think I do not understand and only feel anger, you are wrong

when you left, I only hated myself and this is how I have always been

hating myself for existing and the way I am

from the time I can recall, I did not fit or understand

it was as if I had only foolishness as my guide and could not

make the right decisions, I longed then to be loved and to take away

the pain I felt ever present in myself like a badly mixed cake

will not rise.

I dreamed then of finding somewhere to be, a place to belong

where being me would feel right and you didn’t lie when you said

I pretended to be anything but myself, in such savage, unrelenting self-hated

I’m sorry what came from you turned into me.

All this is true and now, when it’s all been stripped down

and I stood unable to see, losing my eyesight, losing my courage and my clamor

to a wasting disease that refuses to leave my side

I begged for loyalty and it came, curling itself

around my useless frame until I hardly knew where

I began and it left, in that savage garden

where roses did not bloom and birds did not sing

I flung the doors of the asylum open and asked

what do I learn from standing on this presipice?

where would you have me go? When I never belong

and my trudge through life thus far has been without sense

it has added to the waste I felt about it all, and a long history

of dreamers who end their dreaming in front of walls

staring at bricks thinking something should surely

transform

no, no we are who we are and though we may run and hide

change ourseles and pretend to be what we desired

the truth cannot be avoided, a price is always exorted

I lost those I loved most

I lost the belief I could be loved

the safety we take for granted as children

my invulnerability struck out and destroyed

I knew my own mortality as clear as day

the rent of owing for our lives, that fragile place

where in an instant, all is lost

I never returned from that shore

I am still there, staring at mellow, sinking sun

and my own diminishment

for now I know my end and the dimming of time

I see in this act, the way of things, finally

how easily we fall and cannot get up

the temper of illness refusing to move on

polluting what we once took for granted

and gone is the boon of youth and health

all we believed fervently in

the promises of others, to never leave our side

THEY LIED

now we are alone in that echoing dark place

count the broken vows, the ruined trust

it falls like toxic rain

reminding me of nothing and everything and emptiness

a weak part of me wishes to reach out and cry

don’t, please don’t

but I know the permanancy of fate

where I have led myself in circles, ever diminishing

it comes as no surprise, in a funny way

for all the hard work and the devotion

I was as blind, as I was unseeing

perhaps from the start, born inside out

where everything I felt too much and not enough

my memory fades along with my sight

the thunder in my heart feels like horses are breaking me beneath their hooves

again and again, with each returning gallop

that pain is the only thing, I know will stay

as it was then, in my little room with teddies and demons

where first I felt the fear and the unknown

creep toward me from the outskirts of safety

and this time, I hear my grandmothers voice

she tries to reassure me, all will be well but

she lied then, as she lies now

and all that stands outside is the darkness of coal and memories

and all who comes for me now are the shadows and enemies

for I have passed over to a wasteland of regret

even my words are turning to dust

even my sense has fled

I expect the last thought I will have

as I sink underground, feeling grit in my mouth

is the memory of your kiss and how

for just, that one moment, I believed

this was not my hollow passage

sometimes what you loved the most

is that which kills you cold

for the reflection of it is like a moon

in a dark place

taunting the prisoner

in her opulescence

oh how I hate to know

the lines and whorls of my life like a palm

stretching their futile trajectories like dying stars

wishing never to have been born

Back to life

What is this place that one returns to?

for some, possible, easy even

to put aside a person, shelve them with other memories

like a box of postcards growing yellow

whilst I was always the girl who climbing on top of boxes

found the postcards and brought them down

splayed like restless tarot on my lap

try to fathom, walk back into time

absent people, love letters sent to

girlfriends now married, unrecognizable

childish handwriting, burst of emotion scored in yesterday’s colors

I have always liked stories and wanted

to read the secret histories of those

who would not share them with me

so your letters I had to put

in a green river one by one

for fear if they were not wet and destroyed

I’d read over and over til you came back to life

finding myself

running lonely highway to your home

knocking on your still familiar door expecting to see

your living breathing face, cheeks infused with color

smiling in that way only you did

when I stood before you.

When someone has died

they steal air from the room

leaving behind closed windows

rattling against wind and chill

you have to go in with heavy shoes

make noise, shake cold from your bones

open them wide until pure sunlight

blinds primal darkness

I recall

how your hair looked when

sun stroked it in streams of light

how unbroken perfection of your skin

resembled fruit, summer time and children

lolling about in gardens upsidedown, tongue out

though you were older, I always felt

protective in that way I imagine a parent may

reaching for their child, smelling joy and motion

of their life laid out ahead in patient sillouette

I have always been remote and stood away

from frilled crowd with hidden daggers

content to observe and only participate

in flung arms of dancing and those raw easy things

not requiring sustained inspection

it takes a lot for me to wish

to share myself with another

to open up those parts of me, I struggle to reconcile.

unceasing criticism can close off even the thirsty traveler desperate

to sit by warming fire and stoke shadows to divination.

With you, we were two unsupervised kids

sitting on the dusty floor of my attic

opening boxes of memories with fearless hands

we talked without fear, then as

day began to show her pink slip in sky

I’d take your slim arm and lead you

into my bed where

light enveloped our heads like halos and we tasted the rapture of undisturbed acceptance

see in the eyes of one born of me

part of you

our mingled DNA taking lilac wing

in the electricity of love making

I could smell you on me afterward

and loathe to bathe

stayed writing by the window

watching you cycle away

the strong muscles in your skinny legs peddling like

knock-kneed urchin

turning the corner

always leaving

the circumfrance of you behind

radiating on the road

like a mirage

and in my hair and on my body

a ghost or whisper of

someone absent and close

if I could have kept you safe

or stopped time

but the heart is a closing flower

once damaged she ushers her dancers

fold into velvet, trap the dream

we were strangers, then siblings

of sorrow and laughter

like night and day play

on the fringe of their fading

your dusky skin against my pale

never enough time

to say what I wanted to say

in language untranslatable

to mortal minds

we existed as pollen

carried on high wind will

strike new life into that which sleeps

drousy and given over to liquid day

and I have never returned to that place

without a throat full of pain

wanting to call your name

hear your return

the indent of your existence

anything but

silence

December

The bells of the church rung

He said it’s why he didn’t turn back

That and blossom in the thimbling trees so early

He believed in signs and symbols, so did I

Before I was grown and knew the torn things inside

He was the boy who learned on me

I gave what I could, but kept two things to myself

My secret was, I wanted a child

My sin was, letting him take you back

Standing fighting at the top of his marble stairwell

Smelling of his mother’s perfume and congealed cough sweets

I saw myself falling, pinwheel, before he cast me down

The imprint of his reedy hands, a daisy chain around pale throat

His child in my swelling belly, with eyes the color of regret

He said it was an accident, I felt his hate as I lost my balance

Jabbing me in the back with whisper and sharp intention

Get it out, get it out, get it out

He didn’t know the truth of us, my child and I

She wore silver bells around her neck

And in his mother’s sea blue bathroom of mirrors

I stood watching the rapture of your being, take me over

And in the night, your father tried to tear you gone

With his thrusts into me like a spear and a blunt knife

Still my child you held on

Staring through my eyes at me when we were alone

I could hear everyone’s comments before they spoke

If you have that man’s baby, you’ll be shunned

And alone was really alone. Still I thought

I am not a warrior, but I would fight for you, daughter

Quickening in me like a secret slipstream of language

I felt our connection, you were more than blood and sinew

I watched my burgeoning figure, as I removed my clothes

Thin and narrow, except where you were taking form

Stepping into the bathwater, I felt something cry and give way

And the bath became blood

Hot water on, with the door closed and locked

Your father saw water running on the tiles in the hall

All pink and gorgeous

He broke the door down and saw me sleeping in gore

All pink and gorgeous

In the hospital they whispered words of relief

She’s so young, so petite, it was a mercy and a blessing

Any more blood and she wouldn’t have made it

They didn’t see your father’s fingerprints or where

He cut you out with the slow deliberation of an absent butcher

The whoosh and hiss of hospital machinery

The soft whisper of pretty nurses shoes sliding on lino

Your father watching over me, the violence still marked on his face

When we got home, the taxi driver said; take care you goofy kids

Your father dosed me with pain killers and turned his raging back

I saw the emploring milk leaching from my breasts for you to drink

And it was red

I felt the sting of your vanishing scraped dead from myself

My stomach still swelled with your ghostly outline

Your father moved in his wrath lain sleep and mounted me

I said; I’m hurt, it’s too soon, oh God!
But God refuses sinners and pearls

You were gone so you could not speak too

And your father dove into places raw, stitched and mourning

With his eyes closed he imagined nothing and saw nothing

With his fists closed he rose above me in darkness like a wraith

Not touching the spilt evidence of you

Not realizing he was slick with blood and tears bound in a girl

Till morning when he washed you off and with it, me

As I lay in the stained bed with my nightdress hitched around my wrung neck

Feeling the milk in my breasts, the wetness of your ever spending

Feeling the tether from you to me and back again neverending

Your father went on to conquer worlds with a rod

A rich man with the same long fingernails and sharp soul

He calls me once in a while

Tells me I’m still beautiful

And if I saw him, he would bring harm

So I keep us safe and I see no one

As we sit on the balcony and I imagine

You’d be tall and you’d be beautiful like climbing honeysuckle

Because you are my daughter

We raise our glasses to your December birthday and 27 years

And your father he cannot attend our moments together

He may hurt us again, he may seek to take you away

He stays in his apartment in the city and grows richer

On weekends he chooses whores that look like I did

When I was just a young girl

With hair down to my bottom and no breasts to speak of

He had me before I ever menstrated so we thought

You could not exist

It was true, you did not

Home from the hospital with a pad of loss between my legs

But that was a fall I can still feel in my displaced bones

Seeing the future with each tumble, seeing his fists open and close

Alone now and you have been dead 28 years almost

And I light a candle

For what I was not meant to have

Though I would have loved you so

And I do

You speak to me when I sit by myself and the night is quiet

You tell me not to be lonely though it is impossible

I smile at you because that’s what mothers do

Spare their children

Any pain

Papier-mache

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They said, keep the blinds drawn, what we have to say, isn’t good

they lay her down on a white sheet and beneath, the hammered metal hummed

the bulb in the middle of the room, behind linoleum, sung a hissing song

their white-coated pluck and scratch, indifferent and sterile, she was just, flesh and blood

another in a long line of patients who, largely were forgotten, consumed by a machine, uncaring of individual

she could feel the dried corners of her eyes crack, as she looked left and right

someone once told her, adult survivors of abuse, find it hard to relax

they are always looking for what is crawling out of cupboards

she didn’t want her past to run her future, but now it seemed, her future was in doubt

never before had she felt so alone

the petty bravery of moving countries, seemed a facile thing, for children who didn’t yet know, true terror

surely it is easy to be brave when you have no war, and are just posting letters

she lived like that for so long, running from childhood’s sadness, enjoying the wide open space of adulthood

thinking she had all the time in the world, surely growing older was for another life

it wasn’t entirely selfish, she did her part, but there was always the tendency to want to make up for the past, by living without a care

and then it was no longer that way

impossible to ignore, unable to let go of, she was swiftly consumed and irrevocably changed

even if tomorrow the cloud lifted, she would never walk as lightly as she used to

the power of naivety, ignorance is surely, our dearest friend

now her heart beat fast all the time, unable to still, the surge of emotions inside

she was a rabbit in her burrow, smelling fox

she was no longer the quick silver of a girl, without terrible knowledge

days were unbearably long, and serious, like the frown on an old man’s face

they spoke of compromise, a series of steps, faltering and bursting apart and trying over

it was as if all of her was removed and pummelled into earth and made to rise again

never was it more silent, never did she wish for the phone to ring and something to let her out of the nasty trap with jagged mouth

words are just words, she could have said; I am strong, I am going to fight, but in the next breath she may

simply not be able

and that lack of, that inability, like a prison, or a sudden dismemberment, was, a kind of horror she’d never been creative enough to imagine

like being stolen from yourself, and hearing in the distance, the sound of children dancing

to your favorite song

if life is indeed a battle, she thought, this is where I need to buckle down

put aside my tendency to want to climb out of the window and skip the lesson

stifle the longing to run fast, in the opposite direction

everything so far, had brought her to this point, it wasn’t what she’d imagined

instead, she’d hoped by now, she’d have found her groove, begun as humans tend, to build her fortress

it wasn’t time yet, it wasn’t nearly time yet

and all the days she’d squandered, thinking there would be more

all the long drawn out machinations, to position herself and be ‘responsible’

denying the lustre of living

she’d put off joy so many times, in favor of ‘sensible choices’

where were those now? She berated herself for not having taken

more vacation, more experiences, that glass of wine, danced on that table top

she worked for a future, she may never get to experience, sure she felt bitter, angry at her lack of insight

though most believe, we’re never ready for bad news or, the fall of favor

we think we predict worst case scenario but that’s only an anxious mind

seeking to control the uncontrollable and unknown

nothing prepares you for a premature curtain fall

nothing shores you up to deal with catastrophe

we muddle through or we give up

those are the only two ways we journey

when the wet-ass hour comes tolling

she felt a grief for her bad choices and wished, like others she could have no regrets

it is hard not to regret when you’re cut off from everything

difficult to look forward when the present is biting at your ankles

she wasn’t one to pray for herself

but she did now

she prayed for the strength she felt she didn’t have

she prayed not to feel so isolated

cried thinking of how many before her, went through this darkness alone, their hearts aching to be cared for

she was a little girl again, looking for her mother beneath furniture

seeing her in album covers and from the top of buses

that woman had her mother’s eyes, large and dark

that lady’s figure is slim and reedy like her mother’s was

at night she wanted to feel the way she imagined a child does

put to bed and told, everything is well, you are safe

if she’d had children, she’d be saying it to them now

but life threw her a curve-ball and she ended up reproducing only

empty rooms collecting dust

perhaps it was for the best, now that she’d sunk so low

for how could she care for anyone, when she could not for herself?

if everything has a reason, she wasn’t sure of this

to teach her gratitude? To punish her for lassitude?

if there was a God she hoped, somehow to end her suffering, even by means of eternal sleep

but she felt bad for praying when so many, suffered far worse than her, and how they coped, she did not know

only that she had to try each day to keep going, in what direction was unclear

she wasn’t sure of the sign-posts or meaning, it was too easy to let fear, guide her way

so many things needed to change and yet, she was tired, so tired of fighting and being scared

they say those brought up unkindly, learn to be strong

she didn’t feel strong at all, she felt like only a thin wind, kept her from collapsing

and all her plans were thrown in water, watching the ink bleed out, with nothing left to find, but papier-mache

her grandmother once told her, out of nothing you can build, entire universes

she tried now to imagine a place, where she would be restored

where all the things she still had to do, remained possible

surely you can tell when, the end of the record is over and, it’s about to go quiet

she hadn’t been able to, she’d one day been carrying her dancing shoes, across the newly waxed floor, her eyes feverish with anticipation

and the next, swallowed by sickness, left without curative

only the static of a cold room and a script for patience

she’d been spat out of the system, left to flounder by road-side

how different, she thought, from childhood where, we do everything to protect them from fear

sewing toys that will keep them company at night

mobiles to send them to sleep, songs to ward away nightmares

and at some eventual point, we decide they’re ready for the real world

full of savagery and disregard and people who are supposed to help

but are only doing the bare minimum

is it any wonder we flounder, and miss a step?

looking around in wide-eyed fear

mouthing the unasked question

is this what it feels like, to be real?