Uninterrupted innocence

Kids Jumping into Lake ChippewaPigeon-chested children with streaming noses

dive weightless into still water

breaking circles into smaller circles, rebounding against

sunlight

their laughter feels like a cold hand around my neck

as I imagine their futures

the girl with the black hair, she’ll be raped by her uncle

her mother will tell her, she is a dirty little liar

she will start taking pills at ten and graduate to heroin

when the school counselor asks her, where it all went wrong

she will think of the sunlight through trees

elm, willow, plain oak and cypress

the sound of her unmolested body, falling into water

as if baptized in reverse

the turn of her mother’s neck, in denial

her thick coral lips, mouthing betrayal

my brother would not do that

her own diminishing and the feeling

of wet, cold, bathing suit

sticking

cloying

admonishing

and she will not know, how to verbalize

that separation of self or why

it seemed permissible to sell her body for drugs

let men cut her up, into shards of her former wholeness

like fast food tastes bad

once it has been opened

she does not know, how it stopped mattering

if she protected, those broken walls within her

they were already torn down

that’s what she’d say, if she hadn’t

consumed her tongue and turned it hard

like a cliffs edge seems strong but crumbles

and the counselor, sighs and shakes her head

going home, only to wonder what more

she could do, to reach lost children

and the black-haired girl, gets her fix and slips

once more beneath glassy-eyed waves

this time, she can see herself

her blanched face, her loose fingers empty

letting go of all pain and slipping

like worry beads

deeper and deeper

and if I could, I would

walk backward in time

pluck her drenched and empty

fill her with sunlight and sound

reverberating like a crack in the world

opens and reveals a new passageway

she would come with me into the forest

her younger self remaining

jumping from the jetty with her friends

caught in elasticized moments

too free to escape the laughter

of uninterrupted innocence

Equality

The day I came out … all my girlfriends took one step apart

it can’t be they collectively agreed

she’s too pretty, she’s too feminine, she’s not a dyke she’s one of us

didn’t she enjoy sex with that boy in the garden? you know that party the one where

they turned the lights on and saw them straddled in tall grass?

What happened? Did you get raped? Was it because you grew up without a mom?

What happened? Did you get bewitched? Is she a sorceress? A genie? A devil?

Soon after the invites to go out on the girls-nights

dwindled

the newly minted lesbian sat alone with her shadows and her eye make up

growing stale in their plastic boxes

virile boys wondered why they hadn’t kept her straight

cleavage girls wondered if she had looked at them in the shower the wrong way

why didn’t you try it on with me? her bi-curious mates inquired, offended

as if loving a girl was loving the entirety of the species and jumping

from trees on the first female she sees, du rigor

sparkly gay boys annoyed her with their primping and their bitching

clique gay girls alienated her with their cold eyes and their own brand of judgement

you can’t be one of us you’re too long-haired, too shiny, too voluminous

they played pool and ground the chalk into the cue with the ire of exclusive groups

who don’t want those ill-fitting and new

soon she began smoking things in glass tubes because

only the druggies the desperate and the dead would let

her be

and on occasion when she was really crushed into ice and fire she’d try to cure herself

with someone unknown and faceless, grinding down with fervor and lust

neither of which she ever felt

like a poison the awakening was not Kate Chopin but

a black box with no lock and no key and still no way out

her family said …  well we always knew you were obtuse

liked to stand out, be different, not fit in, it started with

left-handedness in the cot

we just hope you won’t try to give us grandchildren

think of the shame, think of their difficult lives and step away

she didn’t even have love so how was she going to fill her womb?

at a club a gay man pushed her against a greasy wall and said

there’s something molten about you girl, you’re not gay you’re a hot bitch

and his erection pressed into her dress like a knife

you’re not supposed to want me, she whispered as he pushed harder

you like boys not girls

boys will like anything given a chance, he replied, staining her with ammonia and denial

walking home one night a homeless man grabs her from the bushes

holding a blade to her neck he tries to impregnate her

she thinks

careful what you wish for

as the slice of him burns her empty

the officer at the hospital while they gather the rape kit

all the swabs like brushes with unwilling paint

told her; try wearing pants not skirts

you’re too beautiful it is like a flower

the bees will come if you let them

and she wondered, how is walking down the street permission?

well it’s your life style you see, it causes problems

how would anyone choose a life style of alienation?

you’re good-looking enough to get a lawyer, he winks

before leaving her naked beneath paper gown

blood on her thighs, horror in her throat

to consider and condemn

herself

this is the life line of a girl who wasn’t linear

or bold or normal

or able to run with the swarm

she almost

tried to set herself on fire

to become one of those paper lanterns

lifting off the water into inky night

there were no hands to press her back to earth

they had been crossed and turned away

she didn’t fit into what they expected

what they needed her to be

were it not for you

with your wings and your fearlessness

on the day you told her

it’s okay not to be a stereotype

not every heterosexual woman will treat you like

you’re going to molest her

nor every straight man try to

put his hands beneath your panties

not every gay woman will

scorn your existence and push you to the corner

nor every queer boy loathe you

for being prettier than he

there are among us you said

people without definition or binary

who exist on the periphery of distinction

and we

will not

let you down

she wished she could tell

the pretty girl she tried to befriend who

always treated her different because she thought

you want me don’t you? you desperate lesbian

if you think you are free of bias and you believe yourself unjudging

stop and think about what you do unconsciously

with every favor to others over me, reminding

I have less worth

that is what happens without words without governance

the mistreatment almost invisible

like a paper cut

hurting more than it should

for the side-ways slice of discrimination is

often deeply sewn

wake up

wake up

she could be

your daughter

your best friend

careful how you step on this earth

without much you can

crush the fragile who only need

your equality

Mental Health Month #Day 7 “Rape”

Rape isn’t a subject people talk about very often. Sadly it’s a subject people joke about quite a bit.

The first time I heard a rape-joke I didn’t get it. It was too disgusting to ‘get’ and I am glad I didn’t. Everyone else did though and they all laughed. At the time I didn’t think how someone sitting there who had been raped would feel, but statistics tell us, that likelihood is quite high considering that 80 percent of rape goes unreported and even the reported numbers are staggering.

How a rape joke could hope to be funny, baffles me, but it maybe is more telling of our society as a whole, that we can laugh at true misfortune and tragedy. That’s not gallows humor, that’s just sick.

Rape is never funny. Rape is never something that doesn’t matter. Perhaps if we acted like it mattered more, those who were rape survivors would not be more subject to a plethora of mental illness.

That’s why rape is a subject this Mental Health Month. Because the link between rape and mental illness exists. Rape can among other things, be a cause or contributing cause or exacerbation of; PTSD, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Depression, Phobias, Suicidality and Suicide, Cutting/Self-Harm and many other conditions.

We’ve talked in earlier posts about how that doesn’t diminish the very real and medical ‘illness’ of mental disorders, and just because an act pushes someone toward feeling a certain way, does not decrease the legitimacy of the illness part of any mental disease. Illness can and is caused by trauma, and there are few things more traumatic to a girl or woman (or boy or man) than rape.

Perhaps though there is one thing worse and that is not being believed, or the act of rape being diminished or ignored.

I hope most of you have watched The Hunting Ground, a documentary on Campus rapes here in America, but if you have not yet, and you have children, know college age kids, or people who work on campuses, it is compulsory viewing not to be missed.

Ultimately the numbers of rapes committed in any situation are underreported, under prosecuted, and not punished. Some judges do not believe a rapist should go to jail. It is often said ‘but he’s such a good boy and he has his entire life ahead of him’ and this stands as a perfectly reasonable explanation for not giving a rapist a harsher sentence.

The other big let-down as far as rape in the legal system goes, is that rape has a statute of limitations and thus, if five years pass and you do not report your rape you are not protected under the law anymore and cannot prosecute your rapist. This is not true for many other crimes including murder, and financial embezzlement. In other words, you can prosecute someone for stealing from you years later, but you cannot prosecute someone for raping you after a certain time period. Great message you’re giving the survivor!

In the interest of fairness, it should be pointed out this exists because the likelihood of having proof after five years is diminished and it is to protect those falsely accused many years later. But that relies upon a significant swath of false accusations and assumes that proof must exist to punish a rape rather than taking the word of the survivor. Therein lies the rub. It is a difficult subject to prosecute when it’s one person’s word against another and historically women have not been believed over men who were upstanding and respected in the community. So if you’re a prostitute and you are raped by a politician, don’t expect anyone to believe you.

Maybe we cannot do enough about this to change it entirely, but speeding up the rate of prosecution cases, ensuring all rape kits are tested (when so many lie untested due to lack of funding) ensuring the survivors are not ‘blamed’ during their legal ordeal, and educating everyone about the low figures of false reporting, may make some difference.

As with anything we can find examples of those who cried wolf, but that is literally true of anything human. It is singular to rape survivors that they are accused of ‘making it up’ as if everyone involved knows of 1000 x cases of liars who pretended they were raped for whatever gain. We should as we do with ‘innocent until proven guilty’ assume someone is likely to be telling the truth when they pluck up the courage and report being raped. If nothing else, something is wrong.

No more so than on campuses across America today, where so many young people are raped and do not report it knowing it will not go anywhere, or do report it and find those who raped them are not penalized sufficiently because they are a star football player. This inequality of punishment needs to be eliminated because what you are effectively saying is, you are not worth as much as the rapist or we do not believe your rape mattered enough to punish this person.

Sometimes I have heard people say ‘she’s too ugly to be raped she must be lying’ and awful things like that. I had one person told by a police officer that because she admitted she was gay, she had obviously chosen to ‘try the other side’ for the night when she was dragged along the street at night and raped by a stranger in an abandoned warehouse. Sure. She wanted it.

Seeing why people who survive rape, are at high risk for some kind of short-term mental illness or at high risk for exacerbating a pre-existing one, is obvious when you look at the details of what someone really goes through. The aftermath of rape is nearly always the worst part. We need to bring our ability to empathize and our compassion to the table and treat all rape cries seriously.

I have worked in two Rape Crisis Centers and the second one I worked in, only prosecuted a handful of cases via the authorities, due to the enormous back-log of DNA testing (rape kits) and the desire of the authorities to plea deal rather than prosecute. Let us not forget a plea deal is often a free pass for a rapist and his offense is often knocked down to a smaller crime that will not indicate to someone looking at his record, that he is a serial rapist. Typically those who rape do so again and again, so if we do not incarcerate them, reeducate them and rehabilitate them if possible they will go out and do it again.

Likewise those who are beyond our help are still let out onto the streets along with paedophiles whom they know will re-offend it’s just a matter of time. How does this happen? How can we justify this?

For those survivors who tell others that they were raped, it is on our shoulders to be as supportive and gentle as possible with someone who confides in us. So often rape is a subject of humor and fun making and there is literally, nothing funny about rape.SAAMP2017 (SM)7

https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/

https://www.rainn.org/

National Sexual Abuse Hotline: 800-656-HOPE

How to respond to a survivor: https://www.rainn.org/articles/how-respond-survivor

 

https://mirrorwithoutglass.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/mental-health-month-day-7-rape/

Stillborn

thFrom Germany to Australia your parents fled

the brush of taint

your mother a beauty

your father with only enough room in his heart

for singular devotion

when she died, cut down by trolley car in front of you

aged six, catching the splatter of her broken skull

he took you into his bed to make up for her absence

you grew wan on divulgence of sin

til neighbors found out and your doors were broken

three men in uniform standing around the bed

get out they said

the smear of their inferred condemnation thick in your ears

like river mud swallowing you up among grubs and slugs

who blames a child for her abuse?

those who know nothing of truth, shining their finery with glass

you walked the line all the way to a foster home with metal teeth

thrown out at 17 for falling in love and shaming their Baptist ideals

as you and he prepared to marry he rode his bike in the night to pick up

his mother’s narrow ring

skidding on freak ice on the way back his head caved in like an exploding star

you stood at the altar alone waiting

impatient clock showing

he will not attend

afterward with nothing, there was no reason to stay

someone said like they do before you pass 20

let’s go to India

so you packed up your emptiness, put your leather sandals on

high in the Himalayas you caught the fever and nuns with tight wrapped mouths

whirled with lines and decay

nursed you as you slipped in and out of consciousness

liquid and sorrow pouring from you in bucket loads

a miracle! they announced when clawed your way back

what did you have to live for? being the whispered irony

and there, in the desolation of knowing nothing you walked

kept on walking until your feet blistered and your soul took flight

in the low hanging mangrove trees

where at night the shadows looked like an epiphany and you decided

I will return to my native land, the one of my ancestors

you wrote a distant aunt, she replied; come to the black forest we have

mud that will cleanse you of your sorrow and broad-shouldered men

Germany with its fairy tale castles and starched people rolling their own

you clambered over your wreckage, beginning again as only the young can

a flutist falling in love with your dark eyes and shiny thick Germanic hair

a marriage led to loneliness, he toured, you waited, touching his absence

with lightest fingertip

until it seemed being without him, would fill you more than staying put

traveling to Greece alone, you burned and burned and burned

turning yourself into oak

a waiter slept in your bed and kept you cool

against the battering murmur of sea tapping at french windows

life grew inside of you

when you took your first real job in London’s garish metropolis

heaving with anticipation and empty suitcases of hope

your daughter gave you the first peace you ever knew

a perfect child with a little mouth and large eyes

your Greek baby she lay in the curve of your hips smiling

and you breathed, deeply, and slow

like a long traveled bird finds purchase and easement

on empty shore

she, with her little tiny fingers and little feet

died of crib death just as

a match can be blown out never to

be re-lit

feeling like she hadn’t existed and she couldn’t be gone

here was your second decade of sorrow

etched between your fine eyes and deep clavicle

WHY? was not a word you used

absent of all

living only because your chest deemed it necessary to rise and fall

in time to your still-born ache framed

in reluctant silver requiring continual polish

you wanted to hurl yourself out of existence

yet you flourished as if life had said

we have taken and now we nourish

you grew successful, wealthy, every night you tucked yourself up

alone in a singletons bed

until the smell of the sea on the shores of Australia called you

it’s been eighteen years and it’s time

to come home

passing over Sydney Opera House you saw

the curve of sky and water meet

something within you released

he seemed to be waiting in the first corner you turned

as if always there, just ready to reveal

his promise to stay

with time they say pain subsides

which you know isn’t quite true

though love can keep together broken halves

by its stubborn hold on people who

would otherwise fracture and become

light on water skimming surface

it was not fair,  it was not right

now you are back in your homeland where

you began and will draw to a close

I hope

with the knowledge that even lives

built on pyres can hold

depths we release like night birds

flying unseen

overhead

And burn their house down

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Her legs were her best feature

so they told her

pinching her bum as she climbed shag carpeted stairs

hauling more baggage than they’d ever have

oh and your throat of course

chuckle, chuckle isn’t that funny?

deep throat, get it?

no … not really

too polite to declare (curtsy)

but what if you did? Respond as you would if

truth led you by the mouth, clip, clop

neigh brey shake your tail paw the ground with hoof

sore and gaping and verbose in mauve and yellow

like a gypsy sacked from her tent

runs like a red brand through black and white trees

will she end up raped by the side of the road?

eventually selling herself by the truck-load

with eyes glazed over from too many mouthfuls

there’s only so much you can take

a tipping point lives inside everyone

like a secret metronome

ticking away, ticking down, ticking sideways, an itch never relieved

until earth and sod and mud and weeds land heavy and wet

on wood (four coffin bearers, bow their heads)

she hears them making a fuss downstairs

(the sound track is The Moody Blues)

who will go first?

me! first is best! the little one says

he’s got a big mouth that one and a small …

well no surprise there (audience laugh)

yeah but you can warm her up for me!

the one who enjoys pain reveals

when do I get a turn? says the last one

who is always too fast too soon too distracted to …

see her staring at the ceiling counting down

tick toc tick toc goes her life blood

here the vein here the slice here the fall

blue is the marigold dipped in the ocean

why does she bled so? When did she stop being closed?

She was never really shut, she was open all hours

flung wide by the longing of the sky to see her enact a star

spread white and glowing she longed for black skies to swallow whole

every last molecule

there’s blood in the bathroom! they all cry (exit stage left)

where could she have gone?

how did she survive the loss of so much blood? The little one said

roll over roll over so they all rolled over and one fell out

there were two in the bed and the next one said …

you see her now

she’s that motion in the corner of your eye, a cataract in full bloom

dropping by the highway like a midnight flower

speeding cars track her fade but they cannot see for their faces are made

of metal and plastic and rubber and gasoline

and she is made of earth

and she is gone to earth

and she is in the earth

away from the three little pigs

who kindle themselves into a fury

and burn their house

down though it is made

of brick

Stigmata

 

093c3ac60161fdab3e0a048f7e5ccf6cThe day they pricked paint into her back

permanent and violet

she grew a lotus mandala

lending a little stigmata wisdom

to the thin bones of her grow

for she didn’t know that year

whether to follow sharp train tracks and disappear

into the woods not to be discovered

or walk into winter blizzard

feeling her way through to

imposing red bricked hospital

sagging against its frame like

an auburn flame caught in globe

shaken from foothold

placing her wet gloves on chaffing radiator

tell the patient man behind his mahogany desk

littered with prescriptives for disease of the mind

I am not well I am not well I am not well

you must take me from my freedom and tie me up

in a satin bow atop a new gift of hope

somewhere I cannot think or pass

in my mouth the marble and coinage

of my jailer

 

if she had let herself fall then

with his regard whiskering her lament

and plummet like a fire consumed comet

for the first time without control just

the ember of her flaming skirt searing

a series of interrupted tap dances

spanning shortened  life

in the direction of diminishing

sticky mouthfuls of sweet jam taken in dark

tap tap tap tap

braille, wittled cane, white and wooden

hers was the fear of generations

her grandmother, her grandfather

laid to rest in sweet meadow of

Mont-Ventoux, beyond lavender fields

where their metallurgic table of elements

could rest from unquenched desire to end

take your medicine

euthanize the unrest

let the sleep of the dead

usher silence in prayer robe

when he died

holding his dry paintbrush

when she died

clutching her wet scripture

when their loss mixed in formula

writing her DNA prophecy

she learned to lace up her unease

absenting breath needing not to breathe

not today doctor

not ever

these houses for the poor of heart

medicated, inviscerated, shuffle in

do not come out

 

she left her gloves on the radiator

followed her tracks back through virgin snow

easier when you cannot really see where you go

somehow standing amidst the roar

sea on dry land, oceans in desert flowers

it might take defying your legacy to survive

it might take not wishing to be the next pin to escape

bowled over by shared cross-stitched disease

even the empty

even the weak

 

she got a tattoo of a lotus

on the small of her back

where men had whispered hot and slow

you are slender like a branch

I want to bend you in two as green willow

will not snap

supple in bow, play me never

this girl has forged her symphony war

out of rising in morning, ready to give up

she survived percolating tendency

and the ones who thought her lean

pressing her against shiny coffee tables

unbuckling their murmuring distaste

for respect

thinking her a orfice, a receptacle, alabaster secret

and not a girl capable of swallowing fire

 

they did not believe in signs and wonders

nor warriors who wear no armor

she stands in her diluted ink

she is the beginning, the circular, the ending

of ways we are forced to be

a stain lies on her skin

it feels like an angels imprint

lending courage for the quiet

of soul, who gathers the leftovers

surviving beyond her welt

she is merciful to the meek

as a storm gathering in force, swells against

shore, building momentum

turning the raw belly of sky

monochrome

The waves

12523897_1631510570443424_1060343369498657444_nAll the trees looked away

on raw knees

shingle and sand castles

wet newspaper of old stories

yellow fag butts, half empty cider cans

containing sweet succor

one last piece of chocolate give the child

before she loses herself

her best toy clean from wash

smelling of home and tulips

sea makes ghosts of us

running brine like hot semen

searching fruitless loins

kicking against tin cans

bricks do not prize apart

one wet wall from another

we clamor against ageing need

spill the first glass

pour the benediction

here we leave our umbilical chords for advent

what came to be in deserted fair grounds

gold paint flaking against scarlet mouths

wooden horses rolling their eyes

softly dancing on platforms with scratched song

walk out as far as the pier takes you

he watches from his metal bed

strung with his spot lit horror

thin muscles tight with longing

hips like razors privately digging into

your flailing conception

it’s the price

bed sheets left to rinse out your scream

don’t cut your hair don’t spare your wrists

his was a sharp entry into your sleep

run on water-logged deadened feet

past the chip shop hording its quiet fat

where veiled women stare at first light

breaking over cracked lips the train

crying past in low throated whistle

down damp cobbled steps emptied of market

into space without endings or slow buttons

the sea is white with fury

her mouth mounts your need

swallowing the bitter salt of ragged release

beneath stains we see the outline

here lay the girl who caught a bus

carrying her clean underwear like a flag

climbed into her part as a glove

here she is pinched by her starvation

horror painting her eyes purple

ebbing on tide with scissored legs fighting

their eventual knot a violin played in fire

she opened her flute to high ceilings

reedy sound echoing off salvaged walls

fast fury unzipping protest

be a good child bow your head

stay still when flame chews

stroke the boy who demands

fist around your throat starving

paper ghosts fall into obedient rows

feel the rush of angels in her touch

he said I hope you give decent head

I’ve been waiting to break your alabaster

like new buildings devour old

never knew what stood before

leaving thin pockets full of stones

better swim with indigo weeds

hair imprinting shadows on hot breath

goodbye is hello

you learned hard on scalding youth

taking a straw from a tall glass

sucking it dry

my child is the color of clouds

meeting at the point of horizon

where storms gather to make glass

he indented himself like a tattoo

when she climbed out she could not feel

where he pricked her empty sadness

leaving a colander of spilt torch-light

pent-up boys with dusty souls

touching warm radiators, hanging

apologies on skinny shoulders

sounding against sagging mattresses

one two-three is all it took

a sharp knife cutting the choir

freedom twists at a price

he rose like the swell, filling her

the first time you never forget

they whispered behind sticky fingers

girl pull down your hems

cover your spindle chest

close your legs to the roar

hear the waves

hear the waves overtake you