14 YEAR OLD BOYS AREN’T THE GOSPEL – For Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week (this year the focus is body image)

14 YEAR OLD BOYS AREN’T THE GOSPEL

The year we held a Madonna competition I was flat chested
Boys said; Asprins on an ironing board
Girls said; You can’t dance with us
The exclusion felt … hot pink and slimy
I wore black elastic bands on my wrists to hide the snub

The year he asked me out because Zoe had said no
He said; Zoe is taller than you, you look quite SQUAT
He said; Zoe has tanned skin, why do you always BURN
He said; You give good head but it’s a shame you aren’t Zoe
I threw up in the bathroom to hide the shame

The year my best friend taught me how to binge and purge
She said; You’ll soon have a waist as small as mine
She said; When you feel sad put your fingers down your throat
She said; Skinny is the new superpower for girls
I quit dance class because I didn’t have the energy anymore

The year I tried to stop giving a shit
I said; Fuck it. I’m me. I can’t be anything else I WAS BORN THIS WAY
I said; I may never love myself enough but I’m damn well not going to destroy me
I said; Hate the image in the mirror, at least love the inside
I said; Someone will always want to put you down, don’t give them the power

The next year I still didn’t wear bathing suits, I still walked with my shoulders rounded
But I didn’t have raw knuckles and I didn’t survive on the opinion of 14 year old boys

A decade later at an art show we meet again, he’s going bald
He said; You look fantastic. I don’t remember why we broke up
He said; I always thought you were the hottest girl in school
He said; Want to fool around behind this Van Gough?
I quit listening and wished I’d learned not to at 14.
What you think is important then, usually is not.
Try to love who you are. Perfect is an illusion and 14 year old boys aren’t the gospel. We don’t all have to be Zoe.

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Mental Health Awareness Week

She doesn’t look sick…..

She isn’t sick.

But a black hole is eating her from the inside out.

The devour has no real description

It defies the usual ones, it has a wider mouth, deeper jaw, longer bite

The thing of it is .. the shame .. that’s the worst part

The little voice which sometimes sounds like your mother and sometimes sounds like every voice that ever said; What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you snap out of it?

Sometimes … a day will be piercingly beautiful … like the most beautiful song you ever heard and every sense will be electrified

And still you will long to fall on the ground sobbing

If they saw you they would ask; What’s wrong? It’s a beautiful day! Why can’t you appreciate life! Are you ungrateful?

And you would nod your head and admit; Yes I must be ungrateful. How else can you explain it?

For those who believe in God, you feel stricken, maybe you feel God is punishing you for some transgression with the black dog who never leaves your side

If he does leave then you know he will return and it is just a false waiting game, a pose of chess pieces with their fates already inscribed

They talk about other things that matter and feel empathy, sympathy

But when someone has a mental disease they are considered weak, inferior, selfish, inadequate

Wherever you go – there you are

Sometimes you wonder why it is you can write so much in November and nothing through July.

As if a giant claw had possessed your feelings and sank its nails deep into your marrow

When you date people you feel as if you should come with a disclaimer;

I may look pretty, I may have qualifications and a clean house, but beneath this surface please note … I am subject to changing and crying when the sun shines for no discernible reason

Sometimes in the middle of a party you want to run away from the crowd and bury your face in the grass out in the forest – feeling more alone than if you were locked underground in a prison cell

Often there is absolutely no way of describing this so you simply do not and that sets you apart as someone who carries a dark feeling without a voice

Occasionally someone will remark on the sadness in your eyes and you will smile as hard as you can to dispel it because it feels like a giant stain that everyone could see

If they cared to

Many times in subtle ways people will show you that they think you are weaker than them in the little methods of selection and choice

Family will condemn you and sharpen the quill when you are down because it is easier to kill a deer when it has fallen

You try to be grateful and you are, but it never seems so in the midst of sadness because sadness will devour any gratitude whole

And lovers will tell you … you’re not even happy to be with me are you? And you want to say, oh yes I am! But the sadness will envelop your voice and they will leave you … disappointed

There isn’t a week of mental illness, there isn’t a day for depression. There are years upon years upon years

And little adverts on TV about “If your current anti-depressant isn’t working considering taking (and paying) for another one to boost it!” Just fill you with impotent rage.

Often, you feel you are not worthy simply because you are depressed, it is a stigma that invades every aspect of your being, you believe you are not worth the same as others because of the darkness you carry around on your back

In the early morning when you lie in bed and the first rays of sun come through your window, you may forget who you are, and decide you are not going to be labeled or given a description, you are going to be

free

and that may last a while until the next time you feel like blowing your brains out

and then it’s the greatest betrayal you ever felt and it seems as if you do it to yourself

like a hand inside a black velvet glove

stroking dreams until they grow cold

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

The song of rape

It took one finger to break into her

one finger to make her feel violated and dirty

two to make her scream

the boys laughed afterward mockingly

why you so upset girl? we didn’t deflower you

you should thank us bitch

or maybe we should just do what we came here to do

they pinned her down, her tights stretched between her legs

like her fractured hymen

she saw the beginning of tears and inside felt

the raw and hurt center cry out

don’t come back don’t ever come back

they were only eleven years old

lying on the floor in the outside toilets

staring at the stars hardly there because of all the smog

her lungs filled with hurt

they were her friends

until they became rabid dogs

she didn’t know what switched the switch or why

they felt she was there to poke and prod

they were too small and she was too small and everything about it

was premature

which meant

waiting until it happened again

she wasn’t a victim but some things reoccur

as if on some awful cycle

sometimes she’d shudder thinking about

their little hard cocks

trying to pry their way in

the way it felt to be hurt like that

with unwashed fingers scrabbling and opening

the parts of her nobody should

she could visualize the cement beneath her

the smell of urinals and their unwashed genitals

if they had known enough to put them in her mouth

they would have

thankful for small mercies she knew

kids these days wouldn’t be so innocent

they see porn before they know how to spell

pornography

what ideas they must get and how

many bad things go on behind closed doors

or even ones held shut by little boys

seeking to immitate older brothers

she would have impaled them with

her rage if she wasn’t so ashamed

so she said absolutely nothing to anyone

least of all the teachers who would have

called her a slut who asked for it

even at eleven years old.

***

When she reached fourteen

the Golem returned

held her down, muffled her mouth

stuck it in like a needle threading through skin

her scream pierced every limb

and nobody heard

nobody wondered why

she wasn’t home for dinner

her plate was left in the fridge

she was emptied of the last piece

of her soul

left gasping where her privacy had been

legs spread and men hustling in

one after the other took their turn

after all wasn’t it a party? Make it count!

her face closed off and remote like she was dead

some of them were small and bony

their penises hardly large enough to feel

between the soreness and the swelling

others bore into her like a metalic truck

thrusting her back onto her thin tail bone

hands around her neck

fingers pinching her nipples and breasts

they filled her with a disgusting smell

she was never going to be whole again

or clean

and when it was over, it had just begun

face after face, cock after cock

a tape on repeat of her worst nightmare

they came, they came and they went

the only evidence there staining the bed

and her rubbery legs unable to flee

tied and sodomized like a string of beads

she flew out of her crumpled body

a bird of wing and feather only

she saw someone she almost recognized

torn and ribboned and splayed

a garish doll, a parody, a destroyed shape

someone she was no longer

as she lifted, higher and higher, beyond that point

no pain anymore just the thick blush of shame

hidden in plumage

she felt nothing but

a choking word on her tongue

WRONG

WRONG

WRONG

her child’s form

her hardly grown self

the silence of nothing

then it did not matter

what time she wasn’t coming home

all the world was quiet now

movement had stilled

the door was shut

nobody knocked

nobody unbuttoned their pants

and sank to their knees

lifting her up for one more final

free fuck

as if she were no more than a hole

not a human

not a worthy soul

immitation the greatest form of flattery

is not

she was cold now to the touch

her spirit somewhere in the stars

it took one finger to break into her

and a record set on repeat playing

over and over until it scratched

and could not play

anymore

the song of rape.

For all the survivors whose voices are quashed.

The look in their eyes

Walking around, you don’t even need to convince yourself you’re all right

such is the layer upon layer, you don’t even see, until it creeps up and then

blocking out the sun, darkness invades sight and everything is at once, changed.

I am standing beneath awning, the sun is nearly out, it’s a windy day and the chimes in the back garden keep a steady sound

as I have always been, I am attached but not part of, another dynamic, a family with their own ways of doing things

I bend to learn and listen, I smile when expected, at times I think I feel comfortable with my toes dipped in

he has sorrow etched on his face though he is still young, his eyes betray him and a slight quiver in his mouth when

she clearly doesn’t care

I want to ask her, what happened to cause the rift, but everything is fragile and tenuous as if we are tiptoeing around

a sleeping giant

since childhood I learned to pick up on what to avoid and what to leave untouched, the manners of an outsider

accutely atuned to other people’s needs and emotions

not quite an empath, I can tell when they need time alone, if I should make myself scarce

and all at once I recall, aged eight or so, doing just the same, sitting on a cold flight of stairs for many hours

picking at my shoe laces, tying and untying them, making stories with crumbs and the wrinkles in my joints

hearing their argument echo through the thin door

I am good at placating, massaging egos, staying invisible when necessary and picking up the pieces afterward

her eyes are flashing, she puts on a pair of high heals and I can tell what she is thinking though she would never say

she wants to run and pack a bag and leave and find someone else, anyone else

and his need is as palpable as paint vapor, she is strangled by it and her own indifference

I want to ask; You loved each other once, where did it start to fall apart?

do you think they’d even remember now? Unlikely. Too many years building walls

to keep each other out, they forget in their effort, the beginning of them and how

happy they looked in that photo.

I want to tell her, you have everything you need here, I can see it in his movement, it is as if he acts out the ache he feels

I want to tell him, if it’s going to be this way forever, pack a bag, leave before your heart turns to dust

I want to save them and mend them, and make it right

for the sake of the child whose toys we pick up and put neatly away, as if that

will save anything, or stop him from one day remembering

the look in their eyes

Expansion

Gaining weight used to feel

dangerous

body parts blowing up, smothering familiarity

she wanted to be in control of everything and nothing could be controlled

so she took what she could instead …

her own flimsy pounds of flesh

the shrinking and expanding of time

denial and suppression, weezing like old men

enraptured by ballet dancer who starves herself to death

if she ignored her bodies longing to transform, she stayed small

and boys could circle her waist and say; you haven’t changed a bit! She could believe the lie and retrace time

could still be a slip of a girl, wearing her old clothes from when she was free of the demands of adulthood and blood, blood that did not rinse clear even when scrubbed

and this she did, for far too long, for fear of else

for what more was she? Not a mother, not since hurtling down the stairs, pushed by love, she saw her baby break into knots of placenta and gore

now not sure of whom she had become, in absenting herself it was easier, to dwell in the old shell and not

expand

comfort in knowing one’s exact circumfrance

and how it would feel to place a hand upon her flesh

a control without anything behind it, empty strawman, left without match to kindle, burn and diminish

she stayed the same whilst the rest of the world changed

grew wider, grew taller, grew inside and out

she was a fascimile of her damp past

it wasn’t until a sickening reduced her to almost empty

where she rattled and she clacked and she was hollow cheeked and pigeon chested

then her heart flickered on and off and she knew

the danger of staying still, was too great

she ate, though the taste was gone and appetite nil

outgrowing her own well known shape, she became something new

it was a frightening feeling to find what she would be

now that she had turned the corner and let the adult in

would she be like her mother with tiny little legs and arms?

or more of her father’s broad shoulders and freckled stomach

she was nobodies lover and nobodies mother

it hurt to cut herself out of the place she’d been so long, though long stale

and try to break out on her own, one unfamiliar piece at a time

in the bath she would gaze at her new body

bearing the marks of where she had visited

the underworld and the center of the sun

burning and drowning simultaneously

Her chest resembled the teets of a tiger, her thighs wide and strong

Readied to climb mountains, burst dams, forge expectancy

nothing else seemed important least of all

if she fitted into or fitted out of

the places she used to belong

this was a new version

she was going to gain more

than mere pounds and stone

she was going to quit starving to remain familiar

and learn the value of expansion

S.O.S.

28514640_10155366958932338_2887770778102742777_o324300484.jpgI wanted to

open my mouth as wide as it will go

no .. even

further

disarticulated and gaping

for maximum sound

a fog horn

and implore you

describing

the itch in my throat

the lump that turns to anchor

pulling me down to ocean floor

no oxygen, just humiliation

It says

Help me

I’ve never asked before

hot-faced and ashamed

I’m all grown up and lost

wandering toward your call

Help me

unpick my mistakes

return to the scattered fold

but every time I begin

something in your tone

heeds a warning

and I go back to

holding in

sore like spring cold

my throat is not meant for singing

it is a lump hardened by knowing

you will not hear.

(After becoming so sick I decided my only option would be to move back to a country with socialized healthcare. I basically said as much to my father, the first time I have ever asked him for help as an adult. I felt so guilty for asking. Some of my pride comes from being independent, not relying upon others. I find it hard to ask. But what was harder was his lack of response. I could blame many things, maybe he was in shock, maybe he didn’t know what to say. But parents are parents for life, if their child at any age needs help, and you know they may not be able to help themselves, I would think most would help them. Now I feel stupid, ashamed and embarrassed for asking. I hadn’t expected too much, just some type of support in moving back, if indeed a way could be found. But he stayed pretty negative, he doesn’t want to make an effort or get involved. I realized then I had long thought family meant we were all in it together, helping each other through this life, but it’s more ‘them’ and ‘me’. If I could, I would help myself. I’ve done it every other time. But being sick means you can’t always help yourself. There is no worse feeling than asking for help after feeling so bad for having to ask for help and then feeling absolutely ridiculous for having asked. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, it’s just challenging because it would be better if I could live in a country with socialized healthcare at this point, being swamped by bills I cannot afford. I suppose like many who do not have that option I will have to find another way. I don’t feel hard done by, I just feel like I don’t have that familial support that I half believed I could have, if I asked for it, that feels very lonely but also I feel stupid, for expecting, or asking anything of anyone, I wish I had the strength by myself but I just don’t).