I can’t remember the last time I wrote a poem. Perhaps I’m a fair-weather friend of poetry. I use it when I need to communicate experiences that can be said in no other way. My last appointment with my counselor, M, was simultaneously liberating and crushing. Although I insisted I never “blamed myself” for the abuse, M carefully pointed out that I did, and still do. I just don’t think of it as blame, I think of it as accepting responsibility for what happened, for failing to stop it. Potatoes pot-taah-toes.
Realizing that I actually carried no responsibility, that I was a child, in no way could I have stopped those more powerful than I, has been devastating. It means there was absolutely nothing I could have done except what I did do – wait. Wait until I was old enough to move on. That hour in M’s office stripped me of both blame and power, real and/or imaginary. Looking back and seeing myself as completely powerless to stop the abuse, the neglect, the times they left the house in the middle of winter with three kids and no heat, is demoralizing. All I could do was wait, subsisting on a diet of peanut butter sandwiches and daydreamed hope.
I long, long ago let go the habit of impatience.
Instead I bided childhood as a quiescent
seed, respiring so slowly
as not to be noticed, as not to be
I waited first for rescue,
for safe arms, a perceptive mind, a beating heart.
Waited for reassurance that the entirety of life would surely not be this bleak.
Failing that, I waited through the slow,
rhythmic waxing and waning of moons,
while notching the walls of my skull,
counting the seconds as they culminated into
apexed, craggy decades
I waited, for the rapid, unpredictable
muscles advancing roaming hands and
black bamboo beating sticks
to lose their youthful tension
I waited, for the venomous, penetrating fangs
of misguided rage to dull with age,
loosen in their sockets,
and fall away
I waited through my own disturbed furies,
quaking hands steadied only with weighted, sharpened steel,
meticulously shaving individual hairs from my skin
while tracing dark arterial lines,
contemplating the minute distance
between hell and silence.
Eventually, I waited for my own memories to grey,
waited for the infected skin to slough off,
waited for the echos of vanquishing diatribes
to lose their shrill dissonance
astonished and alive,
in hallowed solitude and quiet,
for the balming warmth of natural sunlight.