SAAM Feature 24: Candace

 

The Child Within

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I don’t love you anymore.”

she said to me one night.

That’s how it all began,

the phrase that sent

my ten-year old life

into a downward spiral.

Exiled from our home

one cold December twenty-sixth

my father, brother and I

sought residential refuge

in a rat and roach infested apartment

on the rough side of town.

The seductive dance

of my father’s cigarette smoke

sentenced our lungs

to respiratory complications,

for open windows were forbidden.

The awful memories

that continue to haunt me,

The room where it happened…

“God won’t forgive you.”

he said to me.

“I’m trying to teach you something.”

he told me after many nights

of creeping into my bedroom,

my cries silenced by his brutal slaps.

She did not come to rescue me

but she returned, instead, for my brother.

She knew I had been ruined

and she blamed me for their divorce.

Like a soldier on the frontline alone

I plunged into the world in secret

leaving everything behind.

College was my only way out of

the living hell that was my life.

 

“God, please, make the nightmares go away.”

I’d pray everyday.

What was it that kept

my steps going anyway?

I am the rose

that never blooms

its roots

destroyed by decay.

I am the little girl

trapped behind

the eyes of a woman.

And I, a woman

fear for the safety of my daughter

and greedily guard the love of my husband.

“God, please, make the nightmares go away.”

I continue to pray.

I can still feel his tongue

And his scratchy beard

Violating my virginal youth.

The awful memories

that continue to haunt me

As I hold my daughter close

Promising never to leave her,

never to hurt her

and to love her unconditionally.

What is it

that has replaced my smile?

“God, why won’t the nightmares go away?”

I ask in despair of the seemingly vacant air.

I am the rose

that never blooms,

the broken soul

in need of repair,

the eyes of a child

trapped in the body of a woman.

- 12/20/2008

SAAM Feature 16: Lin

Sidewalk Poem

by: Lin

_

Note from the Author: I wanted to share something I wrote when I returned to the street where I was abducted when I was 12.  I was abducted there,  raped and beat up in a car someplace I could not see.  The man who took me did the same to 16 other girls before he was caught. It was 1976.

I wrote this as my personal declaration when I went back two years ago. I wrote it in yellow chalk on the sidewalk so it would be there forever. When rain erased it, I know part penetrated the earth and made its home there.

I did not come here
so you could tear off a piece of my life
beat the warmth from the smile on my face
still, then silence my voice

I came back to find and embrace
the beauty strength and grace
that is all my own

And to declare:

That I can warm the world
when I smile with my whole body

And I am learning to speak
from my heart without saying a word

I did not come here
so you could tear off a piece of my life

I came to sample the taste of freedom
and know how it feels to be whole

Visit Lin’s blog to see more of her writing: www.dealingwithhealing.blogspot.com

SAAM Feature 14: Laura

Whistler’s Mother at the Farmer’s Daughter

by: Laura Tattoo

Lincoln City, Oregon 3/31/09

 

Always pulling in just before 10,

always on the edge, always phoning

and confirming, yes, we’re on the way,

wait for us, please, we’re just around the

bend between right now and then, we’re

driving fast as wind gusts pummeling glass

and we’re hungry and tired and pressed to

 the max of our endurance, we know

we’re on the clock, we just need a bed

and breakfast, our needs are few but

we require your patience, we’re

old and slow and and one of us is ill

and can’t seem to think out loud when

it comes to packing bags and the odd

stuff it takes for a weekend south of

us where me mum lives all by herself.

 

Now at the Farmer’s Daughter, the hotel

renamed for its Los Angeles twin, and

that is what I don’t get at all, it’s

some kind of joke, right? and yet it’s the

same room as before, a West Bester, a certain

je ne sais quoi, beachy charm and ultradeep

European tub and a porch outdoors where I

can smoke my heart out, and I’ll need it too

because Moineau does not sleep in hotel

rooms, she sits on the bed with the TV on

and sweats, under cover, incognito in a

hooded vest, she’s shy and unassuming,

tries hard not to draw attention to herself

as she shuffles down Hall A to Room 123

but in the end can’t swing it because she’s

Moineau of a secular order, who sings

odd songs in the morning, then acts out

a play with multiple characters and it’s a

sham of a spectacle of a dance with a stranger.

 

Up all night in the streetlights with red-hot

poker eyes, she hears footfalls and wild

animals, she’s shivering frost and then burnt

as toast, what the fuck difference does

it make when you’re shaking in your fuzzy

slippers in the bush, searching the dirt for

your lost little girl and someone shouts,

“Look out below!” and you fall down a rabbit

hole like some paralyzed Alice and you can’t

wake up out of the nightmare you hate and

every time you find yourself in that bitch of a

room, they’re all the same, the kitchen, the

bed, the carpet, and nothing will help, not

warm milk, not chocolate, not spooning in

the bed, no, thank you, no touching, please, i

think I’ll leave my body for a bit and go and

have another cigarette, it’s so hot, isn’t it?

damn, I’m like a lobster in a pot, a sparrow in

a cage, and oh god, the hotel is on fire!

“Just joking,” I say, as you put back the ear plugs

and pull the mask down over your face.

 

Ok, i have to tell you flat out, the bastards had

me on that motel shelf and I became fœtus:

I curled myself onto the center of the bed, no

blankets, sheets wet and just slept and slept

and slept and slept, until one came back in and

said, “I’ve found you a nice place to sleep tonight,

i found you a place, in the bushes!”

 

Suddenly it’s morning, and a wakening light begins

to stream through the long, wide blinds and

gold-yellow curtains, and Moineau knows she’s

survived another night by staying very quiet

and just giving herself over to tv movies and

poems and, even if her cough is bad, heck, even

the cigarettes helped, and somewhere down the

hall a man begins whistling, no tune at all, just

a shrill, long, proud noise, and now, Moineau is

opening her throat, she’s wetting her mouth and

out comes a whistle from hell, and there’s laughter

between us, like, where did that come from?

“Whistler’s Mother at the Farmer’s Daughter!”

and before you know it, there’s a comedy

routine and a crazy song about Willy Nelson on

democratic principles and the weird women who

adore him, and now we’re hysterical, repacking

the bags and eating fruit snacks and checking

every nook and cranny for our socks and cash,

leaving the maid a fat old tip, and then we trip on

out the door until the next time we need dreams

and succor at the Farmer’s Daughter.

 

~ 4/4/09

Lucille Clifton (47)

The last hour is here!!! I am going to near the end this crazy Blog-a-thon with a poem by the lovely Lucille Clifton. This poem is absolutely and utterly amazing.

shapeshifter poems

1

the legend is whispered
in the women’s tent
how the moon when she rises
full
follows some men into themselves
and changes them there
the season is short
but dreadful__shapeshifters
they wear strange hands
they walk through the houses
at night__their daughters
do not know them

2

who is there to protect her
from the hands of the father
not the windows which see and
say nothing__not the moon
that awful eye__not the woman
she will become with her
scarred tongue_who_who_who_the owl
laments into the evening_who
will protect her_this_prettylittlegirl

3

if the little girl lies
still enough
shut enough
hard enough
shapeshifter may not
walk tonight
the full moon may not
find him here
the hair on him
bristling
rising
up

4

the poem at the end of the world
is the poem the little girl breathes
into her pillow_the one
she cannot tell_the one
there is no one to hear _this poem
is a political poem_is a war poem_is a
universal poem but is not about
these things_this poem
is about one human heart_this poem
is the poem at the end of the world

Choices (46)

As I said, I could analyze Terrance Hayes’ poem “A Girl in the Woods,” for hours, but I just want to touch on the very first line. It begins, “Why wouldn’t she have wanted to be there?”

Exactly. None of us can predict the future. Everyone of us has found ourselves in situations that we know were not born of the very best decisions. Each of us has made mistakes. But no mistake, no error in judment, no poor choice warrants a punishment like rape. Sometimes it is comforting to point to a victims choices, but this is only because tragedy begs for logic. If we can place blame, then someone it is easier to comprehend. But that’s the point. This crime is not something that can or should be comprehended in a conceptual sense. And hopefully less of us ever have to understand this reality. But in the meantime, blame should remain where blame belongs. Solely on the shoulders of the perpetrators.

Terrance Hayes (45)

Here is a really important poem to me by one of my all time favorite poets. This poem touches on so many issues that I would like to examine more deeply. But I would like to focus on a common sterotype about sexual assault – that victims should have been smarter or avoided the dangerous situation. In this lyrical yet haunting poem, Hayes shatters this stereotype with truth.

A Girl in the Woods

by Terrance Hayes

Why wouldn’t she have wanted to be there at first,
riding low into whatever song the radio played,
that girl running her nails along the worn backseat

of a Cadillac, beat-up and beach blue
with a busted muffler and fur-covered steering wheel,
that car clamorous and big enough to seem ridiculous

rambling from the high school parking lot
with laughter in its belly: two thin brown boys upfront
and the thin brown girl they’d promised a ride home

rocking in the rearview, music coating their teeth?
She might have wanted to be there because
they were her friends, just as they were mine,

and when their long blue door swung open,
even you might have climbed in and gone smiling
behind their tight-lipped tinted windows,

and you would have had nothing to fear
until they turned from the road and parked in the woods,
as they turned and parked that day where the road was soft:

the brown boys who turned to reach for the brown girl
and coo how she was about to be raped.
They should have known better than to fool around that way.

I remember the way your mother told me to take off
my sneakers and wait for you in the hallway
before our first date, and the sound of her footsteps following

you through a room somewhere in that house
as she warned you against staying out late with a boy like me.
After we’d parked and made love kneeling in the woods,

I laughed and asked you why she had to be that way.
I have thought of your body in the underbrush for year.
And I have thought of the story you told me about being raped.

Because they were my friends, they told me the story
they had promised to never tell: how the girl wept
even after they raised their naked palms, promising

it would be okay. It was a prank, it was a simple mistake.
They should have known better than to fool around that way,
those boys who were not boys, men who were not men,

their narrow veins, narrow rivers
of hunger branching into muscle and skin.
Who made the road leading from the road?

What was the song they sang before turning off?
Who made them stop? Maybe her weeping
made them become themselves again,

or made them something they had not been.
Before they reached her house, each of them trembling,
I imagine the girl drying her face, her mother looking

from the window when they pulled into the driveway.

Building Life from a Flower (42)

Dean Young’s poem “Private Waterfall” is beautiful and powerful on so many levels. But I want to draw your attention to the very last section of the poem:

But remember how it felt to paint a flower,
how a flower was the basic building block of all things:
a hand, a house, a horse, the sun
mommy, daddy, baby, you,
a bandage, a valentine, a flame.
It still is.

There are simple things that childhood teaches us – imagination, sharing, love. Fantasy worlds crafted from a handful of building blocks. Dreams sculpted from a lump of Play-dough. A hand, the sun, a flame – all created from the simple image of a flower.

Throughout the course of this Blog-a-thon, I have been sharing poems from some of my favorite writers. They are not poems about the experience of sexual violence, but they all touch on some similar themes and motifs. What this means to me is that our experiences as human may seem incredibly different, but there are forces that tie all of our experiences together. This is what I mean when I say that rape is not just a personal struggle. It is our community’s struggle. It is our world’s struggle. And once we realize that it is all of our shared experience, we can demand that it change.

Our experiences are all built from the simple shape of a flower. Our lives divisible into basic shared truths. The petals of a flower.

Dean Young (41)

Ok, we’re going to switch back to sharing work by some of my favorite poets. This poem is by Dean Young. For this post, I’ll just put up the poem. Next I’ll highlight some of my favorite parts.

Private Waterfall

by Dean Young

You must be careful eating thorns
not to eat the maudlin fruit.
I find it completely impossible to fear my death
when I’m nauseous
so planes in turbulence, boats in high seas—
no problemo.
But spring drizzle,
a bird mispronouncing my name,
I dive for the shadows
that only have a passing relationship
to what casts them.
Oh no they don’t, little chirrup,
it is shadows that cast the material world.
So okay, maybe they slept together once
when one was very sad and drunk.
You have to be very careful
when you’re sad and drunk
and the river wants you to star in its cabaret
and the artificial flavor factory is concentrating on almond.
You have to be careful
when you’re absently tearing apart a plastic cup
that when you move on to yourself
it’s easier, deckles at the edges
like expensive handmade paper
on which you feel mighty hesitant writing a thing.
Or you could use little scissors to make snowflakes
or a line of deformities holding hands.
I know you were punished when you were young
and that punishment took more and more complex forms
like a single-celled slap in the face
becoming mammalian humiliation
by the same force that led you from finger-painting
to tax evasion.
But remember how it felt to paint a flower,
how a flower was the basic building block of all things:
a hand, a house, a horse, the sun
mommy, daddy, baby, you,
a bandage, a valentine, a flame.
It still is.

Also, my lovely friend Michelle is putting up updates on YouTube about the Blog-a-thon!! So check out her page: www.youtube.com/naturalbells