Reflections

There are city-wide blackouts

in the recesses of my brain.

I pedal down the alleys

the dirty wash buckets

thrown out the open windows

above in the low-income housing projects.

These alleys are crowded and huddled

and would seem to be fictional labyrinth

were it not for the telephone wires

connecting overhead, a proof and relief.

A man at a crate, wearing denim overalls and

a red bandana, smiles his drunken grin at me

and scratches his bulbous purple nose, whisking

out a tissue from a bony fist.

He is a hint of someone I remember–someone

watching tiny birds; there is torn leather chair, Old Style beer cans,

a tractor pulling a wagon, a lilac scent

scratched with yeast and rusted nails. This,

I remember, is Pa, his gin-blossom

pressed into the dirty kitchen window

at the farmhouse, watching his hummingbirds

as running grandchildren and his sons

populate the yard.

A Parisian-like corner where some of the alleys meet,

a flower market in barrels and palette displays,

chalk-board prices, plump women in purple fuddled dresses.

This is where I come to remember

how I once loved purple lipstick and pretty things

and how I sang to my great aunts in a big city for quarters.

I choose one of the alleys and pedal my way down.

Their smiles filling me with a comfort-

all those plump, soft, lavender-scented women related

to my grandmother, telling me I sang so beautifully.

“Beautiful” is sort of a stop sign around here, or warning.

The alley comes to a dark end once the word

“beautiful” is ringing in my brain, and I see

the alley is now entirely

blocked by a concrete wall.

I turn my bike away, back toward the brighter

center where the alleys meet, choosing, with “beautiful”

still hanging onto my memory like a stale cigarette,

like a yellow-colored flu stain, to go south.

Southeast–cobblestone and rain puddles, I

see the clouds in their reflections. This alley is

quiet.

I want to turn but the walls on the side

are narrowing in,

my thighs just scuffing the plaster of the walls.

I look forward and it goes on and on

to light then dark, light,

then dark, where unnamed streets cross

but I cannot get to them.

A cracked hand reaches out a glassless

window, and the cold porcelain knocks against my

knuckle. I am picking up speed but I look to see

what it was, and when I face forward,

wobbling, another white porcelain thing—

this one is a doll’s face, white and cracked,

somewhat glued back together. Her

head has holes in it where the doll hair used to

be, and fear fills me as I roll closer, backing on

the pedals,

“beautiful,” she half whispers.

I am in the hallow,

I am in the hallow,

my waking nightmares

and memories–her white face shatters into mirrors

and shoots shards into my entire body. But I have

to get away. I pluck out the glass, all this blood, and

keep going. I know her. I know her.

I break out into blinding white light,

all is soft, the blood has clotted,

and I see what must be

the exit.  Or is it entrance? I am looking for.

I cannot tell but as I pass beneath the linens

hanging overhead across lines strung window

to window, I smell, first, mashed potatoes,

a woman scrapes dirty Blue China Plates

under cool water, and then–sweat—but a sweat a know well.

A young-looking lean man in his mid-forties

crosses his long-legged jeans at the cowboy boots.

His cowboy hat is tipped over to shade large blue-green eyes, asleep

in the shade. I know his chin because it looks like mine. A dimple.

A box of band aids is kicked over, and there’s the humming sound—

the birds—flitting and darting and singing.

I start to bandage my fingers but

I am now on an old red tricycle and I am suddenly

the one in overalls, Pa watching me pedal about in the dirt driveway

through the window above the lilac bush,

sipping his Old Style as my father cracks open his in

the driveway, and I pedal up to him.

It is all a dream, I know, but this is the part I have come for,

the part I seek every time I face my reflection–

and that doesn’t matter now. Because I pedal up to him,

parking my front tire against his cowboy boots,

“daddy, someone will save us, right?”

He kisses my cheek, hands me my doll,

and I abandon the tricycle, running

for the lilac bushes’ protection near the

farmhouse.

I take out the pocketknife and gouge

at my doll’s pretty eyes so she can’t see.

I saw at her hair until a small blond pile

is at my feet–a pleasure fills me as I take her beauty.

I cut at her mouth as my power takes her voice.

To be a doll, to be a doll–I thought it was that easy, that wish.

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Sexual Abuse, Dreams, and Taboo

2014

My hands are actually sweating writing this.  I’ve wanted to write it for a long time but how do you talk about it?  Well–you don’t.  So you write about it, and then no one
can look at you.  Childhood sexual abuse, a well-known internet topic, but not-so-known is the secret many victims share–the abuse aroused us.  Maybe not all, but many, many, many survivors share this shame with me.  My therapist wasn’t surprised when I told her about it–which is the only reason I didn’t puke.

I’ve been looking around and found this place helpful–Pandora’s Project.  The opening of their page on Sexual Abuse and Arousal states:

A sexual response or orgasm in the course of sexual assault is often the best-kept and most deeply shameful secret of many survivors. If you are such a survivor, it’s essential that you know that sexual response in sexual assault is extremely common, well-documented and nothing for you to be ashamed of.

and I liked this as well:

If you were sexually assaulted as a child, you were victimized by somebody who had knowledge of how to touch and manipulate you to the ends of their own gratification, and ensuring that your shame and (false) sense of complicity rendered you less likely to tell. It is another dimension of the abuse, and not a statement of you being bad. As you heal, you will come to give the abuser back the responsibility for all of the abuse, including the responses.

 

However, even though knowing that this reaction is normal, I just can’t accept it, and for very good reasons.  But before I get into that awfully private shit, I want to talk about shame.  I don’t even understand what the word means and I want to know why I don’t.  It’s not in my vocabulary.  I don’t feel like I caused the molesting in any way.  I did not provoke.  I was four for Christ’s sake.  Then why do I hate myself for it?  I don’t understand.  Like this part of my brain is blocked.  I want to do more EMDR.

I have dreams where I am being molested or raped and I wake up in an orgasm.  And the worst part?  The “dirties Read More

My Yellowed Copy of The Bell Jar

“but when I t came right down to it, the skin of my wrist looked so white and defenseless that I couldn’t do it. It was as if what I wanted to kill wasn’t in that skin or the thin blue pulse that jumped under my thumb, but somewhere else, deeper, more secret, and a whole lot harder to get.”  the bell jar

So I have three copies of The Bell Jar.  Well I only need two–because one of them I still can’t bring myself to look at.  But I refuse to let it go.  It means too much.  When I do look at it I feel that old familiar feeling of dread, the bad kind, the kind that is a glimpse of what you know inevitably is coming.  I was in high school when it became really strong.  Don’t get me wrong, I knew something was mentally off with me around sixth grade, and had cried and worried so much about it in private by then that I had become accustomed to that level of panic.

…until I got a copy of Plath’s The Bell Jar.  An old yellow one with browning pages.  The bold, curly letters in the title.  Her gnarled name–the woman who didn’t make it.  And she was me.  She was so much like me.  I couldn’t read as I read it in class after class.  I was nauseous but unafraid.  When you know something is going to happen to you that cannot be helped, you somehow brace yourself for more pain, and the fear becomes a numb root in your gut.  And these roots had taken their initial digs years ago, and yet I felt too mildly mad at this time of The Bell Jar reading, that I dared myself to continue and explore what felt like a schizoid terror. Read More

Looking for My Father clip

     "We believe in one God, Father the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth..."  I was raised a Roman Catholic.  I have painted my old Reeboks white so they look new; they're stiff as I walk downtown toward our apartment.  The steeple from my school and the lake behind it disappear behind the run-together row of clapboard bars, hair salons, and the broken down apartment buildings.  Lilacs are always pushing through the dirty fences and even they smell like cigarettes and beer.  Gum all over the sidewalk; gum in my mouth.  I look down.  I'm nervous every day at age eleven.  I am shy.  I do what I'm told and I have manners.  I pray.  I pray for my mother.  I pray for the holy force to make Joey Larson fall in love with me.  My shoes are dirty from the day--in the sunlight I see you can tell they've been painted and I feel for a moment delayed embarrassment.  One block to go and I pass the Cassaloma--the last bar before home.  The red door is held open by a rusted ashcan and hot, smuggy air permeates from the dark.  Bleach and smoke and beer.  Stale heat flutters my white blouse and I'm suddenly hot.  I take my ponytail out and peek behind my blond bangs, just to see.  I always have to see. There's the glare from the chrome of the barstool once my eyes adjust, and I see the silhouette of the man who's there, every day,at 3:20.  He doesn't move as empty ashtrays clang and spin across the counter as the bartender wipes them with white rags.  The sun catches in his big glasses that always magnified his blue eyes.  I want him to see me; I don't want him to see me.  I mouth the word "dad" just to see how it feels in my mouth.  It's just a fact--as my mother tells us--he has been an alcoholic since we before we were born.  A heavy woman in a Mickey Mouse shirt leans back from her stool and stares in my direction.  I can't risk her drawing his attention in my direction, so I walk away and wonder if Joey Larson saw my shoes in the sun.