[i am the work, in progress]

by: Jenuine Poetess

I wasn’t going to write this blog, post this blog, admit this truth. Not now. Maybe not ever. And if I did, I imagined writing about this in ten years. When I could look back on this moment with all of the wisdom and togetherness of the future me I imagine. When I could say, “I have struggled with this.” Instead of, “I am struggling in this.”

I tell myself there is less shame in being on the other side of something, than being in the midst of it. Because on the other side I will have survived it. Will have overcome it. Will have gotten my shit together to pull myself up and out of this pit.

I’d never tell a client, a friend, a kindred that. Because I don’t believe that. Not for anyone. I save my harshest notions for myself. It is a peculiar gift.

This morning I have cried myself into vomiting. I have done some laundry. Washed some dishes. And made sixteen compelling arguments to myself for why I should never write or say to another living soul, not even my therapist, any of the things I am about to write.

I thought I could get away with never talking about this and certainly not writing about it right now. But last week there was a gas leak found in the 100 year old house in which my apartment exists. This initiated a chain reaction of needing to let repair people into my home space, which triggered an anxiety about that very thing, because of all of the shame I have been holding about the physical state of my home, which resulted in vomiting and crying and a small asthma attack, which turned into a temporarily emotionally paralyzing dread/despondence. Now there are repair people replacing all the gas pipes in the whole house which means I need to let them into my space. I don’t care that much about the judgments or opinions of repair people I likely will never see again. But eventually, when I have to go to work and they need to get into my apartment, my landlord will see my ugly truth. My landlord is a friend, whom I respect and admire. I’m horrified to have to let anyone I know into my mess. My literal, shameful, ugly, mess.

I’m not being modest. I’m not talking about a basically ordered home with one stray sock on the floor and two books out of place. I’m not talking about haven’t dusted in a month. I’m not talking about an unmade bed.

I just renewed a 12 month lease and I have a whole room of boxes I never unpacked. I have piles of the clothes I wash but can’t find the motivation to put away. I have dishes that have piled, used and unwashed, for probably months.

I look at my surroundings. I look at myself in the mirror. I wonder, “how did I let it get this bad?”

I don’t exactly know.

I just know that somewhere along the way of excruciating loss; of grieving; of a profound plunge into unspeakable darkness; of deciding to continue breathing again and again every day I wake up; of not wanting to continue breathing every day I wake up; of the grueling work of therapy and healing; of showing up in community; of fighting for every pulse, every act of resilience, every choice to hope instead of despair; somewhere, in all of that, keeping house got lost in the midst of surviving.

I’m having trouble being kind with myself.

Chores. Dishes. Cleaning my space. It is so basic. I learned it from the beginning. I was raised to keep an immaculate space. I always loved making a peaceful, orderly, inviting home where I could welcome friends and neighbors to eat, to rest, to gather. I used to be a professional organizer. I got paid to create and maintain order. I helped others through their messes into a place of self-love and organization.

I’m struggling to offer myself the same compassion.

I’m a grown woman, around the corner from 40. I hold a master’s degree. I’m a therapist. I should have all of the tools and knowledge and experience to deal with this. I should be able to implement positive coping skills. I should know how to handle this grief healthily.

I should…

I forget: my education and clinical practice were never an inoculation against struggle; they are not some impermeable armor that protect me from ever having to practice the thrashing bones of this kind of knowing.

In the last year and a half, while accumulating chaos in my home I have also maintained regular sessions with my therapist; I have continued to direct and grow community arts programming I developed three and a half years ago; I have shown up for friends in laughter and in sorrow; I have studied for and passed two intense professional licensing exams; I have began working in private practice with a kindred friend and colleague whom I cherish, respect, and admire immensely; I traveled internationally by myself to a global conference of artists and poets; I have published my first collection of poems; I have laughed with joy; I have found myself dancing; I am learning how to trust again; I am creating art; I am being alive.

This is not a list to brag. I document these things to remind myself I am not a failure. To remind myself that even in the midst of debilitating grief, I am yet thriving.

I am trying to talk myself into compassion and out of shame.

The mess in my home can be amended. There are clean dishes drying in the rack. There is laundry that can be washed and hung up. There is trash that can be taken out.

I’m trying to talk myself back into loving kindness.

I neglected the parts of my life and my environment that would suffer the least in order to show up for the things too valuable to lose. I just realized that. And I’m deciding that that is OK.

I don’t want to stay here. In the chaos and the dis-order. It is not me. Not authentic me. I miss the parts of myself I have not been able to be for all this time. I miss dancing. I miss cooking for friends and breaking bread together. I miss cultivating a peaceful, healing, space for myself.

I feel so very far from ever being whole again. But today I washed dishes. And that feels like resilience.

I’ve never been raped.

By: Anonymous

I’ve never been raped.

Not in your technical dry as dust definition: Penetration no matter how slight of the vagina or anus with any body part or object or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person without the consent of the victim.

I’ve never been raped.
But I hurt in my heart for those who have.

No I’ve never been raped.

But I remember at age 4, being grabbed by you, a grown man, held down and tickled, begging you to stop until I couldn’t breathe.

Just as I thought I would die from lack of air, I summoned up enough breath to say, “I will pee on you.”

Still, you did not stop until I gathered enough strength to pee on you, even though I didn’t have to. I remember the sly smirk on your wife’s face as she said, “Well she warned you.”

But I was never raped.

No I’ve never been raped.

But I remember the two boys who grabbed me at age 7 as I walked home for lunch from school (yes we could do that in those days). One of them lived in his family’s business, a funeral parlor, and they threatened to tie me up and hide me downstairs with the dead people. I fought and I screamed and sat down on the sidewalk, but they dragged me along. Until one of them saw my tears of fear and said, “We have to let her go.” And the one whose family owned the funeral parlor didn’t want to but he couldn’t pull it off without the other boy.

But I was never raped.

As later I refused to go back to school. My mom received a phone call and afterwards said it was the funeral parlor boy’s mother and the other boy, the one who let me go, told her what they did. She said she had talk to them and they would never do it again. My mother telling me I would have to go back to school and how I begged her not to make me. She said I had to. I had to go back and face my abductors and I remember the look on her face like I was the one to blame.

But I was never raped.

One day at age 10, I walked that same street home from school. The street was under repair and workmen were in the street. Two boys came out of the house as I passed. They were younger than me and asked for my help with getting a broken wagon to the garage. Suddenly , as I entered the yard, an older boy showed up. The three of them began dragging me to the back of the house, threatening to throw me in the cellar and lock the door. I screamed for help as they carried me by arms and legs. I thrashed and fought while the men working in the street just laughed.

I began to cry and the older boy, I will never know why, decided to let me go.

Walking home another boy saw me crying and came up to me. I told him to go away, but he just offered me a piece of gum and asked me to sit down. We split a piece of juicy fruit and he just sat next to me in silence until the tears passed. I wonder all these years later if it was him showing up and witnessing my shame that scared the other boys into letting me go.

But I was not raped.

No, I was never raped, but came close one night at 17. A party in the woods, a kegger. I had to go to the bathroom and was told to go to the woods on the other side of the parking area. Walking past a car, the door opened and a large man pulled me in and began attacking me, trying to get my clothes off. He was older, in his 20s, big and strong. I fought, but could not get away. So I told him he would be accused of statutory rape because I was only 17. “I don’t believe it,” he said. “Look at my drivers license,” I said, defiance in my voice. He saw I was serious and let me go.

But I was not raped.

No, I was not raped when you invited me to your Pentecostal church, you on my left your wife on my right as she began speaking in tongues.  Later you told me how jealous you were of your wife because she got the spirit and you didn’t. But the spirit had told you we were meant to be together and you used your religion and adulthood to seduce me on the front seat of your family car.

But I was not raped.

No, I was not raped, when again at age 17, you, a friendly acquaintance called me over to your car and asked me to look in and see what you had on the seat. You pulled me in through the window and sped down the highway and told me you would throw me out at 70 mph unless I gave you oral sex. And afterwards you drove to pick up your girlfriend, whom you called “No No Nanette.” And she knew and I knew that I was the young bait to make her stop saying no.

No, I was not raped when my husband and I walked into a mutual friend’s wedding dressed in our finest and his best friend undressed me with his eyes and said, “Oh girl you look fine tonight.” Said it in a way that let me know I could not trust to be alone with him. It was then I decided to be fat.

I was not raped. But all of you have shown me by your actions you consider my body just a tool for your own satisfaction, that there is not a soul in this human package that can be frightened, scared, or shamed, only taken. No, I was not raped. Assaulted, bullied, used, crimes of sexual violence, but not raped.

Why doesn’t it feel that way?

what if…

By: A. M. 

what if I said it out loud
what if I post it on my status
what if I spit it into this mic

what if I said how much I hurt
what if I said how tired I am
what if I said how little hope I have
what if I said how afraid I am
what if I said how often I think about dying

what if I told how you pillaged and plundered
what if I told how you never protected me
what if I told how you lied and manipulated
what if I told how you made me feel crazy
what if I told how you taught me to loathe myself

what if I said how I kept up the act
what if I said how I’d always make excuses
what if I said how you’re not so charming
what if I said how your words are poison
what if I said how fucking angry I am

what if I told the truth
what if I told how you slandered my name
what if I told how you turned my family against me
what if I told how you shattered my trust
what if I told how the echo of your fist lingers on my skin

and

what if I said, “Enough.”
what if I said, “Never again”
what if I said, “I will not be bound by shame”
what if I said, “I deserve love”
what if I said, “I will not stay silent”

what if I said it out loud
what if I post it on my status
what if I spit it into this mic