This is a poem I wrote after my writing was criticized as “repetitive” and me as “stodgy” and “old-fashioned”. Unfortunately, I had not yet grasped that when a person criticizes you yourself more than the work itself – that might be a statement about where the person’s criticism is really generated from. I informally call it my “Old Lady Poem”, and the only reason I’m holding onto it is because the experiences described within the poem are ones that shaped me into the woman I am today.
You joke of my innocence
as though it is naiveté,
but, darling, when you invite a stranger to your home
and he destroys every memory
you lovingly crafted – scarring messages
into cigar boxes, burning love letters, and
leaving me as an empty, discarded corpse –
your view changes.
No longer do I want to write about the junkies,
the track marks and the hidden syringes.
No longer do I desire to tell the story of razors
held to throats and tongues like promises.
(Blood smeared on the door like the sacrificial lamb.)
I may not describe the needle he plunged into veins
or the way he ruined my mind
(shattered my psyche and broke my head,
occipital bone ruptured and hanging on
by a strand).
But it doesn’t take that much investigating to know
the damage is irreversible.
I still shrink at glass shattering and tremble at
the noises that others might not notice.
This isn’t graphic, you’re right, darling,
but not all of us want to relive the ugly parts.
You think yourself Toulouse-Lautrec
and I don’t owe anyone my stories,
but just to think of the pain you caused
by sitting inside a glass bubble with a gavel in hand,
of a mauve-stained room, a boy
with tobacco-stained hands, and
the skittering mice just searching for warmth
I shouldn’t have to prove to you anything
or show you the indelible ink on the inside
of my wrist.
My mother almost cried when she saw
those numbers like a scar.
“Like a prisoner marked for life”,
but she didn’t know.
She didn’t know what it felt like to be locked
in your own bathroom, sobbing and shaking.
She didn’t know the taste of bile after
you’ve vomited everything in your system.
You didn’t know, but I don’t owe you my story,
You say the darkness is my comfort zone, a cliché, but not all of us have the privilege of a bubble of glass. Some of us tread on the shards and are still learning to reassemble the pieces.