I traced your lips in early morning starlight
Letting that trauma scented mist hang between us after a nightmare.
Like the death of your sister,
With the way you could smile even on no sleep and we had just run out of coffee.
‘I had a bad childhood,’ is your whispered revelation
I remember the necklace of bruises you wore for a year, the way your Adam’s apple turned dark purple like a proffered poison fruit.
‘I was there,’ I remind you, never forgetting the anvil heavy bags of food bank cans and the spiked collar panic digging into my own neck when your phone got turned off.
I don’t rehash the matching bruises that didn’t show and at 12 I became adept with concealer made of excuses.
A canticle of smiling with clenched teeth
Secret prayers for wings and if not wings
‘Someone just please kidnap me.’
Another abuse shaped hole in our conversation
Because we apologise for the actions of adults who should have known better
And do so for the rest of our lives.
I sometimes wish I could have put my hand in your father’s back,
Propped him on my knee
And made him tell you that you were young, smart, and handsome
and that someday someone was going to see that.
Or in my mother’s
And just made her love me.
‘You healed,’ your voice is a liturgy of hope. ‘Teach me.’
I don’t mention the way my legs opened like premature spring flowers that die in early frost,
Or the dreamless nights when I tried to scour my insides with whiskey and smoke-
The man I loved that tried to kill me.
How I keep picking the scabs of 25-year-old wounds by just telling people
‘My mother is a complicated woman’ instead of outing her.
I don’t tell them that she pointed to my budding breasts and called me a whore,
I was 10.
Or that she left me alone for a week while she went on vacation
Without telling me.
‘It’s complicated,’ I echo and the lie tears through me like my first miscarriage
But abuse is a mountain,
Once you’re over it you can still feel it at your back
And if it is tall as your daddy when you were 8,
Then you can always see it in the distance.
even if you get far enough away,
It’s still there.
I'm an American poet living in Wales and no taller than an oyster shell. When not complaining about the weather, I can be found willing plants to grow, falling asleep in the greenhouse, or drinking entirely too much coffee. If you see me I will probably try to talk about ghosts or how my cat snores like an old lady.