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Survivors' Poetry

I'm Waiting     A Battle     They Say

Tie a Knot    Respect is a Word     Ms. Onondaga     The Sands of Time 

These are My Pieces    These are my Pieces Revised    

Shattered     Prisoner    Blind Date     The Kindness of Strangers 

Unseen     Do You?     My Children's Eyes

Garden Elegy     The Attic     Choking     My Independence     The Perfect Child    

Do You Know What it's Like?     A Survivor Triptych for Vera House    

A Leaf Floating Down     One Defiant Line     The Cycle 

Goodbye to You     What Happened in the Blackness...     Better from Cars     Take Back the Night    

Women are Taught     Taking My Power Back     Hanging out the Wash

Broken     The End     The Scent of Sex     Redeemed


I'm Waiting

They say with time it gets better
33 years and I'm still waiting
I fight, I cry, I scream
I'm waiting

I wake up afraid to open my eyes
Afraid to start my day
Afraid who or what will trigger it
Afraid every minute
I'm waiting

I'm afraid to walk out the door
Afraid of who is out there
Afraid of what will happen
Afraid that I can't escape
I'm waiting

I'm afraid to close my eyes
Afraid of what I will see, hear
Afraid of what I will dream
Afraid of screaming
Afraid I won't wake up in time
I'm waiting

I'm afraid to start a new day
I'm waiting

Z.T.

 



A Battle

Each day is a battle
A battle to forget
A battle to forgive
A battle to fight the nightmares
A battle to fight the invisible ghost
A battle to fight to survive
A battle to be happy
A battle to be normal
The battle never ends, it’s a constant war within my head

Z.T.

 


They Say

They say with time it gets better
They say you stop asking why
They say talking helps
They say writing helps
They say you're safe
They say it can’t happen again
They say he can’t reach you again
They say relax
They say be happy
They say stop looking over your shoulder
THEY don’t know that the fear never stops, never goes away, the shadows never leave, and the      
             hands never stop.
THEY don’t know that he is always behind me, reminding me, reliving it, and never forgetting.
THEY don’t know.

Z.T.

 


Tie a Knot

A song by friend of Vera House, John Wolford, who lost his cousin in a domestic violence homicide. John shared his song with us in hopes of helping others who may be struggling. 

Click HERE to listen to "Tie a Knot"

Your days drag into night
All filled with doubt
You’re in way too deep
Can’t find your way out

This doesn’t seem what life should mean
Where did it all go wrong
Something inside of you makes you hang on
You just don’t know for how long

I know where you’re at my friend
I’ve walked in your shoes
Please believe in what I have to say
Life is the only choice you need
To get you through this day

So when your days are filled with darkness
And your nights caught up in fear
Please hang on with all you’ve got
To this life we hold so dear

Look to the simpler things
And clear your mind
Solve your troubles one by one
And peace you’ll find

When you feel you’ve come to the end of your rope
Tie a knot and hang on
Better days will surface soon
Just tie a knot and hang on 

Copyright John Wolford 2006

 


Respect is a Word

Respect is an essential word.
People need to respect themselves, others,
their possessions and the natural world.
Building a healthy respect for yourself
makes you feel good about who you are,
what you’re capable of doing,
and enhances your value as a human being.
Self-respect creates a set of personal guidelines
that help you to make solid decisions,
conduct yourself honorably,
and present yourself with poise and confidence.
Having respect for other people is also essential.
It enables you to keep an open mind
to alternate ideas and opinions.
It reminds you to interact with others
as you want them to interact with you.
It opens the door to acceptance and camaraderie,
and it fosters reciprocal respect.
By respecting one’s possessions,
people learn to appreciate their belongings.
Clothing and homes and vehicles
last longer and offer years of comfort and security
when they are properly taken care of.
Special acquisitions provide decades of enjoyment
when cared for in a respectful way,
adding to their value and reverence for future generations.
And finally, practicing respect for the natural world
is essential for the continuance of life on Earth.
Natural resources must be used conscientiously.
The purity of the air, the land and the waters must be sustained.
Living creatures should be allowed to live free
or cared for in sanctuaries or other appropriate settings.
The bounty of the land should be treasured and shared.
Respect is a universally beneficial word
to practice, to hold onto and to give away.
Respect is a word
meant to enrich the quality of life.

Perri E. Hogan

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Ms. Onondaga

I pass by your obscured, damaged loveliness and wonder why you’re hiding – downcast – faint traces of bruises mar your haggard visage. What has he done to you? You remain broken, ashamed and abandoned while Man has moved on to abuse other watery bodies.

For years you’ve suffered slights, insults and mockery. You’ve been downgraded- your spirit pushed deeper into the toxic muck. Your bright joyous bounce has been battered into a slow-lapping sludge.You became stagnant – no sparkle across your surface, no glide in your movement – shut down, shut in, shut off and shut out. Heavy metals weighed you down and trampled your exuberance.

Man first hid you away to keep you for himself. Later, you hid yourself – a horrid, scarred, poisoned, shocked and used up body – until the destruction ended.

Just lately you’ve been peeking out from behind those reedy curtains - your liquid skin is clearing – the scars are fading, and a slight playfulness sprints across your white-capped waves.

Laura Peer

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The Sands of Time

the sands of time are slipping through the cracks
these moments flying by so damn fast
I'm trying to hold on be strong before it unravels and fades away

because how long will serenity, the happiness last today?
cause i don't know we're standing on a tight rope just waiting to fall again, fall again, fall again

i look into your eyes so filled with love not a trace of the hate I've seen before but it won't last
you're a ticking time bomb just waiting to blow. So try to hold on be strong before this unravels and fades away.

because you don't know how long the love, the happiness will last today.
We're standing on a tight rope just waiting to fall again, fall again, fall again. We fell again.

Our little girl walks in so forgiving and her eyes usually so bright
but not this time her heart is burdened watching her parents fight
and I don't know what to say watching the tears stream down her face then i realize

the serenity the happiness never lasts. and now i know the stakes are much too high.
standing on a tight rope waiting to fall isn't worth the price it's time to say good-bye

the sands of time are slipping through the cracks these moments flying by so damn fast
now I'm trying to move on be strong letting the tight rope unravel and fade away now the happiness is bound to stay.

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These are My Pieces

These are my pieces, but not my whole.
I am more than this flesh and blood.
My skin does not portray who/what lies beneath.
My smile does not really show how I feel
and my eyes do not allow you to see my depth.

I am no longer an object of someone else’s will,
but a prisoner to my own body.
My body does not feel like it belongs to me.
For so long it was not given a say
and was forcibly maneuvered by another.

Even my mind seems to be dictated
by my own body's sensations.
A simple touch of my arm can trigger a memory.
My hand hesitates to make contact
with even ones I love.

All of these pieces while built together, feel disjointed.
My lips long for a long compassionate kiss,
but my hand will freely push it away.
My arms cry out to be wrapped in another’s,
but my body quickly tightens
responding to a perceived attack.
My body while flaunted is self-conscious
of how it will be judged.
It is a vessel of unknown.

Each touch is a switch
that triggers a new or old memory.
A personal home theater of years past,
many showing reruns that had long been forgotten
or simply waiting for the right time.
My home movies are nightmares
that give understanding to my body's reactions.
Unlike nightmares, I can not wake up
and say it was just a dream.

I have tried to rationalize
with both my mind and body, but it yields to the past.
They are a great puzzle
that I am slowly piecing together.
The picture of who I am
becomes clearer with each piece,
and like most children’s toys, the result is often
not as spectacular as you had hoped.

Can I see who I am becoming
without finishing the puzzle?
The pieces have slowly come together
to create a gruesome picture of who I was.
The pieces cannot be reconfigured
to change the ultimate image;
my picture of my past will always be the same.

The only difference now lies
in how I choose to view it in the future.

Heather Cutler-Young

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These are My Pieces Revised

These are my pieces but they are not my whole. I am more than this flesh and blood. My skin does not portray who/ or what lies beneath. My expressions do not necessarily show how I really feel and my eyes do not allow you to see the depths of my soul.

I am no longer an object of someone else’s will. I am not a prisoner of my mind or body. While a simple smell, touch or sight may trigger a memory I no longer allow my senses to control the me that I have become. I seek affection from the ones I love and now feel comfort in their embraces where before I felt shame and fear.

While all of these pieces built together may seem disjointed, they are the me I was always meant to be; the me I deserve to be. I am a collage of many pieces. Separately the picture alone has no meaning or significant worth, but together it forms a beautiful and distinct representation of something bigger and better than its original piece.

The puzzle is finally finished. It took 30 long years in the making.

It is an eclectic montage of who I am and all that I aspire to be. A survivor, a daughter, a wife,  a daughter in law,  a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, a mother, a teacher, a pacifist, a perfectionist , a romantic, and a bleeding heart liberal. I am the me I was meant to be.

The pieces have slowly come together
to create a gruesome picture of who I was.
The pieces cannot be reconfigured
to change the ultimate image;
my picture of my past will always be the same.

The difference now lies in how I view myself and my future.

Heather Cutler – Young

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Shattered

I was made shattered.
A ruined soul now exists
where a whole person
once
was.

I break plates and glasses,
smashing them for release;
The fractured pieces litter the floor
and I can’t help but relate
to each broken fragment.

I’m the broken vase that lies on the floor,
the spilled water decorating the tile
with the tattered roses
begging for
life.

The body is soft and supple,
able to absorb blows.
Identities are fragile
and difficult to repair.
My self is destroyed.

I’ve put the pieces back together with glue-
that’s progress-
but the glue is still curing and the pieces
don’t fit together quite right.
I’m not okay.

We work with
available light
to mend the fractured soul.
Like plates, I am the
product of human efforts.

You made me shatter.

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Prisoner

A captive, hostage of his vicious anger.
The facade of his caring baby blue eyes
now contorted with vicious cruelty.
My once unbroken body
now a mess of tangled hair,
busted and bloody lips,
fist and finger-shaped
bruises.

My former fiery soul missing in action,
his prisoner in this agonizing tango.
Our war.

Breath, hot enough to melt me.
Fists mold my flesh into his putty,
knife caressing my throat, prolonging the agony.
His violent words, stab me,
force me hostage, as the
bombs explode around me
and my life fades slowly
before my eyes.

Please don’t kill me.
I beg, like a bloody wounded doe.

I’ve change my mind…
Please, just kill me.
His refusal to spare my death
propels him, the tortures continue.
I see his bed, the puddle of blood,
as my final resting place.

Though our battle rages in the darkness,
when the sun begins to rise,
the yellow rays bring promise of life.
In conceding to his war tortures,
a treaty is forged.
He gently kisses my cheek and whispers
this tug-of-war is our little secret.

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Blind Date

Big, brown, bottomless eyes in the mirror.
Mine
and never again mine.
Pleading.
Needing.
Any reprieve from this brutality,
his inexhaustible hatred.

My once graceful dancer’s arms
now churning
in desperate and sloppy cartwheels.
My impotent blows
no match for his rigid steel frame.

My rapid breath escapes my body,
taking with it my simple life.
But I need it back.
So I struggle to catch it, claim it again;
take it down to the deepest part of my soul
where I will be safe,
before I am consumed inside the insatiable oven of my rapist’s rage.

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The Kindness of Strangers

Bloodied and broken she rises
Hands clenched, her face pointed up toward the sky;
Tears sting her eyes but she wills them away,
Resolving once more he will not see her cry.

She looks in the eyes of her children,
Knowing her pain has become part of them,
With soft words to offer them comfort,
She gives of herself as she's dying within.

Swiftly she puts things in order,
Washes the blood and gets on with her day.
At least this time not much has been broken,
A small piece of her soul is all she throws away.

But each time is worse than the last time,
And it's getting much harder to mask how she feels;
Some make-up will fix up the outside,
But inside it seems like the wound never heals.

I promise you that she is frightened.
I swear to you she never asked for this pain.
Sometimes when you get dragged down too far,
It just gets so hard to get back up again.

Let us show her the kindness of strangers;
As strangers so often turn out to be friends,
Then, as friends we can guide her to freedom;
And rejoice in the person she becomes –
when the pain finally ends.

Leslie Root
who found freedom with a little help from her friends

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Unseen

Trying to be their shining daughter
I polished and lifted saddles
Shoveled out stalls, carried water and feed
Sponged and wrapped bruised flesh
Brushed my bay gelding to a sheen

Handsomely costumed and schooled, my brothers
Bridled massive steeds through their paces
Presenting the judges sleek performances
That masked the boys who taunted
Disrupting my sleep like cobbles in the bed

Shelves of silver cups
Belie cold black hours spent
Stowed under the eaves of our farmhouse attic
Bound by brothers who
Threatened worse if I revealed my terror

Ignoring walls covered with prize ribbons
Mother mended breeches
Father just raised the bar as I
Rode through fields of indifference with a
Wound which has not bled

Sally Gould

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Do You?

Do you think of us at Easter?
Do you think of us at Christmas?

Are you mad at yourself for going away,
or happy that you have moved on without us?

Do you get upset when you think of us,
and sad because you’re missing out on us?

Do you think of the pain you left us with?
Well do you?

Do you care about what you did?
Do you feel guilty for how you left things?

I hope you are good
because I am great - we are great.

Does it hurt you to know
that you had nothing to do
with our happiness?

Tell me . . .
does it suck to be you?

Samantha McCormick

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My Children’s Eyes

You're the monster under my bed and in my closet
yet I can't seem to let you go.

You creep into my most private moments
and I'm not sure I could lose you in a crowd
if I tried.

I'm helpless to the hurt you've caused me
and the one I love,
as helpless as I am when you appear
in my nightmares.

Someday your memory will leave
the inside of my eyelids
and I promise you will not exist
in my children’s eyes.

Farah

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Garden Elegy

I touch the broad leaves of the blue hosta,
inviting her to come with me,
explaining that she needs to escape.
Fennel, fragile and lush, clings to the fence.
Peonies bleed petals.
Hyacinth bulbs hide under dirt.
In an empty pot, I find a snakeskin,
coiled and glistening.

I memorize the contrast of bright and dark,
the rich clumping of flower and leaf.
I want to hold this garden safe inside of me.

We dig every hosta,
scoop loose earth to cover roots,
pile plants into plastic bags.
We work fast to save as many as we can.

I untangle the deep roots
of the rosebush she transplanted as a bride
from her grandmother’s house in Michigan.
We lift smooth stones
that came from the bluffs of Lake Ontario,
carried home on picnic days before
the marriage began to taste bitter.

Sweat blesses our necks, our breasts, our silence.
We pull plants from the earth, one by one.
The sage. The daphne. The bleeding heart.

Sometimes the safest
gardens are the ones we tend in our dreams.

I know these ferns
have heard her cry.

Janine DeBaise

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The Attic

In the attic I hide,
Fearing the rage that keeps
banging on the door,
Knowing that outside the storm
gathers its strength.

Sweat mingles with tears.
I taste the dust in the air
as it falls upon me.
My face now covered with
darkened streaks of fear.

There is no shelter to slip away to.
With reddened face and glaring eyes
you pace before your prey.
I must face your wrath.

She arises within me to open the door.
You greet her with your fists of power
hitting, slapping, kicking,
And choking your punishment upon her.

There now on the floor, curled up in a ball,
Lies the little girl lost within my soul,
Bruised, broken and shattered.

Once again we have survived,
Only to be told, “get up, go wash your face”.
Bruises don’t wash away.

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Choking

Back and forth
Choking
Heels dug in
This tug of war
Denies me
Fear pulls my breath
As the fur of his chest
I so long to tangle fingers in
Comes on me
This isn't how it's supposed to be
Choking

Game between yanking sides
Choking
Me
Him
Crushing violence
So gentle, tows me
Close, yet under
No, no it's the game
Choking

Ropes of back and forth
Choking
Wrap around me
I'm down. He's up
Defeated, I retreat
Heel loose
Separate from what's tied down
Still masked, his gentle
Malevolence hides my truth
Never even sees me
Choking

Crystal Collette

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My Independence

I'm going to do well, I'll definitely succeed.
Doesn't bother me now
what life wants to throw at me.
I'm going to tackle it, no matter how hard it'll be.
I know deep down inside somewhere,
is a strength I've yet to find.

I have the strength to continue
along this stubborn path.
No bitterness will deter me,
no spitefulness will be heard.
Above all, NO pain shall ever be felt again -
only a BRIGHTER and BETTER LIFE
shall be had by me.

Ady Ajay  .  Gillingham, England

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The Perfect Child

A cheerful cherub,
observer of life
from a heavenly perch,

the only safe place to be
in our household!

I conversed with angels
and danced on the stars.

As my father's hard anger
tore at soft, child's flesh,

I floated blithely on clouds
waiting for terror to subside.

My spirit hovered
in dark corners,
watched vigilantly
for signs
of attack.

I claimed no body for my own.
"That" belonged to the other little girl,

The shameful one who was
dirty, unlovable and
caused her father to hurt her.

I, though
I was pure and untouched.

The perfect child
who conversed with angels
and danced on the stars.

Evelyn Ayers-Marsh

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Do You Know What it's Like?

Do you know what it’s like
to grow up too fast...
to have different feelings because
of your past?

Once so innocent, so young...then
in the beat of your heart
your childhood’s...done

Deprived of the memories
you shared with your friends...wishing
your life would just come to an end

Do you know what it’s like
to have life taken away...then
have to hold it inside...
because you’re dead if you say?

Do you know what it’s like
to go day by day...to survive on
each breath
and slowly
softly
drift
away?

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A Survivor Triptych
for Vera House

One: An Emergency Call, 1966
Before they changed the law

They stood, hands on their Billy clubs,
watching,
while he kicked her in the face
and stomach,
kicked
until her teeth broke
and her lips bled. They stood and watched
and said nothing. Then turned and left.

Before that, they had spoken.
"M'am," they asked her,
though she didn't know they meant her
at first.
She still thought of herself as a girl,
as a child.
"M'am, is this your husband?"
He'd been slugging her then, in the face,
in the breasts, and he stopped,
to let her answer.
"Yes," she had said. What else
could she say

but the truth, hard as it was?
And they stood, their eyes wide and dark
and somehow wounded. As if it was they
who were being beaten,
as if it were their baby who might die
from those kicks.
"M'am," they said, voices cracking,
"We can't help you."
"What kind of law . . ."
she'd started to ask, before
he mashed his knuckles into her face
and she went down
backwards.

Mary Stebbins Taitt

Two: She Remembers Alleys

the crazy way they tilted,
the way they threatened to tip
and spill her
under his feet. She was fast,
but he was faster,
her head shrinking, doorways
refusing to open, no refuge anywhere.
Not even women's rest rooms
a haven any longer.

She remembers the knife he held over her
while women in the next stalls trembled,
the length of the thick blade,
the way the thin light caught
on the edge and brightened there.
She remembers thorn bushes,
where she crawled
shredding her skin to escape him.
Or try.

She never succeeded. Not for long.
His arms stretched through the city, ballooning
with fists to find her. Fists with eyes.
Feet with black wings.
"Have you seen my wife?" he kept asking.
Someone always pointed the way.
And he
just
kept
coming.

Mary Stebbins Taitt

Three: Red Flags

She was afraid to come home from work.
Afraid as she walked from the bus, her steps
slowing. Afraid to open the door and go inside.
The air in the house congealed, stiffened
and trapped her.
It was full of thunder, lightning,
dense with crackling anger
and rage. She never knew how to reflect it.
She tried to be nice,
she tried to be good, but she couldn't
be good enough. Niceness, he said,
was a crime or plot.
And it was her fault

If the basketball team lost
or if his boss wanted him to go in early
or if his dog messed the floor. That dog mess
was always her fault, even if she was at work
and he was home.
She made him angry by simply existing,
by breathing his air. At the shelter,
they spoke of red flags.
Of calling for help. But when he took her back,
everything he said and did was red,
and he ripped
the phone from the wall.

Mary Stebbins Taitt

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A Leaf Floating Down

A leaf floating down,
The only fall color falling in a green canopy
My first awareness of healing
I marked it, the rhythm of nature
As a moment in time.

A seagull, keeping pace with me on the ferry -
Soaring, lifted by the wind -
Not struggling to keep up, effortlessly gliding
Trusting me enough to take a cookie from
my fingers.
I marked it, this silent dialogue with nature
As a moment in time.

I've been able to notice the stars,
To obsess about the color of my hair,
To laugh with women I admire and adore.

Marking this Valentine's Day, as a moment in time.

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One Defiant Line

I will remember.

The thin white scar,
this one defiant line
where pain once raged,

will not recede.

No scowl,
No harsh words,
No hard hand

can wipe it from my soul.

It is a badge worn proudly,
spoken boldly in words
unwilling to compromise.

I will remember.
I will always remember.

Every wrinkle, every convolution
in this angry skin has a tale
to tell and is ready to confess.

My heart knows its betrayals,
my womb remembers invasions,
my tongue holds many stories.

I will remember.
I will always remember...

Evelyn Ayers- Marsh

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The Cycle

I curl up in my bed
my eyes are puffy, sore and red

My throat aches from crying
inside, my soul is dying

My chest is heavy, both arms throb
I cannot let him hear me sob

I now get up and look in the mirror
it evokes a new sense of fear

I stare at myself until my face is a blur
that tangled mess of hair is mine, I am sure

The reflection in the mirror makes it so real -
How long will these bruises take to heal?

I need to be so careful when I walk out the door
the wrong look could upset him all the more

Without even looking, I can feel him stare
right now he hates me, I shouldn’t breathe his air

But a few hours later he’ll be comforting me
saying he loves me and that he’s sorry

It’s up to him, when to end this game
the outcome so far is always the same

And until then, my heart will beat fast
soon, this again, will be part of the past

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Goodbye to You

I really loved you - cared for you, too.
Why did you do it all over again?
I know I was a fool to be blinded by love -
the mask which covered the beast inside.

When you swore that you wouldn't
you know that you did.
How much more of this pain must I keep taking
before I find what I must gain?

You say you're sorry - why should I believe?
How many beatings and lies before I should leave?
All the bruises and pain that I hid -
that was back then - I was only a kid.

You've made me see you for all that you are.
I know I'm better and I can go far.
Don't bother shouting - I'm on my way and how!
You won't stop me - I'm too strong for that now.

I want to be free from all my misery.
I've got to move fast, to escape from my past.
If all of you know of the life I have led
then you too can follow, and leave him in bed.

Ady Ajay  .  Gillingham, EnglandRet

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What Happened in the Blackness
Was Hopefully Just Blackness

(Or, Why I Don’t Think Ruffies Jokes Are Funny)

It didn’t occur to me until
fifteen years later when I saw someone explaining
them to a soap opera teen,
how they “take away your ability to resist”
that I didn’t drink enough beers that night
to be quite that drunk. Sitting in a circle of
golden beer mugs
playing quarters
snaggle-tooth Jim asks
Which one of us are you gonna f***
I told him I’d had enough for one night
Some of them were drinking Cisco
and I was proud to know what that means.
They asked me again who I’d f***
there were so many of them
that it seemed inevitable so I chose
the best looking, the one who had a girlfriend
Hoped for his protection.

He sent her home.
He took all my clothes off, very thorough.
I was a f***ing machine.
I tried to do my robot screams
but he held his hand over my mouth
whether for cruelty or quiet.
He did it businesslike, a transaction.
He left the door open while I dressed,
I could see the party down the hall.

Then came the vomiting
beige as that housing development,
and as copious. Threw up on the bed and the floor
in the bedroom of snaggle-tooth Jim.

When I came to it was all blackness
though it must’ve been nearing morning.
They were all hitting me, the whole party
scolding voices, hitting me with something hard.
It was because I puked in Jim’s room, they said.
I screamed that I was sorry and to please stop.
They were calling me the same names
my father called me
the ones he calls all women in his stand-up jokes.

When the police came
one of the faceless took me into the bathroom to
wipe the blood from my forehead,
though it had permanently splattered my shirt.
Gentle version
of the voice she’d used for screaming,
this member of the unseeable mob
she cleaned off my forehead,
come on sweetie, it’s okay.

Jane Cassady

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Better from Cars

or
You Already Know the Bad Story
but What Happened After Was More Complicated

I was going to say there was a day
when my mom thought I’d been inside too long
and she said
“Someday you’ll be so trapped
that you won’t be able to go for a walk
so take advantage of it now.”
So I did go.
I walked out of town till Canton Street
turned into the rural road
and I picked flowers, pinching them
gently but insistently from the tangle
of roadside foliage; sweet peas and daylilies,
queen Anne’s lace with their tiny blood droplets.

The fingers around these stems felt innocent.
I saw myself from the point of view
of passing cars:
a girl in bright summer clothes
and plain white sneakers
with a big bouquet.
Outside the town’s speed limit they wouldn’t notice
my hair like a choked mermaid’s
the grey tinge where she bleached out
my purple hair with Clorox
while I hacked and teared with fumes,
cheek hard against the tub.

Driving by you wouldn’t see
the bruises under my eyes from strangers,
the bruises on my shoulders from dad.
The lexicon of filthy names
I would probably always be called, or so it seemed.

Walking along the shoulder
just a sixteen year old girl
still good enough to pick flowers
wise enough to keep walking
the interstate only a few miles away
the evening getting cooler.

Jane Cassady

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Take Back the Night

Take back the lives
we naively gave to those
who would use, and abuse
ones they profess to love.
Keep the promises we long
ago made to ourselves.

Take back the wombs,
empty from birthing babies
who now bear their own seed.
Fill the void with joy's
glowing desires.

Take back the arms that cradled
cries, the hands that wiped tears.
Fill them with supple earth.
Pound the yielding clay
into power's form.

Take back our thoughts.
Make them our own.
Color them with
simplicity's brilliance,
let them soar like eagles
on air swells.

Take back the dawn,
her golden light glowing
on dream's wildflower fields,
red, yellow and purple passion
swirling softly on breezes caress.

Take back the night, its blackness
echoing ancient fear.
Shine wisdom's luminous light
into its dark corners.

Dance on moonbeams.
Swing wildly from the stars.

Take back the night!

Evelyn Ayers-Marsh

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Women Are Taught

I'm convinced it’s a man’s smell that pulls us in -
faux leather and spiced soap, splashes of lemon
and Old Spice, the odd oil tingeing his sweat.
As women, we were designed to wither beneath
the mingled stench of them. As a woman, I was

yo, yo, baby work that big ass, you must want
designed
what I got
to wither
c'mon honey just let daddy stick it in a little bit
beneath
bitch of course i love you i give you money
don't i

Why else would i cage myself in glorious raiment
of spandex and lace, paint my panting the hues
of burn, twist my voice from madam to smoke?
Why else, once he has left me, do I bury my face
in the place his sex has pressed, inhale
what he has left, and pray to die there?

On the day I married, I was such porcelain,
delicate and poised to shatter. I was unflinching,
sure of my practiced vows,
already addicted to the sanctity of bondage.
I was an unfurled ballad in a scoop-necked
sheath carved of sugar. And him on my arm,
grinning like a bear, all sinew and swagger.
Bibles were everywhere. Dizzied by rote,
I stared at the gold rope around my finger.
He owned me.
And that felt nice.
That felt right.

the first time i hit her
I thought the loose tooth a temporary nightmare
the second time i hit her
He cried himself to sleep, and that was nice,
that was right
the third time i hit her
He counted my scars and whispered never again
baby never again

When i'd die without you
turned to i'll kill you if you ever leave me
I bristled like a hound in heat, I didn't
understand the not being aroused, when
let's get away
turned to
you'll never get away
such heat rippled my
belly such crave in me screeching walk run run run

run
i etched a thin line into the throat of her running
run
i stalked streets just a breath behind her
run
i shattered our son's skull with a shotgun
run
i wanted her dead.

My first thought as he jammed the
still smoking barrel into my breastbone
her first thought
as the blade mapped my chest, the
hammer sliced the air toward my hair
the bullet pushed me through a plate glass window
my last thought you won't believe this
my last thought
you really won't believe this
my last thought
was
he must really

love me

Patricia Smith

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Taking My Power Back

I am holding my head high
And I am taking my power back

he stripped me of my dignity
he denied me of my first kiss
he stole my trust in others
he took away my voice

But
I am holding my head high
And I am taking my power back

i said no but he demanded yes
he made me a statistic
he turned me into a victim
he left me to rot like a piece of trash

But
I am holding my head high
And I am taking my power back

the police told me I was wrong
they said I provoked him
they implied that I wanted it
they said that I lied

But
I am holding my head high
And I am taking my power back

i let him keep me in his grasp for years
i used to cower and hide
i jumped at my own shadow
i double-checked the locks

But
I am holding my head high
And I am taking my power back

i learned to hate the world
i learned to like being alone
i put up a wall around me
i became a soldier of one

But
I am holding my head high
And I am taking my power back

i am a woman, proud and strong
i refuse to remain a victim
i will not be silent anymore

For
I am holding my head high
And I am taking my power back

i am becoming a butterfly
emerging from a cocoon
i am ready to spread my wings
i have found my voice again

FOR
I AM HOLDING MY HEAD HIGH
AND I AM TAKING MY POWER BACK!

KH

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Hanging out the Wash

All day, I hung the wash out
coat open, hat off, no mittens.
It seemed like spring
as I splashed the wet clothes on the line
like paints.
I painted you a picture of our lives
our bodies, our arms and legs flapping
useless and empty of each other.

You say I shouldn't hang the wash out,
but I hang my sorrows in the sun to thaw.
It's so much warmer than yesterday
and feels like spring:
thirty-five degrees but falling.
Yesterday was 20 below.
I bend over coughing and cannot stop.
The cough sinks a taproot in my lungs.

You say I shouldn't hang the wash out;
want me perhaps, to scrub it on a washboard
in the basement.
Coughing and wheezing,
I hang out your private shorts all in a row.
If you can say or do it, I can tell it.

I read that asthma is another way of crying,
another way of screaming.
You say I'm allergic to you and I am.

I take the frozen laundry from the line:
stiff bras and panties, solid jeans shatter
and lie splintered on the snow.

My fingers crack and fall off too.
They are my ten tongues,
punished for their honesty.

Mary Stebbins-Taitt

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Broken

We have fallen too far down –
we cannot see the world above
we went too fast
to stop ourselves from going down

We are now broken in six pieces - too far apart
and there is no way anyone
can put us together again

Maybe we never were together -
but a least we tried
we are too lost to be found
and too far down
to come back up anytime soon

All we have is a picture in a frame
of people we used to be and never will again
because those people knew
how to be a family
and the people that we are now
have no idea where to start anymore

So say goodbye to the family
and people we used to be - and say hello
to the broken family we are
the people we are now

So look at that picture one last time
and tell those people goodbye
because in my mind
those people are gone
for good this time

The end is no longer near - it's here
too bad we had to end, broken
just know I did not want it
to end like this
or this soon

but I guess we all had to see this coming

So goodbye -
to tears this time

Samantha McCormick

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The End

Today is the day where I will let you go
like ashes into the wind.

Today I will set the past on fire
and all things that remind me of you.

Today I will not say goodbye
even if we both know that it is.

I want you to know that I am not mad at you
for moving on with your life.

Time will not stand still.
I understand you are not the same as you used to be.

I want you to know I am done...
this is the end for me.
I am really moving on for good.

Today there might be tears,
but no matter what,
I will not regret saying goodbye to you.

Today I wish you luck
and hope that you are happy.

I would never wish you harm
because that would mean I still cared.

We have both made our beds
and I am sleeping in mine.
I hope you are doing the same.

I hope that you will never forget me
or what you did.

I may be over you,
but you will never forget your past,
I will always be in your head.
But to me you are nothing but the tide that left
and never came back.

I hope one day we will meet again.
If not, I understand.

But now I must say goodbye.

May you never forget me
this is the end of the line,
the end of the story.

Today I will let you go without looking back.
Today I will forgive you
so I can just forget you.

This is goodbye,
this is real,
this is the End.

Samantha McCormick

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The Scent of Sex

Have you ever heard someone say how everyone
has his own person scent?

Well anyway, I've been told that my personal scent...

Is the scent of sex
I remember wondering what that meant
Was it a compliment
Or were they trying to say
Something else

Cause in my heart it didn't matter if they were
Cause I felt the same
Its like from the beginning
I was marked

If not it sure seemed that way
When I was four, it was the boy
Next door

At age 5 - 6 the babysitter's kids

Then for a while
There seemed to be
No more I was free

Then grandma moved in
It started again
Now I'm nine
Just got over the chicken pox

Finally
Grandma let's me
Out the house
Into your hand and demands

I trusted you
And she still does
I start to grow and the boys start to look

I start to pray...
Pray I don't grow...
Grow up anymore

I want to be like
"Peter Pan"
Now I'm 13 look at me
People see something I don't see

The one they call the
"Pretty me"
Where is she, why can't I see her

I'm 13 far from home
The boy downstairs his eyes start to roam
It's okay my aunts at home...

What does he care
He's not her son

Day, weeks, month and years past
Life goes on
I live
Thoughts of the things that have been done
Thoughts of the words that have been said
Thoughts of the looks I've been given

Wondering if it was all because of something I did
Could that be it or was it something else
Could it be that I really have
The scent of sex

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Redeemed

You say
you love me,
but I don't believe

I am not
stupid,
ugly,
worthless,
mentally ill.

Never enough.

My value is not determined
by how much I earn.
Who I serve
is what matters.

You say
you want a family,
but I don't believe.

A push,
a fist,
broken plates
build fear
and regret.

I gave you
a home,
my love,
Bobby.

I am beautiful,
intelligent,
caring mother,
seeking truth.

Time will rebuild
my life,
my home,
my spirit.

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