Photograph

I study the photograph with careful intent

Afraid of what I am seeing, or…

Not seeing

I was so young

Newborn

Cradled in your arms

And in my mother’s

You and your wife just adopted your first daughter

Mother’s brown eyes are bright

Warm with pride and joy and new life

Your brown eyes are dark

Hollow and cold

Bereft of…

Everything

Maybe you just hated having your picture taken

Surely you just hated having your picture taken

Then why did you have your picture taken

This was your moment as a new father

Your first moment

One count

One shutter

One smile

One emotion

One…

Anything

But there is nothing

There was nothing

Why was there nothing

I stare at the photograph

My mother was so gentle

She is still so gentle

With her hands and words as with her eyes

But not you

Never you

Did you already know your new life would never be good enough

Did you already know I would never be good enough

You didn’t mean to

I know you didn’t mean to

I have to believe you didn’t mean to

But it still hurt

You were always gone

Emotionally and physically

Unavailable and away

But that may have been better for me

You had a way of instructing me

Teaching me

An indirect way of showing me I could do better

An indirect way of telling me I needed to do better

Be better

Be better than myself

Than me

It was the same every time

It started the same way

With the same prerequisite

“When I was your age…”

Leading into a story of your success

And then another

And another

And another…

Comparing me to yourself

Constantly

It never got easier for me

Because as always

You came out on top

“I’m proud of you”

Stoic and meaningless

Emotionless

Might as well not have said it

You knew I could never measure up to you

I could never accomplish what you have

I could never do what you have

And I wanted to

I wanted to meet your expectations

I wanted to be a lawyer, too

But not for me

For you

Would that have made you happy

Would that have made me good enough

I will never know

And neither will you

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Flame

Music: Oceans – Jacob Lee

Flame

And yet it lingered
Impervious
Evading my eviction notice
Refusing to vacate my mind
I willed it away with what little I had left
Tried to immerse it in abundant sorrow
Suffocate it with breathless nights
Carve it with a fractured heart
Squeeze it unresponsive with strained embraces
Trample it with reticent footsteps dancing among eggshells
Freeze it with ice much too cold for a warm heart to give
Mummify it with loathing I held for myself
Because maybe it could be meant for you
When it would not go
I thought
Maybe if I could burn the thoughts that remained
The pictures you carved into my vision
The words you stitched on my tongue
The stench of your cologne trapped in my clothes
The taste of your skin on my mouth
You would finally leave me
So I held a flame to your memory
It touched first your umber eyes
I watched the blaze in their reflection
Until the mirror turned to ash
And spilled to the floor
I guided a spark to your mouth
Drenched your lips in gasoline
Watched them shrivel to black
Curl into endless silence
The snake behind them too cauterized to breathe anymore
The flare caught your fingertips
Each one turning to charcoal
Crumbling in fragments to the ground
The crimson caressed your skin
Stretched to every inch I could not touch
I watched in silence, knowing the crackling of the inferno was taking pieces of me with you
A sacrifice I was willing to make if it meant you would go
The wind carelessly carried you away, billows of black smoke writhing into halos above your head
Now I am not the one spiraling
I looked at my feet, hidden beneath what was left of you
Now I am not the one below
I do not expect you to be gone forever
But should you return
Remember
I am the one holding the match

Unfamiliar Stillness

I’m terrified
But I sit with you
You do not force me to
You allow me to choose my own company
And I choose you
Silence cloaks us, but it is not heavy, not hollow
It does not beg to be filled
Your breaths are a quivering quiet, but slow and steady
A rhythm in which I feel at home
Your light eyes do not hold me, though I am so aware the flakes of crystal in them could paralyze me
I do not feel them
When I look at you, only then can I sense their grip
So many times I have longed to get away
This time I want to be kept
I want to be kept safe
I want to be kept warm
I want to be kept hidden
And I want you to keep me
You can keep me
Please keep me
Even from here I can feel your heartbeat
It is fast like mine
Are you afraid, too?
I find comfort in its pace, for I know I am not alone
I can see a heaviness in your thoughts written on your face
I notice your hand tremble as you begin to lift it
I flinch
You freeze
In this moment of stillness I realize the depth of your caring
I move my own, placing it between us
An invitation
Your eyes land upon my hand
You fingers follow, resting there, slow and gentle
There is no pressure, only compassion and kindness
So soft
Now your fingers are laced with mine
I’m terrified
But I stay with you
So many times I have longed to get away
Maybe one day I can tell you
Your touch and losing the pain
Feel the same
I see you smile, so genuine and selfless
Maybe for once my vulnerability is appreciated
And so unfamiliar, I feel the same cross my own lips
I want you to keep me
You can keep me
Please keep me

Can You Hold Me

I hold my breath
I’m waiting for your voice
I’m waiting for the words
I’m waiting for the question
Please
Please
Please don’t ask me
Your pale cheeks are stained with salt
The pillow beside us is sodden
I watch the raindrops fall from your dark eyes
Each one a lie as it crosses your lips
Your sobs become unbearable
But I can’t leave
I can’t go
I have to sit with fear as my company
Just don’t
Please
Please don’t ask me
Not tonight
You told me you loved me
I learn love means weapons
You told me you needed me
I learn being needed means having an empty clip
You told me you were sorry
I learn apologies can’t be my ammunition
You told me we had good times, too
I learn good times are your target practice
I hear a steady breath
You breathe but I can’t
I watch your chest rise
I realize only words
Can turn a moment into a lifetime
Please
Please
Please, no
Not this time
Please
“Can you hold me?”
You know my answer before I part my lips
You’ve twisted it into my mouth, onto my tongue
No
No
I don’t want to
Because you hurt me
You hurt me
You hurt…
“Of course.”

Glass

*TRIGGER WARNING*

I see your shadows in the hallways
I hear your voice echo off the walls
I had hoped I had only dreamt it
I had hoped you’d never been here at all
But I can see you through every window
I can feel you slamming all the doors
I hear your breathing, oh so quiet
But your footsteps are heavy on the floor

Shards of glass lie upon the carpet
Making my silence loud enough to hear
And though I tip toe and try to hide it
I know any sound I make will find your ear
This small house used to glow a safe white
There were no stains when I lived alone
Now I watch the walls drip with bright red
Look what you’ve done; this used to be my home.

I still smell you on my bedsheets
I still feel your hands across my skin
I cannot sleep here, for when my eyes close
Though I can’t see you, I watch it all again
I open my door to the hallway
Dead silence is what keeps me alive
But the door creaks as it betrays me
I hold my breath, “no, no you cannot cry.”

His door opens slowly down the hallway
The only barrier keeping him from me
Are the shards of glass he laid on the carpet
Though they make mine bleed they do not touch his feet
But different this time, as I’m watching
I see his blood smeared across the floor
From his footsteps and I realize
He cannot hurt me, can’t touch me anymore.

I start to wonder why all the sudden
He cannot walk on his glass this time
As he is screaming, I look closer
And then I notice the glass isn’t his anymore…
It’s mine.

Dear Me

Dear me,
Young fourteen,
This is not who you’re always gonna be.
It won’t be easy,
But you’ll see
If you keep walking through the fire you’ll be set free.

Dear me,
Two more years
Have passed and you’re still stuck with all your fears.
But just you keep
On walking through
The insecurities that have always blinded you.

Dear me,
Two years later,
Parts of you will soon begin to break and shatter.
But don’t you dare
Stop right there,
Or you’ll miss out on the love you’re meant to share.

Dear me,
Two decades old,
Be careful to whom you give your heart to hold.
Because he’ll take
What isn’t his
Please just know this isn’t what love really is.

Dear me,
Now twenty two,
You’ll soon receive a gift that’ll always stay with you.
And he is safe
For your heart.
He’ll start putting back together what others tore apart.

Dear me,
One year later,
You’ll have to leave the one thing that ever held you together.
But don’t you let
Your heart be torn,
For in this cold, harsh world he’ll be able to keep it warm.

Dear me,
Twenty four,
Don’t let the bottle in his hands push you around anymore.
It’s time to go,
You’re allowed to leave,
It still hurts even if others cannot see.

Dear me,
Twenty five,
It’s hurt like hell, but keep your head up, you’re still alive.
All this pain
That’s bruising you
May not end right now, but you do make it through.

Dear me,
Twenty seven,
When he calls you her name, know you should be leaving.
You don’t deserve
The way he is.
In your eyes is hope, but there will always be none in his.

Dear me,
Months down the road
Give him a chance, for he won’t keep you on your toes.
He’ll make you laugh
And make you smile
And you will start to heal though it may take a while.

When your heart
Leaves for heaven
It’s ok for you to open up, is ok for you to tell them.
Sometimes the ones
That help you most
Aren’t always people who stay so very close.

Dear me,
I’m twenty eight now,
I’ve made it this far but sometimes don’t know how.
But some days
I still hear
A little, quiet voice in my ear.
“It won’t always
Be this hard
Hope is precious, it’s how you got this far.
So don’t quit now
Don’t give up
You’ll be where you want to be just soon enough.”

And there’s your life
Through one more door,
Just a little patience, just wait a little more.
It’s not over,
It’s not done,
You’re so much stronger than what you thought you could become.

Eggshells

*TRIGGER WARNING*

“I’ll take what I want when I want.”

Your statement was in reference to your careless sexual agenda with me, but its raw meaning didn’t remain confined to your hot breath on my skin, your cold hands on my hips, the burning between my thighs with every movement. You said it with a tone that hinted you were joking, but it turned out to be the only truth to ever slither off your venomous tongue. Every word of every phrase from your vile lips was dark, distant, and deceitful, just like you; you were never more than a malicious, unsteady shadow cloaked flawlessly with light.

In the beginning, all that was visible was that love of life, that brilliant charm, that wide grin and witty banter, but over time the cloak fell to shredded pieces scattered on the floor. I didn’t realize I would soon be strewn across the floor too, clinging to the bits of light barely visible anymore. You led me blindly into your shattered world, and shattered me with it, with you. You took anything you wanted, everything I didn’t have to offer. I unveiled my heart quickly, young, blatant naivety placing it in your hands before you earned it. Your response was to yank it from me as though it was an object that already belonged in your possession; you were never gentle with it, just like you were never gentle with me.

You defined love and fear for me, both of which I am still trying to redefine seven years later. What you were willing to give was never love; love does not yell ruthlessly at a terrified girl, nor does it strip her of her identity by placing rough hands where they are not wanted, or control her life as if it were your own. The way you defined fear, however, was simple: stay on your toes upon the eggshells; do not cry for the tears may melt the thin ice; tread quietly as to not anger him, for his tongue is a whip, his fists wrecking balls, and his voice a volcano. My effort didn’t matter, though. Your explosions of anger and the side effects they brought had no instigation, and their sporadic yet guaranteed occurrences left me frozen in fear because you kept fight and flight for yourself. You could fight if you chose to. You could go as you pleased, but not me. I was to bend to your rules, do as you said, and I was afraid I wouldn’t have a tomorrow if I didn’t.

The power was yours, the control was yours, but it was never my choice; you never heard me, never cared to listen, and I could not speak over you. While you were suspicious, I was transparent, but I guess the terror I laid on the table wasn’t good enough… or maybe you enjoyed seeing it there. You shoved me away with your animosity, but kept me chained so you could yank me back into your smothering arms, bereft of solace or comfort; all I found in them was a horrid inability to breathe, or the sound of your fist against the wall too close to me. Each time your lifeless fingertips touched my skin, you tore away yet another piece of me, never belonging to you, and took a lit match to it; I watched as I slowly became less and less, engulfed in flames, in shock and in pain.

Maybe one day I’ll stop hating myself for allowing you to pull me back to you like a fish on a hook. You held vicious secrets in one palm, untrue accusations in the other, and over time they slipped through your fingers to land at my feet, like shards of glass among the eggshells. It didn’t take long for my steps to become painful, my footprints a trail of dark red on the ice, but you demanded I keep walking. I lived in your rain, cringed under your thunder, trembled beside your lightning; you were a ceaseless thunderstorm, one you implanted within me to hold until it destroyed me, until you destroyed me. I lost who I was to you, my identity altered because of you, my future uncertain and daunting. I’m still trying to put myself back together, but missing pieces make it difficult. I hope you didn’t keep them; I hope you tossed them away thoughtlessly. You never deserved any part of me. I don’t know who I am anymore; you took that from me. I never should have been forced to be that strong, but I was not given an option. I was never given a choice.

Someday I hope to no longer find you in everything which should be beautiful. I fight myself every day, but am I really fighting myself, or am I still glued to your shadow? Somehow you still remind me of all I couldn’t be.