CW: trauma, child abuse
The end of March smells like fresh wounds.
I wake up with wasps in my lungs, thorns at my feet,
the heat bleaches through my window
and I am back there but I am not back there.
It will take ten minutes of stillness
before the threat of the sting ceases,
before I can ease the air to my lungs.
In that nervous quiet,
I was born a week too soon, the only on-time I’ve ever been.
You are rushing down the hall to get this shoe and that card —
“Come on, can’t you help me here?!”
My small fingers stretch over the table, clamp around your purse strap, and I pull
until the sack lurches and thuds and spills.
You are in the doorway, noiseless and on fire,
I am on the floor, tangled in handles.
“Are you fucking kidding me? What the fuck are you doing?
Look at this fucking mess! I can always count on you!”
In my uncle’s car, he is laughing. “What took you so long?”
“Well, you know this one,” you say, waving at me.
I was fresh skin and tripping rocks,
wholly infant, tender and wild,
what did I know? what did I know?
A shower is just a shower until a shower is
a white noise sanctuary
to drown you out, to drown me
until you become thunder
banging at a cracking door,
muffling demands, shimmying
a steak knife through the lock mechanism
to get me, to get my attention
again and again
23, I forgot.
24, I remembered.
I am fourteen and I am asking why you hate me.
You are hurt, indignant, asking
“when am I so horrible to you?
when I buy you clothes? when I cook you dinner?
when I let you have friends over?”
I am fourteen and you are right
and it’s only me, ungrateful.
(I am ungrateful still
and maybe I should be better.)
and when we fight, you are saying “let me guess,
you’re going to make me the big bad wolf,
you’re going to twist me into a monster
when you’re the monster!”
so I am being quiet
and I am on the floor
and already my skull is a pulse in a spin cycle,
bleached for nine more years.
A recurring nightmare started at six:
me and several others, shadows creaking,
trapped in a house we couldn’t leave.
A monster slips and slithers the halls
while I hide in low corners.
Sometimes, someone disappeared
and the courtyard statue would bleed.
Sometimes, people would visit the outside
and I would scream from the upstairs window.
They never heard.
School pictures, grade four. I am ten.
You are showing me how to put on concealer
because this is what happens when I won’t stop crying.
I stop crying.
One of my exes stopped coming over the day you threw a plate at her.
“I was aiming for you” you told me,
and “What’s the big deal? It’s just a plate”
so I told her the same.
The ashes I have become
will carry, will scatter,
will soot all they touch.
I’d been moved for months before anything came out,
before “that’s just my mother”
became “oh” and “wait” and —
Now I am mechanisms, symptoms.
Now I am “what else have I forgotten to remember? what else have I? what else?”
Some scars have exact stories,
others appear in the morning, throbbing without explanation.
Do you remember the time
you and Dad removed the training wheels
and I, overexcited, took to the sidewalk,
sped up and down the street from one corner to another?
Hot July sweat tickled, stuck the hair to my neck.
Black leaves willowed against one another in the sun.
The spokes whizzed and my legs churned
until I hit the rock.
The handlebar seized, I flipped,
and you came running.
You cradled me
while I held my scraped palms to bleeding knee.
Soft, warm tears.
You rocked me back and forth, pet my hair, sang to me,
and Dad rummaged for the First Aid.
I wished I could scrape my knee every day.
If I remember you are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
will I forget the skies are grey?
The end of March smells like fresh wounds,
smells like eggs cracking and butter on toast.
In the midst of the spatter, I am shivering.
My hands are not my hands.
I am the nest, the keeper of the wasps, only the container,
the bodily visceral memory
that I can’t remember,
I can’t forget.
I am crying over eggs and I don’t know why.
these words by Finn Purcell were inspired by the work of Daphne Boyer