“Courage”

~Esther Mitchell, 2014~

I learned early,
To see needing help as a weakness,
A sign I was unworthy of love.

I grew up wide awake in the night,
Listening for the tread of feet on the stairs,
That might reveal my monster could do everything he claimed.
A tread that never came,
But which keeps my eyes wide in the night,
Awake even today,
Listening for the sound of footsteps,
On stairs that no longer exist.

I learned to fear the silence,
Even as I retreated inside it,
Knowing I might never re-emerge.
I consigned my reeling mind to paper,
My blood and tears soaked in every word,
My silence bought and sold by others,
Thirty pieces in exchange in trade for my soul,
And I learned to hate myself,
For who could possibly love a monster such as I?

I learned to use food as a weapon,
Turned inward on myself,
And on those days I foolishly believed,
Myself worthy of the smile on my face,
I forced myself to binge until I could no longer stand the sight,
Of my own face — the monster — in the mirror,
Punished twice as I knelt,
Puking my sins away,
And yet never able to purge myself clean again.

I learned to take the cruel words of my peers,
As they laughed at my expense,
And used their taunts — four eyes, blimp, Fester, thunder thighs,
An excuse to tell the girl in the mirror,
She would never be beautiful,
Because everyone knows beauty is about perfection,
And she is torn, tainted, stained,
Not perfection.

I was just eight years old,
The first time I picked up a knife,
And carved the word “Whore” in bloody streaks,
Forever into my own flesh.
A word no child should know,
Branded into my skin,
Where only I could see it,
And be reminded how unworthy I am of love.

I was ten years old,
When I attempted to open my own veins,
To bleed away the taint I felt with every beat of my heart,
It took a stranger’s hand to stop me,
A woman whose name I still don’t know,
Who spoke to me in broken English,
And showed me a kindness my own kin didn’t feel.

I was eleven years old,
When the pain became too much,
And to drive it away I emptied a bottle to kill it,
But when you can’t physically swallow pills,
It turns out you can’t even kill yourself right,
And a bottle of baby aspirin,
Doesn’t register as poison,
When diluted by fluids, after passing out.

“Dehydration” they shrugged it off,
And the help I needed never looked my way.

I was twelve years old,
When I discovered morphine, as a liquid,
Is something hospitals have in plenty.
But drinking it is bitter, and works so slowly,
I couldn’t even hide from discovery, no matter how I tried.
Only I was discovered by an angel,
Who would teach me I was beautiful,
Just the way I was,
And teach me joy and pain come hand-in-hand,
And burns the heart out in a fireball of twisted metal debris,
Raining down from the bright blue sky.

I learned silence is screaming,
Hidden away in the heart,
Tears sobbed into a pillow,
For fear someone else might hear,
When all around me were both deaf and blind.

The thing I never learned was courage,
Because courage is the strength to speak,
And I knew words as weakness,
A lesson I learned early, and I learned well.

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