“Learned”

~Esther Mitchell, 2010~

I learned the price of innocence,

at the hands of a boy who’d been taught power was what made a man.

The price of my innocence was silence.

A silence that echoes in my life,

ripples through everything I do.

A silence that still wakes me in soundless screams.

A voice forever ripped away.

I learned trust is something to be shattered,

by eyes that look the other way,

Ears that hear silence in relief,

Ears closed against muffled sounds of tears and fears screamed into my pillow

I learned the measure of my worth,

not in love or hugs, or even in words of encouragement,

Instead I learned to measure myself by the width of my waist,

a number on a scale,

A cruel word tossed out by those who had no idea what fell apart inside.

I learned to see myself as worthless, as used-up and damaged goods,

To hide myself in shadow, to shrink into the walls, the corners,

hidden away in silence

I learned there’s no such thing as a parent’s love,

Alone, facing my demons in the dark,

when I cried in the night I was told to go to sleep,

When I cried out that there were monsters,

I was told I was imagining things,

No one bothered to ask me if those monsters had a face,

had a name,

No one bothered to ask if they were real

When I begged to not face those monsters in the light of day,

I learned about betrayal, told to “grow up” and do as I was told,

Words they had no way of knowing echoed from the depths of my personal Hell,

Because no one bothered to ask why my hesitance about the water had become a raging phobia,

Why the smell of bleach made me nauseous,

or why I shrank away from men

I learned to loathe what I saw in the mirror,

To torture and torment away the ghosts by destroying the body that held them in,

And to view everything I felt, saw, or heard with suspicion and skepticism,

Because it came from me, and therefore could not be real –

because I was told it was not real.

I learned compassion for others from the cold and cruel treatment shown to me,

Promising myself I would not be like them,

I would not inflict the same harm I suffered,

I would not become the embodiment of that monster I saw in the mirror.

I learned to see myself as ugly, as worthless, as weak,

Because beauty is measured in pots of cream and sticks of color,

a femininity I was never taught to know,

Because value is measured in the elevation one’s existence brings to others,

and I am damaged goods,

to be discarded like last night’s takeaway cartons,

when the sustenance I provide is all used up,

Because strength is measured in how one dominates others,

rather than by what one endures or overcomes.

And today, I look back and wonder…

Who was that girl who died so many years ago?

What could she have been?

How could she have changed the world?

Where would she have been today?

When was it really too later to save her?

Or is it still not too late to rebirth her from the ashes of my cindered life?

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