“Without Thanks”

~Esther Mitchell, 2013~



I wish I could tell you how grateful I am,

But the words stick in my throat like day-old bread,

They coat my tongue like oily, fake cheese,

Slicking away a “Thank you” that reeks of last week’s coffee grounds,

In your unwashed mug.


So I can’t say thank you,

For all the times you taught me,

That loving myself was conditional.

That I wasn’t real because my memory was something you chose to erase,

Like chalk off a blackboard in some old school house,

Dusted out of existence in clouds of fine white powder.


I can’t say thank you,

For a day in that box full of sand and disease,

When I was still young enough to believe in you.

Now my body still tries to gnaw itself away from the inside out,

Trapped in burning Hell I can never escape,

And you tell me the pain doesn’t exist,

Because you’ve decided it never happened that way.

The steady beeping of machines, the stream of blood away from my body,

The pity written on white-coated faces,

These are all wrong,

Because death only counts when it actually sticks.


I can’t say “Thank you,”

For those moments drowning in Hell,

For the days when I begged you not to send me back there,

And the nights when I cried out to be saved,

From monsters not in the closet or under the bed,

But from the one awaiting me inside my nightmares,

His claws already dug into my soul,

But you just told me to be quiet,

To just go to sleep,

And I learned there was nothing left for me,

Nothing but silence.


I can’t tell you how grateful I am,

For teaching me to measure my own value,

With a number on a scale,

In the distorted waves of a mirror,

And in the words and opinions of others,

To allow their taunts and torments to drown out anything beautiful or real within my soul,

For teaching me I was never skinny enough,

Never pretty enough,

Never, ever enough as I was,

Even as I hung over the toilet like a macabre piece of art,

The bathroom door a constantly revolving testament of self-abuse,

My existence a distorted mirror that reflects only monsters back at me,

As I searched everywhere but inside for approval,

Certain I wasn’t good enough without their love,

Desperate for someone to love me,

Want me,

Need me,

See me,

Reflect back at me something other than the monsters I see,

But seeing only my destruction,

Imploded by their averted gazes,

Torn down by their mocking laughter,

Until I know the truth – I’m broken, battered, unworthy.


I can never be grateful enough to you,

For teaching me the difference between the truth and a lie,

Yours is always the truth,

Mine is always the lie,

Yours is always the truth,

No matter how it twists what you don’t know,

Like pretzels in the hands of a master baker,

Mangles silent fears and memories like steel wreckage,

A life derailed like a train off its tracks, left smoldering in ruins.

Yours is always the truth,

Mine is always the lie,

My Hell nothing more than a tale, a dream I had, another’s memories, not mine,

Trapped here behind eyes and lips for decades,

Tortured and tormented in my own mind, my own memories,

Mocking me with the understanding that my demons aren’t real to anyone but me,

Because you said so,

And yours is always the truth,

I see your callous words in every face,

Hear them fall from every tongue,

I can find no solace, no hope,

When my very first source of life rejects my pain as irrelevant,

How can I ever trust another to ever love or accept me?


Betrayed by the first god every child is taught to petition and adore,

Silenced by the very word every child learns to cry out when the monsters,

come knock, knock, knocking in the night,

Taught to despise my very soul and form by the same source that gave them life,

Banished from the heart Nature tells us should be open arms and unconditional love.


No, I can’t thank you,

Because everything I am,

Is something I created from my own ashes.

The ashes of the child you destroyed,

The heart you betrayed repeatedly,

All the while telling yourself you were loving me.

I created me,

By refusing to banish my past, my pain, my horror.

I embrace them as my own,

Because without them, the only one who wins is you.


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