Monthly Archives: August 2014

“Memories in Fire”

~Esther Mitchell, 2014~

My jaw cracks,
From the weight of trying to force words up from my throat,
To regurgitate sounds you might find pleasing,
While inside, there’s only screaming.

I hear the pop and crackle in my ears,
The static of decades spent with a steady drone,
Echoing in the vaults of my skull,
Telling me I should think like you,
I should believe like you,
I should be like you.

My eyelids are weighted with lies,
Told me by a printed page,
That only reports what it’s told to speak,
Like a propaganda marionette,
Dancing the same tired jig.

In 1988, the news media gave exactly ten seconds of airtime,
And less even than that of print,
To an event that took dozens of lives,
Left hundreds more shattered,
Scattered like carrion on a field where steel birds rose and landed.
I know the horror of that day.
I sat less than one hundred yards from my very own Ground Zero,
Frozen in terror as my disbelieving eyes filled with fire,
My ears with the screaming, the cracking roar of ignited jet fuel.
I watched bodies, and parts of bodies,
Swept from the fields into the buffeting winds of an angel of death,
a child, witness to a horror US media would simply sweep under a rug,
while I still awake, screaming,
with visions and sounds burned into my brain that will not fade.

In 1991, the US media reported that we were “winning” our “war” in the Gulf.
There were few casualties listed for the UN Coalition, and fewer yet for the US military.
While I sat with breath frozen in my lungs, waiting for the words I dreaded most,
The loss of a friend, of a loved one,
And I thought the not knowing was agony,
But the knowing was worse, when reports came in of missiles falling,
And the names rolled off tongues, until I couldn’t hear anymore.
But we were “winning” the war, with acceptable losses.
How many losses are acceptable to you?

In 2001, Hell came to us.
The screaming filled ALL of our skies, and the anguish could no longer be denied.
I vomited blood, the night before it happened.
Hours spent, wretched and afraid, huddled on my bathroom floor,
I didn’t know why, I didn’t know what, I didn’t know if I was dying, or if it was the world.
And as I watched the smoke billow, heard the flames crackle and the screams,
I knew I’d come full circle, back to that girl,
Sitting on the runway, watching the sky rain metal and fire,
And all I could do was cry.

I will not make mockery of the lives lost,
Souls taken in fire and screaming.
I will not let myself be party to the lie,
Party to the fury,
Party to the blame.
I remember the heroes,
The sacrifices,
The slain.



“Surviving the Monster”

~Esther Mitchell, 2014~

They tell you children are color-blind,
That they don’t see race until they’re taught.

When I was six years old,
I learned to fear white men,
To see a monster in every face,
The product of terror and pain,
Soul bled out, invisible,
Torn from me amidst savage words,
Burned forever into memory,
A litany of demonic voices trapped within my head.
It took a white man to show me,
There was nothing to fear,
That I was stronger than that pain,
That not all white men are monsters.

When I was eight years old,
I learned to fear black men,
At the hands of a black man with power over me,
Who tore my lungs from my chest,
Because I already could not breathe,
Who flayed me with the very Elements,
An icy knife that slashed my body in two,
Until my vision faded, my knees weakened,
And I could not run any more.
It took a black man to teach me there was nothing to fear,
Who saw my terror, and spoke to it,
Gently told me there was no reason left to run,
And gave me back the power of my own lungs.

I was a child who learned to fear everything male,
To shrink away from any touch,
To close my eyes and pretend they might all go away,
For fear the next time, I might not survive.
Until one man showed me I was the one with the power,
To bring a man to his knees,
And to lift him up so he could fly.
And in realizing all that I am,
I realized all that I am not.
I am not a victim unless I choose to be,
I am not blind, deaf, or mute,
Unless I choose to let myself be led.
Violence and ignorance are identical,
No matter the color they wear upon their skin,
And if you’re looking for the monster,
The first place to look is deep within.

“In Team”

~Esther Mitchell, 2014~

They say “There’s no I in team,”
As if that’s supposed to make it all right,
When they use you and spit you out,
A cog in a greed-driven machine of the 1%,
Who make their fortunes on the backs of the “team,”
Who are barely paying the rent.
They say “be a team player,”
As if you’re not already giving your all,
As if you don’t pour half your life,
The best and brightest years you have,
Into a job that tears your apart, body and soul,
Leaves you chewed up, spit out, and flushed down the drain,
All for a pittance that barely gets you by,
While the fat cats lounge in their ivory towers,
Doing nothing but collecting the sweat of your brow,
The metal of your blood,
The price of your soul.
No, there’s no “I” in “team,”
But then, there’s no “team” in “job,”
No “leader” in “teamwork,”
No “slave” in “career.”
Quit spouting worthless pep talks,
When you’ve not once put yourself in the trenches,
When you don’t provide a living wage, a caring benefit,
For the effort you demand,
Until you actually work,
For the exact same amount most do,
Don’t expect anyone to feel “part of the team,”
Or have any loyalty at all.

“With the Light On”

~Esther Mitchell, 2014~

When I was six years old,
I learned to sleep with the light on.
I was not hiding from monsters beneath my bed,
Nor from spectral arms that reached from within my closet.
I had no fear of the ethereal creatures children are taught to fear,
Because in one bright, sunlit afternoon,
I learned where monsters are really made.

When I was six years old,
I learned the difference between a scream and silence,
Is the width of a palm,
That the difference between care and apathy,
Is the length of a hallway,
The screams of glee from a sunlight temple to Poseidon,
The faint echoes of my descent into Hades.

When I was six years old,
I learned you can drown without ever touching the water,
That glass walls keep in water,
Keep in light,
Keep out peace,
A churning of bubbles,
Darting of bright bellies,
While a monster gorged itself on my flesh, my soul.

When I was just six years old,
I learned secrets are kept tucked in the back of your mind,
Like mismatched socks stuffed beneath the squeaky floorboard,
Meant to keep sound from waking the dead,
Waking the sleeping,
Waking the truth,
The price of acceptance,
A secret that strips away the very fabric of being,
Claws ripping through the fragile silk of a soul.

I am thirty-six years old,
And I still sleep with the light on,
Not because I’m afraid of what’s beneath my bed,
But because I’m still afraid of the monster,
prowling inside my head.