Tag Archives: abuse

“One Heart At a Time”

~Esther Mitchell, 2010~

I’m sorry I hurt you,

he whispered in the night,

I’m sorry I made you feel,

worthless in my sight.

I never meant to harm you,

to put pain upon your face,

or scars upon your heart,

he murmurs as she flees for safer space.

His thoughtless words have done their evil task,

his cruelty has left a brutal mark.

She’s suffered in silence for the last time,

determined to slip away in the dark.

One day she’ll learn terrible truths,

that will chill her to the bone.

She’s not the first one he’s harmed,

She’s far, far from alone.

Note from the Author: 

 Domestic Violence doesn’t come in just bruised and battered bodies. It also comes in hateful words, screaming, and belittling. It comes in emotional, spiritual, mental and financial control, not just physical or sexual torture. It comes in inflexible control over another person’s health, welfare, or general well-being. And it often comes from those we expect to love us most. It can come from a parent (birth, adoptive, step, or by-marriage), a spouse, a lover, a sibling, or even a child. And the worst part of it is, most forms of abuse are silent to the rest of the world. Physical marks can be noticeable, in some situations. But emotional, mental and spiritual marks are invisible to the unknowing (and/or unconcerned) eye. Financial abuse is often the worst, as often the victim is ridiculed or blamed by the world at large for their own victimization (how cutting the words “how could you be that dumb?” can be when no one understands the manipulative tactics of a financial abuser. Financial abuse often leads to or involves other forms of “silent” abuse, as well – emotional, mental, or spiritual, or any combination of the above).

 It is vitally important that society as a whole takes a step back and looks at the whole picture of abuse, and not just the poster-child, if you will – physical beating. Compassion, not ridicule, is called for. “I told you so” has no place in the mouth of someone claiming to want to help. Nor does negating another’s experiences with your own. Statistics show that, even in the same household, no two victims suffer the exact same abuse. Victims often aren’t looking for advice – they know what they need to do. What they’re looking for is someone to give them the unquestioning support and sense of strength they need to carry through what has to/needs to be done. Telling someone “you need to get out” says “I think you’re stupid, too” when they’re in a mentally or emotionally abusive relationship – they KNOW they need to get out. What they need to someone to convince them they really ARE strong enough to make it out.

 It’s also important to note that Domestic Violence isn’t a “one-time” thing. Not only does it go on for years, but the perpetrators of Domestic Violence often have a long history of abuse. They might have acted out as children in a fashion that left parents or siblings wary of them. It’s possible they were even so out of control as to be institutionalized in an effort to control their violent or neglectful impulses and outbursts. They always blame others for their inability to control their emotions or anger. They’ll start explosive arguments over the most minor of comments or events, seeing a slight or accusation in any word or action that isn’t specifically aimed at praising or providing comforts for him/her. They tend to expect others to take care of them or provide for them, and they take it for granted that it’s other people’s jobs to provide their care. They’re not likely to remember your birthday or special occasions, but will incessantly remind you of their own and what they want you to provide them. In short, they tend to have a narcissistic outlook, and they will repeatedly abuse every person who is involved in a close personal relationship with them – probably the main reason why most of their personal relationships fail.

 Spiritually speaking, abusive personalities tend not to actually follow any religious tenants with a true heart, but they will quickly make use of religious dogma as a weapon against the person/people they are abusing – especially when used as a way to prove how the victim “brought this on” him or herself.

“Hug”

~Esther Mitchell, 2014~

Three little letters.
They reach through the web of wires,
The pulsing electrical current,
Pushed on by the strike of a key.
Striking.
Do you know how each blow pummels me to the ground?
How the letters are meant as erasers,
To eradicate a past you can’t bear to witness,
Remove all traces of it from your sight,
White-wash your vision with roses and light.
Light.
Light hits my face as I break the surface,
The water scented with chemicals,
Burned into my brain, until the smell gags me,
Before the light is ripped away,
Turned blue like the glow of a mocking spectre,
Swallowing up color in darting wriggles of light,
Until the dank smell of old water mixes with blood.
Blood.
Ever notice how blood smells so rich?
Like a mineral parade making a winding road of my body,
Learning the creases of my skin like a lover,
Leaving behind a part of myself I can never retrieve.
Retrieve.
Retrieving my messages online, I see those three little letters,
Blinking at me, in response to my pain.
They’re supposed to tell me someone’s listening.
They’re supposed to tell me someone cares.
But how can someone listen when the words screaming in my silence,
Are “don’t touch me” and “help me” all rolled together?
How can anyone care when I can’t help but shrink away,
From those three words that blink on my screen.

globe

“Fairy Tales”

~Esther Mitchell, 2015~

I learned very young,
To hide pain behind a smile,
And that disappointment didn’t exist,
Unless it was someone else’s, in me.
While other children knew carefree,
I learned to act like I belonged,
I perfected the comedy of “play,”
To cover over a tragedy in which I was the corpse.
My flesh houses an empty hollow,
That echoes even today with my silent screams.
By the time my peers learned to read,
I was pouring out what was left of my soul on tear-stained pages.
I had already learned sticks and stones merely left bruises,
But words had the power to kill,
It only took one to take away the rest of my life,
Washed it away in a sea of chlorine meant to white-wash the truth,
Into something more palatable for adults to swallow.
See, they don’t want to hear that you’re damaged,
Or that you’re pulled apart from the inside,
A twisted, rotting corpse of yourself.
A child is supposed to be happy,
And if you’re not, they don’t want to know.
They’ll stick their heads so far into the sand they come up in an ocean,
Where they can’t possibly see the evidence of your tears.
I was a prisoner in solitary confinement,
Attempting my own execution, just to escape the monsters in my head,
Hoping to outrun demons that mocked me with my own worthlessness.
When I was still a child, I learned not to wish,
There was no genie in my bottle,
Just a handful of white oblivion, ready to swallow me up if I let it.
It became easy to think of letting it.
It became easy to let it.
And then an angel taught me how to fly.
Taught me clouds were meant to be walked on.
Taught me corpses could be brought back to life, could be beautiful again.
Taught me what it was like to fall.
Taught me what it’s like when the ground swallows you whole,
Takes away angels and sweeps away clouds,
Until there’s nothing left but that hollow, empty grave.
And the blood runs red,
Streams that become rivers,
Until it carries away the pain,
And I wish again – to remove the heart that won’t stop beating.
Because I learned as a child,
Fairy tales are only there to trick you into ignoring the darkness.

Image by graur codrin

Image by graur codrin

“Let It Go”

~Esther Mitchell, 2014~

You told me today,
That I just need to calm down,
That it’s not that bad,
That I should just let it go.
I smiled, and nodded, and walked away.
But what I wanted to ask you,
Was if you’d seen the leash I’m holding,
The door I’ve barricaded with my body,
To save you from the demons that push against the other side,
If I let go of this leash,
I unleash something I cannot control,
Its ravenous appetite never satisfied,
Until it pulls the last precious drop of my blood, of life,
From the hollow shell of my soul,
If I step away from the door,
Peel my body from this lock,
Rest my vigilance for even a breath,
I unleash a hell I cannot push back again,
I am Pandora before the box,
Untempted, because I already know the pestilence inside,
There isn’t any hope in my box,
My only hope rests in keeping it firmly closed,
And so I made my body the only key,
My throat sewn shut around the magic words,
That I could keep the demons from escaping.
You tell me I should pray about it,
But there’s no prayer that stays this battle,
No God capable of turning back this horde,
Your God abandoned me when this Hell was created,
My pleas echoed off your god’s deaf ears like bullets off Kevlar,
Until I was deafened to the sound of prayer,
Each word from your lips an artillery round,
Blowing open more places for the demons to come in,
More hollows where the words whispered in the night,
Until they were all I could hear, telling me to take the pills,
To use the knife,
To go back to the beginning, to fill my lungs with the water,
As they were that day.
You tell me to think positive,
That this, too, shall pass.
While you’re drowning me in your mantras,
You know nothing of what I face.
I am neither positively or negatively charged.
I am a lightning bolt,
A pounding pulse of electricity that lights up the night,
Fills the sky, takes it over, burns the ground where I walk,
And I am the night, the humming darkness before a storm,
The momentary tingle on your scalp, your tongue,
Just before my fire splits the sky.
I learned this when my world split in two,
Gained the ability to be invisible,
When it became too difficult for you to see me,
Charged the cloak of my own night,
With enough electricity to light the world,
Because the only way to drive my demons back,
Was to be something they feared more than I feared them.
I am the Gates of Babylon,
The portals through which heroes prostrate to pass,
My voice the guardian of secrets that bring kings to their knees,
My body a sacrament defiled to the roar of waves that sink kingdoms and empires.
Do not dare to tell me who, or what, shall pass through me,
Because you do not know the canals carved into my face,
By the rivers of tears you never saw, never stemmed.
You have not navigated the River Styx within my soul,
The murky water none can cross without my permission,
My tongue the ferryman, hand outstretched.
You haven’t the coin to unlock my secrets,
Because you don’t know what it means,
To cut out your own tongue,
To spare others from the demons who howl,
On the other side of my abyss.
You told me today,
To let it go, to just move on,
Because you have no idea,
The monsters I keep at bay.

Flames

“Theatre of Being”

~Esther Mitchell, 2014~

It’s all a long procession,
Of masks, and lines, and parts,
Emoting in stasis, like a grinning puppet,
Of a circus that long ago frightened off childhood,
And replaced it with this writhing, frenzied beast,
Determined to rip me apart, starting on the inside.

My value was bought and sold,
Not in bags of silver,
But in pennies,
Tossed in a street full of runaway horses,
While others stood on the sidelines and laughed,
As I scrambled to hold my sinking life together,
My torment turned into a spectator sport,
In which your commentary matters more to you,
Than my living the experience ever will.

I am a marionette in the hands of the masses,
The tattered old Punch who’s taken too many beatings,
And still the audience demands to be entertained,
Amused by my plight,
Made to feel important by my misery,
As if my life was just a part I play,
To be shelved when the lights dim,
Washed away like a grease painted mask,
And forgotten until I’m next called on to entertain.

But this theatre you see,
Goes to the very core of my being,
It is my life, everything that I am,
Laid open, bare, and bleeding,
I’m not asking for much in exchange,
But to not be treated like a source of your entertainment.

Image by graur codrin

Image by graur codrin

“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.

“Lessons In Hate”

~Esther Mitchell, 2014~

 

 

My first lesson was in hate.

Not the hate that bursts outward like fists or guns,

Not the hate that flails on skin and race and sons.

The hate I learned turned inward,

A poisoned serpent sent to strip me of my own flesh,

A hate that fed on all I was,

On bone, and blood, and soul.

 

When I was just a year old,

I was set before the altar of a God I never knew,

Fed pestilence and silence,

Before I ever learned a tongue,

My body purged with fire,

That burned me from within,

Until I was left without,

Broken, bleeding, scarred,

When I had barely learned to crawl.

 

From the time that I could speak,

I was taught to fear what I could see,

To hate myself for being different,

To hate myself because my world was painted in Technicolor,

While all they saw was black and white and gray.

I was taught to hate my eyes,

Because they saw what no one wanted me to see,

To hate my own ears, because they heard whispers in the dark,

Where everyone said there were none, but I knew monsters to be.

I was taught to hate my own words,

Because every word that fell from my innocent young lips,

Must surely be a lie,

A story meant to send me,

Straight to a damnation in which I could not quite believe.

 

When I was barely six years old,

I came face-to-face with Hell,

I learned that monsters don’t breathe fire,

Or hide beneath the bed, or in the closet.

No, when I was six, I learned what were the real Bogeymen.

In a Temple to a god of chemicals and tile,

In a white-washed sanctuary to the cult of learning to stay afloat,

I learned how it felt to drown.

Pressed down by hands sent to protect me,

My screams pressed back by a hand,

Then smothered with a towel drenched in chlorine and sweat,

I stared at brightly colored clowns,

As in their ghostly lit prison,

They swam ’round, and ’round, and ’round,

And like me, not a single one of them,

Could ever make a sound.

And while I lay there,

Rough cloth to my skin,

While a boy at least ten years older,

Proved he was a man,

I cried against that towel,

Begged a God in which I did not believe,

That someone would come and rescue me.

But that day, no one saved me,

And as his filthy poison spilled into my ear,

I learned what makes a monster,

And what turns a child into a ghost.

For that day, in that wretched Hell on Earth,

I laid there on that sofa,

Watching hope and innocence trickle away,

And the girl became a specter,

To the monster given birth.

 

You see, I was taught that children,

Should be seen and never heard,

That little girls who show interest in things girls shouldn’t,

Are something evil, to be treated as such.

That day, that day I learned,

The hate never goes away.

I was taught to hate myself,

And that day taught me those voices were right,

In every mirror I saw a monster,

In every voice “your fault,”

A mere child, with shaking hands,

I took a kitchen knife to my skin,

I carved a word into my flesh,

Knowing it would sink in.

Five letters a child would not know how to spell,

Five letters, I learned that day so well,

As he rasped them against my ear,

Until I believed him when he said it was my fault.

I was a little whore,

A blood-stained, quaking Jezebel.

Oh, I learned so much that day,

About the real meaning of what is Hell.

I still bear the stain upon my brain and soul,

Though time has cleared away all but a shadow on my skin,

And I find nothing but worthlessness,

I hate my inability to ever again be whole.

 

I hate myself for my fear,

For the mindless masquerade,

The nights I wake in terror,

From a terror I never really can escape,

And the nights I don’t sleep at all,

From the images and words and thoughts,

Painted clowns swimming ’round, and ’round, and ’round.

I hate myself because I never see “good enough” in me,

And I never believe others can see what I don’t see.

And if I’m merely “good enough,”

What exactly would that even mean?

 

I was already a dead thing,

By the time my peers got me.

But as all children are sharks,

They smell the blood already floating,

My body face-down in the salty wash of self-loathing,

Hate, on hate, on hate.

I don’t fault them for doing,

Exactly what sharks so often do,

Ripping into my insecurities,

Until they flayed me to the bone.

I learned that hatred comes in many disguises,

Meant to separate the homogenized from the tainted,

The “real” kid from the damaged goods.

And words turn back on a monster,

Already riddled with self-hate,

Like razor blades across the soul, the wrist, the throat,

When pills become a refuge, and maybe a permanent escape,

Where silence is the acceptable solution,

And your world should be set completely straight,

Because you were not taught to say the word “rape.”

Don’t you dare lecture me on pain,

Or what I am or am not entitled to recall,

Because you have no idea what true fear does,

Until your back’s been against that wall.

 

Self-hatred circled my life around the drain,

I’d been wanting to check out,

Since I’d barely even checked in.

There was nothing about me untainted, holy, or clean,

And there was nothing loving in my world,

No more heroes, they’d already turned to rust, from gold.

Hate crammed things down my throat,

Meant to make me hate myself more,

And no amount of purging,

Could purge the self-hatred from my soul.

 

When I was ten, I watched fire rain down from the sky,

And the only thought in my brain,

As I watched bodies carted from the field,

Was how much I wished it was them, not I, who had survived.

When I was eleven, I tried again to make that reality come true,

And learned to hate myself again,

because I couldn’t even get dying right,

When I was twelve, I learned how easy it is to love another,

And still sneer at your own reflection.

I could see everything that was light and beautiful in him,

But I couldn’t believe him when he told me I was beautiful,

He was the sky, filled with light and possibility,

While I was mired in quicksand,

Sinking within the grasp of my own fear and pain.

And still, he loved me.

Me, battered, bruised, and bearing those five letters still carved within my skin.

He held me with the most tender touch,

And promised me over and over and over again,

That I was none of those things I had been taught.

I was safe, I was life, I was loved.

 

When I was fifteen, fire rained down from the sky,

And I could only stare in crumbling horror,

As déjà vu danced around in a head,

That could no longer make sense of a world gone dark.

My sunlight was gone,

All that tethered me to this world,

Torn from the heavens by a roaring like thunder,

And I crumpled there on that tarmac that day,

I didn’t hear a single word anyone said.

Deaf to the world that only taught me to hate,

I hated myself more that day than any before,

For I knew my mourning would become another monster,

Tucked deep within the closet of my mind,

And love deserved more than that, don’t you think?

 

 

In silence I’ve lived,

These decades past,

Never to mourn the girl sacrificed to power and perversion,

The woman she never became,

Or the man who could have resurrected them both.

And that, to this day,

Is why I hate myself most.