Tag Archives: childhood

“Compass”

~Esther Mitchell, 2015~

Did you ever truly believe in me?
I never saw a glimmer of belief,
Your pretty words hung hollow,
A shiny bauble between us, with no substance.
You were supposed to be my first supporter,
My cheerleader against the world,
My compass to understand honesty,
And you taught me only that I should accept your lies,
Because you told me they were true,
And you assumed I could not see the deception as it was.
I found my compass elsewhere,
In eyes that saw me as beautiful,
When all I saw was a discarded, ugly thing.
I learned what belief was,
In the actions of another,
A guardian angel who flew in on roaring engines,
To save me from my own hand,
When you couldn’t even be bothered to know I was gone.
I was too old for Fairy Tales,
When I found my first true supporter,
Who was awed by all the things you failed to see,
Who wrapped me up when I was cold,
and who loved me, for me.
Did you ever truly believe in me?
I’ve learned the answer to that question,
In bitter contrast between what you failed to give,
And the strength another gave me, to live,
And the answer is a resounding “No,”
Because had you believed in me then,
You would believe in me, still,
And I would not feel a stranger,
To the blood in my own veins,
Every time I hear you exclaim,
Another’s triumphs as your pride,
When you couldn’t even bother,
To see me, when I was right before your eyes.

Compass

“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

“Prisoner of Words”

~Esther Mitchell, 2010~

You never told me that you loved me,
That you were proud of me just as I was,
That you believed in me, or even saw me.
For decades, the words lingered out of reach,
Locked behind the bars of your teeth,
Like a political dissident you didn’t dare let foul the air,
With feelings you could not embrace.
I grew up in sterile air,
Fed on nothingness and whispers of silence,
Breathing that which was not breathable.
I learned from the cradle,
To fear a god in which I did not believe,
That backs turn, and I am invisible,
When the words I have to speak,
Aren’t words you want to hear.
Now, I hear words I do not believe,
They fill my ears like the Dead Sea,
Buoyant, without substance, without life,
And yet, I drown where I should not even sink.
My lips feel wooden,
Around the words you expect in return.
I never learned to love you,
Because I never learned your love,
A wall of ice I cannot melt,
A broken trust too late to mend.
I’ve already extended the olive branch,
In trembling limbs reaching for the sun,
Only to shrivel up and retreat,
Against the chill of insincere platitude.
No, you never told me that you loved me,
And all the strength I’ve ever learned,
Came from another source,
And everything I’ve become,
Was made with my own two hands.

door

“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.

door

“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.