~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.