Tag Archives: rape

“An Open Letter to Fear”

~Esther Mitchell, 2016~

In the photographs in my mind,
I see myself in all my Amazonian glory,
Standing strong,
One hand on sword, one on staff,
My bow and arrows slung across chest and back,
As indomitable as I ever dreamed I could be,
As that little girl, hidden away in silence,
Until my beautiful Goddesses found me,
Breathed life, and power, and heart into me,
Lifted me up into my own raiment of deity,
Against the voices who said reclaiming my power was evil.

I want to speak with the voice of the Persian Queen trapped in my throat,
Held captive in my chest,
Beating to free herself from the cage bars of my ribs.
Not the Hebrew woman who feared a man’s wrath,
But the Persian Queen she birthed from her chest, her lips,
Drew like lightning from her eyes.
I want to feel her name — my name — in every pulse of my blood,
To hear that Queen whisper in the space between the beats,
The Queen who drew her own fear like a weapon,
Wrapped it like a cloak around herself and from it drew courage,
Turned that fear in a quiet storm upon those who believed her place,
To be anywhere, or anything, but loved and respected.

I want to be the lantern in the night,
An arm around the poor, the vulnerable, those yearning to breathe free,
To carry bandages to the bleeding, in all the battlefields,
Whether the battlefield is in the body, or mind,
To bind the wounds, be the medicine, give until there is nothing left of me,
And still be able to give some more.
I want to dry tears cried in pain,
Not because I can do nothing else,
But because I can do everything,
With love, compassion, and the courage that comes only from first knowing fear.

I want to march with arms linked and voices raised,
Side-by-side with all my sisters, whether by birth, or spirit, or Pride,
To hear our voices rebound with the power to break walls,
Rather than build them.
To sing out in one voice to all who would steal us away from ourselves,
“You can no longer have the night!”
“We take back our birthright, our magic, the hallowed blood in our veins!”
“You no longer have power over us!”

I want… I want someone to take pictures,
Not of this broken body,
Not of my shattered trust or destroyed dreams,
But of my immortal soul,
Singing of the magic of all the Feminine Mystery.
For I am at once both none and all of these things:
Amazon
Goddess
Queen
Healer
Protector
Shaman
Sister
Mother
Virgin
Whore
And Crone.
And, like every woman born,
I will use the label you brand me,
The fear you beat into me,
To teach all the Daughters of the Earth,
And their Daughters, into Eternity,
How not to be afraid.

young-flamenco-dancer-by-nenetus

 

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“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

“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.

“Monsters”

~Esther Mitchell, 2003 ~

 

I know the faces of monsters,

That do not come creeping in the night,

Out of closets, from under beds,

With no purpose but to fright.

I know the faces of monsters,

That don’t hide from light of day,

They don’t creep, but they are cowards,

Who rip, and bleed, and prey.

I know the faces of monsters,

And they are also faces of men,

And boys who will never be men,

And with brutal torment,

Come at me again, and again, and again.

Monsters aren’t birthed from nightmares,

Nightmares are birthed from them,

To cling, like fingers wrapped around the throat,

Not letting screams out,

Not letting breath in.

Yes, monsters are very much real,

And every child knows this,

But some monsters are more real than others,

Some monsters, you can’t close your eyes tight,

And wish away into the night,

Because,

Not all monsters live in darkness,

Not all monsters are afraid of the light.

“Tell Her”

~Esther Mitchell, 2014~

To the person who claimed my desire to escape Hell a cry for attention:

Give your advice to the child whose innocence was ripped away,

The little girl whose childhood evaporated,

As she begged for deliverance that never came,

Rescue that never appeared,

For a protector who never appeared,

The sins of her assailant washed in blood red, bleached white and painted tropical blue.

Tell that little girl she’s not entitled to her pain,

When fear held her tongue for decades,

But not fear of what he would do,

Instead the fear of what no one else would do.

Tell her she’s a liar,

A manipulator of facts and hearts,

When she still cringes from a mere touch,

Decades gone, she screams,

Flees the very sight of tropical fish, blue-lit water and tiny pebbles held in glass.

Tell her she doesn’t know what she feels,

As she vomits at the stench of bleach,

And searches every crowd in panicked fear,

For a face she knows is still out there,

His face, her nightmare never dead and gone.

Tell her you understand her pain, her Hell,

Pretend you care where she’s been,

Go ahead, I promise you don’t know,

You don’t know the smears of blood washed from tiny, shaking hands,

When she carved five letters into her own flesh,

No child should ever know.

W-H-O-R-E

The word he called her,

When he told her she asked for it,

She made him the monster he was,

Dirty, shameful, abomination,

Driven into her innocent flesh repeatedly,

Barked into her ear like a rabid dog,

Until it ripped open something deep inside,

And bled a soul of innocence, of self,

And left only hatred – of self, of love, of life.

So tell her to be quiet,

To shut up and stop seeking help,

When she’s already lived a lifetime in silence,

Afraid to reach out,

Hearing only the steady drip, drip, drip,

The maddening memory of innocence bled away.

The spatter of blood on bleached white tile,

When she tried to bleed away the whore she saw in every mirror,

The twisted, tainted Jezebel,

Possessed of a tattered soul unfit for life,

Reflected back in haunted eyes,

Full to the brim with silent screaming.

The drip, drip, drip,

Of a life down the drain,

Carried away by whatever dulled the pain,

And took the screaming far away.

Tell her she doesn’t mean it,

When she stands on the ledge,

A knife in one hand,

Pills in the other,

And contemplates which one kills her faster,

So she doesn’t suffer here one instant longer than she has to.

Tell her she’s not serious,

Because she can’t hear you through the screaming,

Through the terror, and those rasping words,

She’s not killing a woman or a girl,

She’s dispatching of a monster,

Because that girl is already long dead,

And the woman never had a chance to live.

So assuage your conscience however you feel,

It changes nothing.

Only the certainty it solves nothing,

Stays her execution.

“Defense”

~ Esther Mitchell, 2014 ~

I cried my eyes out to hear a man with more courage than I,

take the stage in my defense,

Say words my soul has been screaming,

from the darkened shadows for most of my life.

I struggle with my courage,

only to be beaten down by the unfeeling words of others,

Who don’t understand the words that scream to get out of me,

but remain held in broken, battered, frightened silence.

That in opening my thoughts and feelings,

no matter how deeply they plumb into the darkest recesses of my tortured memories,

tormented psyche,

brutalized self-worth,

I am not seeking your validation, reaction, or response…

I’m searching for courage.

The courage to one day shout the words,

locked deep inside to the surface of my being.

To hear again the voice of a girl held thirty years in silence,

A hostage to a terror unnamed,

with a face lost to a hideously twisted memory of fear and pain,

A mermaid sunk into glowing blue water until she could no longer breathe,

Until the very sight of tropical bodies in bright life,

turned to garish reminders of a soul,

chained to brightly-decorated fraud,

Tell that girl she is a whore for your attention, your affection,

Tell her she is unworthy of either — she already believes you.

Tell that girl to be silent, to take her bothersome self far away,

Where her messy, dirty, unwelcome form cannot pollute your rose-tinted world.

Tell her she is a pebble in your shoe, a bug ground beneath your sole.

She’ll probably believe you.

She disappears into the wall, invisible, mute, without a second thought.

As every night the monster returns to torment her, still.

Stalking.

Taunting.

Tormenting her from sleep, from health, from her will to exist.

Thirty years in silence,

The ghost of a girl of six, who haunts me with familiar demons —

What if… What if… What…if…

I seek strength by facing my demons before the world,

Where I can no longer hide in shadow, in silence.

Because if my demons keep me in that silence, they win.

If my demons hold me captive in shadow, they win.

And if my demons win… So does the one who gave them to me.

“Learned”

~Esther Mitchell, 2010~

I learned the price of innocence,

at the hands of a boy who’d been taught power was what made a man.

The price of my innocence was silence.

A silence that echoes in my life,

ripples through everything I do.

A silence that still wakes me in soundless screams.

A voice forever ripped away.

I learned trust is something to be shattered,

by eyes that look the other way,

Ears that hear silence in relief,

Ears closed against muffled sounds of tears and fears screamed into my pillow

I learned the measure of my worth,

not in love or hugs, or even in words of encouragement,

Instead I learned to measure myself by the width of my waist,

a number on a scale,

A cruel word tossed out by those who had no idea what fell apart inside.

I learned to see myself as worthless, as used-up and damaged goods,

To hide myself in shadow, to shrink into the walls, the corners,

hidden away in silence

I learned there’s no such thing as a parent’s love,

Alone, facing my demons in the dark,

when I cried in the night I was told to go to sleep,

When I cried out that there were monsters,

I was told I was imagining things,

No one bothered to ask me if those monsters had a face,

had a name,

No one bothered to ask if they were real

When I begged to not face those monsters in the light of day,

I learned about betrayal, told to “grow up” and do as I was told,

Words they had no way of knowing echoed from the depths of my personal Hell,

Because no one bothered to ask why my hesitance about the water had become a raging phobia,

Why the smell of bleach made me nauseous,

or why I shrank away from men

I learned to loathe what I saw in the mirror,

To torture and torment away the ghosts by destroying the body that held them in,

And to view everything I felt, saw, or heard with suspicion and skepticism,

Because it came from me, and therefore could not be real –

because I was told it was not real.

I learned compassion for others from the cold and cruel treatment shown to me,

Promising myself I would not be like them,

I would not inflict the same harm I suffered,

I would not become the embodiment of that monster I saw in the mirror.

I learned to see myself as ugly, as worthless, as weak,

Because beauty is measured in pots of cream and sticks of color,

a femininity I was never taught to know,

Because value is measured in the elevation one’s existence brings to others,

and I am damaged goods,

to be discarded like last night’s takeaway cartons,

when the sustenance I provide is all used up,

Because strength is measured in how one dominates others,

rather than by what one endures or overcomes.

And today, I look back and wonder…

Who was that girl who died so many years ago?

What could she have been?

How could she have changed the world?

Where would she have been today?

When was it really too later to save her?

Or is it still not too late to rebirth her from the ashes of my cindered life?