Red Cape

When I was five

I used to jump from the top of the stairs

to the landing with a red cape,

believing if I kept trying

I’d fly

I’d be Super-girl

saving the world from damage.

Many afternoons, my bare feet

thudded the catchy carpet

as smoke rose up the stairs

with the patience of a coming storm,

my father puffing a pipe,

his big knuckles unharmed

from their crack into my cheek;

his eyes empty of what he’d done

beneath my cape.

It didn’t matter that there was no such thing

as heroes.

At least I could fly.

Fragile Things

At some point everything becomes clear. That doesn’t necessarily mean a good clear, but fact is preferred over fiction when you’re locked up in a mental ward. Again. And it’s snowing out–and worse–it’s New Year’s Eve and you’re thirtieth birthday is coming and you’re little girl must be looking for you. It’s all you can do to decipher the shell-shocked woman-child looking back at you in the tin mirror bolted to the wall above your sink. Here you get your own sink because this time, this trip into the bin, they knew it was much more serious than they had originally thought, and your “security” was upgraded. You have a thought you would usually have–that the upgrade only makes you feel more nuts–but at this point, you don’t feel nuts. You are nuts. I say to myself ‘I’m clinically insane’ and for a moment I believe it’s something to smile about. When the leading psychiatrist told me on New Year’s Day morning that I was clinically psychotic and suffering from complex PTSD, I thought about my mind–clearly–for a second, and I imagined a blue and orange brain-scan image showing clouds of sick. Then I slipped back into the room , in and out of dissociating, and the yellow walls were much too close and I could taste rubber in my mouth and then the Read More

Small Parts (2)(excerpts from a work-in-progress)

a possible insert to “Small Parts”  

            To a little girl, his face was the moon.  He had a big chin like that, and a heavy forehead that shadowed his large, lashless eyes.  In later years, the years where he sat around a lot and stared from his recliner into the wall, or into corners, or out the window, his eyes developed this film over them that made it look like he was crying all the time.  I pretended he was, to find significance.  I imagined those red-rimmed, swimming eyes shrunk in on themselves because he saw me—damaged—before I even knew it.  He saw my future breakdown in the very manner I fought against him and my mother.  I was stubborn.  I was a burier.  I’d dig forever to retrieve my parts, because they were mine.  But those eyes, in the early years, shone clear with one of three states: personal satisfaction, witty sarcasm, or white anger—when all’s you could make out when you turned your head to see how far back he was from you were his pupils inside wide, white circles.  When you’re a child, you’re a fool to run, but it’s instinct.  And when you can’t run anymore, you run inside, stride for stride, etching scars across your psyche like ice-skating. 

            To a little girl, his very presence was an odd curiosity.  No hands-down, palms-up.  Hands belonged in pockets or around newspapers or cigarettes.  He had a strut that made his stiff blue jeans make a “whisk” sound.  He wore shiny, black boots.  I never saw black so shiny.  I loved to watch him polish them.  I’d sit closer than my sisters dared so I could breathe in that polish smell.    

—stuck here, come back to it


            It was just after the climax of the spoken (and lied about) betrayal.  The cover-up.  The thing I-must-not-tell-anyone.  And I knew better, and they knew I knew, so their patience took a seat to their anxiety as they tiptoed around me, waiting for the dreaded phone call or the cops to arrive.  Time, even at those moments, can have a way of halting everything in a moment and making it stand-still, as if it had its own life.  My dad came outside to the deck which I was standing on.  Now this was out-of-custom because one of my given demands was that he “stay the hell away from me.”  Part of the bargain.  This time, judging by his eyes, he had been crying.  He cried a lot in those days, but I steeled myseblf to it.  I had no room for pity for molesters and pedophiles. And I was his captive.   I glanced at him as if there was nothing there, and stared straight out into the willows.  His slippers scraped across the boards and he settled at a good distance.  ‘Come on Lori, come on come and get me’ I was thinking.  What he said must’ve killed him.

            “Amy, I want you to know something…I want you to do something with your life.  You have the most talent and the most potential than in anyone I’ve ever seen.  And I mean that.  Don’t waste your life.”  I stopped breathing, speechless.  My chest hurt.  He turned and walked inside.  That was the first time in my life that someone believed in me—someone I had once looked up to and begged for attention.  For one second, I was his daughter and he was my father.  For one moment I meant enough to be told that.  For one moment, I ached for that dad I always wanted.  And then it was gone.  I had an alcoholic biological father who was too drunk to recognize me, and a step-dad who watched me shower, and a mother who hated me.  But that moment wasn’t diminished, because he meant it.  I know he did.  For some reason, no one else could have said it that I would’ve believed.

…excerpt/CLIP/the Present…

     I never quite know who I am.  When I have a long enough stretch of time where I’m in my own skin (my own mind), I feel like I have more room inside to breathe.  I think ‘So this is me.  This is who I am.  Ok, then, let’s go.’  And then, some Tuesday,  DPD (Depersonalization Disorder) opens its mouth and I fall silent in the chaos of that vacuum.  I’ve lost me again.  No reasoning or science or soul-searching or writing.  I am disabled from the pen and so I know it must be real.  Just my physical stillness and internal cavity that is crying–the cry that offers no relief, but more panic.  I see all my thoughts in a speeding parade of sentences that pour from the mouth.  Mine doesn’t move or quiver.  I can’t feel anything but this aching tiredness and piercing terror.  All thoughts without emotions, all memories without any attachment–my skin is loose and thin.  I don’t speak at these times because I don’t know the girl that will form the words.  She’ll talk in short replies in a voice I don’t know.  This isn’t me.  And I’m slipping.  Everything is false–the world around me–merely particles of matter that aren’t there–they’re mirages.  They’ll dissolve away, and leave me here, alone, to madness.  I may not return.  …Three days later, or sometimes just three hours later, it’s over.  I made it.  I’m tight in my flesh and the bedsheets are cool beneath my fingers.  Okay.   Round 967 over.  Get up.

The Nothing Caper

It came in the night. We were all sleeping in the house and I woke to it lifting my sheets; it made my nightgown bleed. My doll saw it all so I ripped out her eyes the next morning before breakfast. Then it started coming in my dreams, and I thought there was a monster beneath my bed gathering my dolls and things. On the scratchy carpet where the sun comes in, it branded my skin with its tongue, so I gave it my voice. Mother and father swallowed it up.

They found me in corners and closets and they didn’t hear their words running from my mouth. I didn’t know so I swallowed the words whole; they fed me spoonfuls of throbbing aches that echoed deep in my belly, burning my insides until it dulled and smoothed over.

I began to sweat them out my pores like a broken fever. I washed and raked my skin. Something curdled and clotted the mainstreams of my heart as I took their pieces and ate them. I choked and spewed out a doll that didn’t have eyes. Her messy dress had burned away so they stitched her a new one and kept it inside and I ran away, hungry.