Silent Centers

My father arranged me to frame despair

in the shape of a shell–

he said it

would make me look pretty

as he dropped my gutted pearl

into the water,

closed me in his palm,

and took me home for dinner.

 

I’d curl up in my empty body late at night

when the heater kicked in

and line my dolls up on the smooth

belly of the shell,

sweating and organizing and kissing them,

trying to make room, trying to love

and a forgotten piece in me would move–

like an isolated bubble, a pressure in my chest rising

until it hardened into a globe of glass,

and I fingered the marble

in my pocket each time he made me nervous.

 

My skin hardened into porcelain.

My lips a painted curve.

The girl in the womb and the doll in the house

looked at each other in the mirror,

and I was the mirror

I was a million different faces;

this cannot be explained any other way.

 

I became the dolls on my bed and

in their small house in the corner

I became their holidays and patterned wallpaper;

I became the patterns of my behavior–

trained, obedient, good.

I became the shell at the dinner table,

sucking up silence like the ocean.

 

I told myself

if I had nothing,

that’s what would come back.

And getting nothing back

meant you didn’t have to love.

And what was love to that girl

with her marble

and no pearl.

…for Erica

for Erica, March 2015

I counted Mexican Paintbrush petals
in your mother’s garden
where we dropped our bikes every
summer morning, preparing
our packs for the day’s ride
or swim, mapping the summer

I thought about what you said
the night before,–how you planned
to escape someday, how you
needed something real
and I felt naïve in my
cut-off jeans and chucks,
I felt like I’d never be that brave
because I didn’t know
what it is I could escape—
how different life was
supposed to be

you weren’t afraid of the world
I felt so swallowed up in

we rode out of town, into the country
stopping in forests
to run our hands through
the moss grass beneath the needles;
we found Read More

The Love Between Sisters

5th Ave Sisters Journal

Fifth Avenue East was a place of constant change. While our young bodies and minds were developing before Barbie dolls and Santa wanted to be let go, other things were changing, too. Shit, everything changed. I was feeling my brain and emotions develop “abnormally”—it must have been the Bipolar Disorder making room for its ass on my couch—because I felt off and wrong and terrified because of it late at night–my designated time to “feel” things. I began to start shutting off at random, I began to do and say the routine things without being behind the wheel, I was crying every night—my emotions getting all caught up in my head and tangled there with the far-reaching snares of home life. I didn’t know I was also physically developing until my stepfather pointed it out in his various ways, his touching, his comments, his need to tickle us on the ground until we cried. No one had the talks with us about our coming periods, they just came and we each cried alone (so I learned later) until mom noticed it in the laundry and gave us pads. Womanhood simply did not exist in our household. Well, it existed—it was bursting out the eaves—but it was not discussed. Periods were a thing of disgust and emotions were things for children that we had to learn to put away. We weren’t punished for these things, it was worse—we were ridiculed and teased and took turns being the butt of Scott’s bantering. Even thinking of yourself as a woman was humiliating—flashback—I’m on the swing singing a Little Mermaid song (I knew every word and song to that movie) and Scott walks by and tells me Ariel’s a slut. Just that, just now popped into my head for some reason.
Letting go of childhood—meant letting go of those you loved and if they were hurting you’d better leave them alone to do it. Scott used to beat our

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