Update and Poetry: The Club

October has been an interminable month. It used to be my favorite as I chased down the fall colors, carved pumpkins, and reveled in cardigan and boot weather. I had been dreading the anniversary of my attack and scheduled my book releases and tours to be done before that day hit me.

I tried to block it out with hiking. Mount Rainier, the Smoky Mountains, and other wilderness areas filled my days. I got muddy in caves with my kids. But I’m still me, and the adrenaline still floods me at nightfall, bringing panic attacks and insomnia.

Then, I switched to updating parts of my house. I have steamed wallpaper, patched walls, and left my house in piles of chaotic clutter. It reminds me of being a third of the way through writing a novel. I can see the end in my head, but I’m surrounded by loose threads. And there’s a lot of work to go. Only I can see how it will all work out; I think the rest of the household are humoring me.

I don’t know if you knew, but October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. And I laughed at the bitter irony that I was made indelibly aware of domestic violence in an October. My poems have been darker, like I’ve embraced the month’s black cats, cobwebs, and fishnet stockings and left out the cardigans and pumpkins.

The Club

There’s no glitter here.
And the lighting doesn’t flatter.
But all of the alcohol you can pour is included with a lifetime membership.

We all get our own photo shoots.
We’re models you see—
of blossoming bruises and chokers stuck to our skin.
We skip the lines—
at the ER.
We take off our clothes—
to don backless gowns.
We do interviews—
with men who forgot their microphones.

Our breaths come in ragged gasps.
We have nights we can’t forget
and friends who won’t remember us.

I won’t welcome you to our club,
but I’ll tell those waiting outside to go to hell
when they say you deserved your membership.

Poetry: 1 in 8

1 in 8 girls who witness domestic violence grow up to experience it.

I saw the tsunami coming for my daughter when I read that.

And I was desperate.

Those are not her stars!

I threw the tea leaves back.

Braced against the shore, I wrapped myself around her.

I drew a circle,

summoning generations of women who endured

punches, burns, neglect, and misplaced blame.

Men made us invisible shields for their egos,

and now we hold the line.

We inscribed “Never Again” on her soul

and shared our grimoire.

Darling, here’s what we bled to learn.

Here’s when to run.

 

**Author’s Note: I read the statistic in my first line in a book that changed the way I fought PTSD, The Body Keeps the Score. And that statistic made me desperate to change my life, to heal, and to be stronger than anything else that came for us. Now, I like to think about the strong phoenix women who are raising even stronger women as we show them that we come back more formidable than before.

Hell and High Water: Round Three

I wrote the poems featured in this book over the course of years. The love, failed relationships, and Southern life parts of my book might feel comfortable, but the PTSD part won’t. “Honey Whiskey” is old, but the wounds are still fresh.

When you’re in an abusive relationship, the violence often escalates over time, and this poem is about one instance in a series of many before I was beaten badly enough to need doctors, police officers, surgeons, and contractors for my house. I know that so many people wonder why a person doesn’t walk away at the first sign of violence, at the first hint of insanity. And there are many reasons, unique to every trauma victim. And it’s usually not a lack of intellect.

There are a few reasons I am so open now about what I endured. One is that I still live with the PTSD symptoms and need my friends and community to be kind when I show up wearing my noise cancelling headphones and don’t remove them for anything. (Honestly, I did consider bedazzling a pair for a formal event last winter.) Our villages can’t help us if we decide to suffer in silence. So, I gave mine the chance to be amazing, and they didn’t disappoint.

Another reason that I didn’t let my outspoken posts about domestic violence and trauma dwindle is that every time I post something real, something raw on social media, a friend of mine will message me privately and confide all of the terrible things she’s living with. So. Many. Brutalized. Women. And we’re all just quietly holding each other up and showing up when we’re needed, the outraged sisterhood activated at every new assault. But I’ve been done with quiet, silent, and comfortable. I’m fine with being a voice that lets women around me know their situation isn’t unique, it’s not insurmountable, and no one has to hide–that we’re not alone in this aggrieved sisterhood. So, here’s a poem from a day that I should have run away and never looked back…and didn’t.

Honey Whiskey

I shiver—loneliness, fear, desire—all war within me.

You shiver, but on an angry frequency.

There’s not much time.

I fumble my shoe and freeze.

Were my ancestors rabbits?

You still see me.

I race to get away.

But you’re a one-man melee.

You snatch a honey whiskey bottle.

Like you, it held sweet fire.

Like me, it shatters.

A florence flask next.

Stout glass, weak throw, dumb luck?

It mars the floor, whole.

I’m gonna be glass like that—unbreakable.

The divots are in my soul.