How I Prepared for a Poetry Reading
Domestic Violence Awareness Month, 2007
Crying in bed
Was just practice
for the tears they shed.
Dodging bullets was a drill
for weaving through a crowd
to stand before the one woman
I know wants to say something
but may not have the feet to walk.
I ate too much then for comfort.
I can work the room to dispense some,
skipping the cheese and crackers.
Worrying that he would kill us this time
prepared me to take into consideration
the fragile soul who is here somewhere.
I look around the room as I speak
and I spot her.
She is why I am here,
why after the journaling and the therapy
and the hunting for a peaceful spot
to live out the life I have created that
I came out three times this month
to speak before a crowd,
not my favorite Saturday pastime.
She does not write poetry
or hides it at home if she does.
People think she is ok.
She is a great employee.
She brings cake to the sick.
She laughs like anyone else,
but inside there is a crime scene
where soul murder has taken place.
See right there, the fast swallowing,
her eyebrows flicker when I talk about his hands.
She won’t fidget, but I see.
I know the signs from the inside out.
She is why I am here.
My whole life has prepared me
to speak to her.
Despite it all, I made it here,
loud mouth intact, still laughing,
thriving in my chosen spot,
never afraid to lay my head.
It was almost worth it.
Today, here, safe and whole
I can see there is more healing to do
and it is not mine this time.
The Woman in the Parking Lot
After Poetry Therapy
I can’t say
the things you say,
but they are true for me.
I had an un…
The words catch in her throat.
I had an uncle, too.
I don’t know how you do it.
Don’t stop, we need you.
And bright tears spill
out of her
onto the asphalt.
Can I hug you?
Always ask if they don’t.
Because they were tampered with,
bothered, touched, hurt,
all the euphemisms for soul murder,
so ask first.
And I do hug her and she
smells like hope and fear,
feels like promise and despair.
She will be skittish now.
She has said what she has not
to anyone else alive.
(three of us in this secret now)
I will be her first.
Don’t stop. We need you.
I do it for me and for you,
Once I couldn’t speak
but I wrote poems, lots of poems.
You keep writing, too.