Vigil

Vigil

This should feel like bliss,

like it does for him

except you’ve gone from tired to high alert

in the time it takes to drive

the five minutes back to his place.

His sweet embrace does nothing

to change your unconscious response

to different bedsheets

as insomnia replaces your ability to sleep.

Counting sheep hasn’t worked in years;

they’re just prey, after all,

to your predatory fears come out to play

and your mind is a coward,

feeding you to the ghosts

for your usual dose of triggers, growing like weeds

somewhere you’re trying to plant only seeds of peace,

but for the former to die and the latter to grow

they both need exposure to air.

So as he holds you close, remind yourself

that underneath this choking layer of soil,

somewhere lies a radical act of self care

and you’re prepared to take the hit,

maybe eventually your body will switch off

and dissolve these flashbacks bit by bit,

maybe one of these days you’ll sink into the pillow

next to him, reaping what you sow,

his gentle breath on your neck,

in a bed that feels like home.

The Body Keeps The Score

The Body Keeps The Score

At its best,

post traumatic stress

is that feeling of being constantly on edge,

like when your feet hang out the covers

and touch the monster under the bed,

except the monster’s still inside your body

and poised ready for attack,

you better not ever close your eyes,

you better not ever turn your back.

He’s hacked your nervous system

with a pistol to your head

which you’re convinced is loaded

so your muscles remain frozen

and you’ll spend years beating yourself up

for not trying to escape instead

and hating your body for how it can’t change

it’s natural, evolutionary response

to threat of death.

You can’t even simply control your breath

as the tightness in your chest

becomes a self-asphyxiation,

lungs compressed in hyperventilation

as something reminds you of your degradation,

as an act of supposed love and fun

becomes none of the above,

and this concept of ‘recovery’

battles with your constantly intrusive memories

like his hand on the back of your neck.

Then how he gathered up your hair

as you’re dripping in his sweat,

body weight forcing open your legs

stained with bite marks

that took over a week to fade.

Now you try and tell me

that there’s nothing to be afraid of,

that leaving my house is safe,

that I could spend a night at someone else’s place

without being kept wide awake

and sitting up with the light on,

heart racing, skin caked in fear

that something bad could happen here.

It might have been almost three years

but the monster is always near the surface,

rising when you least expect it.

There’s a red car there that looks like his,

there’s at least ten men his height

with his haircut in front of you at a gig.

You fantasise about killing him.

Triggers still make you physically sick

as your mind tricks your body into thinking

that night is still happening

and he won’t let you leave till the morning.

It took too long to stop self blaming

and exchange shame for its real name

of false imprisonment

but sometimes that reality is still too draining.

Sometimes when touched by a lover

you’ll react like you’re still being hunted

and you’ve got to stay in front.

It doesn’t bear to think of what would happen

if his hands caught up

and you know he knows where you live.

Your skin replaces sensations of pleasure with numbness,

it took over six months for you to come

with someone else’s hands over your pants

and over a year with penetration.

You’re an expert at dissociation

and though it’s defined as lack of concentration

you’re not sure you agree.

At first it took a lot of focus and attention

to leave your body

but now spacing out is easy,

so much so that you’ve forgotten what you did on Friday

or how you got that razor blade cut to your thigh,

it looks like it was painful

but you don’t remember letting out the slightest cry.

You can’t stand in the shower,

how can you wash and towel dry

a corpse

and you hate going out in summer,

that warm weather with skin uncovered

could only spell out danger

and you won’t eat on dates.

You’ve got no appetite, no sense of taste

and you’ve got to control your food intake

in case this gets to third or fourth base

and your anxiety belly gets in the way

and you lose your ability to say

that you’re not comfortable.

Because your mouth is bound

with imaginary sticky tape

and the last thing you want

is for him to know that you’ve been raped

so just fake how great it was,

rather than explain that these shaking limbs

are a stress response

to panic defenders wearing thin

and say you’d love to stay over

but you’ve got to get off home.

Make up some excuse

about forgetting your phone charger

or having other plans,

but really you just need to be alone.

Crawl into the hottest bath

and plaster over the cracks

where your past got passed the sensors

because you started to relax

in the arms of another man

and almost forgot that such comfort is banned

because last time you trusted someone

look what fucking happened

and do you want that to happen again?

Wouldn’t you rather spend your life

in a state of red alert?

You know what? No I wouldn’t.

Vulnerability is a strength

and this is going to fucking hurt

but I deserve better

than co-existing with this monster

and he’ll be gone but not forgotten

the more I write him into words

and now everyone in this room has heard

what you are.

I’m bathing in the medicine of self care

and whilst all you’ll do is shrink

I’ve got plans to still go bigger.

See my name in the paper,

my face on your TV picture,

on the BBC Breakfast news sofa

talking about violence against women,

about self love and recovery from trauma

and you can’t run from the truth anymore

as yours will eat away at you

and I’ll ruin your life the way that with mine you tried to.

I’ve chosen the method for your

slow and lasting torture

and each step I walk forwards

draws my pen closer to your slaughter.

Memory Foam

Memory Foam

Uncertain who is holding the other

but one of us forgotten, foraging through our home in desperation to remember

what we did not know so cannot name

nor assure this body it is safe.

Blessed are we whose bravery guards the doors and windows

long past signs of danger, so fierce in our defence

it greets each demon as a stranger,

sounding alarms to activate emergency procedures

when the threat is but a spectre

with unfinished business.

Feeble and listless, these spirits will float

amongst the source of their affliction and our sickness

until they find in us a friend.

The Melting Point of Perception

The Melting Point of Perception

You can yell at me till spring turns to summer

turned to leaves turning yellow

but still these demons shout louder.

Here arrives as a long winter path paved with ice,

falling facts shatter on impact

across my frozen feet. It’s snowing glass

and their light rays bend blind eyes to a different reality;

one convinced the past is all that’s left of me.

I pinch the sun between two fingers,

beg for the burning present,

just one beam to heat each muscle,

aching to move.

How Trauma Dresses at Daybreak

How Trauma Dresses at Daybreak

I woke this morning in parts,

making coffee with crossed wires

and crying coconut milk.

Washed my body in two minds;

one mine, one a critical mother,

blood weeping from cracks in her breast bone.

A broken mirror watches

as clothes are chosen with baggy fit for comfort,

pulled on with careful movements,

for the world cannot know

of the war I wear in my chest

when I am missing whole pieces of woman.

On A Pedestal Up In A Cage

On A Pedestal Up In A Cage

The weight

of rape

is about eight eight

any less is implosion

so either deny it space

or fill it with hate

on the days

I think

that’s all that makes

up my body.

The date

of rape

is the second

or the last weekend in June

or overnight stays

and security gates

staying up late

because you can’t sleep

and bottles of cava

and tops patterned with tartan

and saying no

when unhooking your bra

at the start

you always remember saying no.

The taste

of rape

is stale sweat on a plate

and peanut butter jam sandwiches

as the first thing you ate

as you try to convince yourself

it wasn’t that bad

it just wasn’t that great

and you wore red underwear

so it must have been fate,

the taste

of rape

is shame.

The time

of rape

was thrice

between eight and eight

what a coincidence

that was also your weight

it’s a blur in slow motion

I think that summarises the notion

of trauma.

The name

for rape

is apportioning blame

to ourselves

for an act

where we were defamed

and social outcry

when we dare to show rage

and the moral irony

that our supposed lack of fight

got us here in the first place,

put on a pedestal

up in a cage.

The name

for rape

is one in five women.

The blame

for rape

is the rapist.