He soiled your self esteem
bit by bit,

plucked your petals with a broken belt
until you were stem and bone.

You, as you knew her, were lost.

In your place was an apathetic, anxious
husk of a child,

Sapped of life and livelihood.

It took you years to unlearn your apologies;
longer still to love your form.

You forgot how to speak, so you learned to create
and to cultivate gardens of pain.

He tried to teach you
to be silent, submissive, and something less than everything

you ever hoped to be–
an artist, a writer, a daughter.


Many words gather and drip, one by one,
from the acid-like tongue of the master.
His scorched daughter suffers, her smooth stomach rots,
Her slender hands burn as her boiled blood clots.

Young and distorted by deafening pain,
she is mute, resolute–she will not speak again.
Many words falter before being spoken,
defeated, unneeded, their syllables broken.

The ironlike fist of the master’s sick reign
smears its subject until she is only a stain.
The master is deadly, the master is blind,
and the masterful price of her staying alive.

He casts off his vices with two-faced devices
and coats his harsh words in a pretty, bright gloss.
He’ll rinse and repeat while the cycle continues,
and swear that true love cannot live without loss.

Young and distorted by deafening pain,
a girl dissolute with a reckless rage
finds a kinship quelled, with every word spoken–
the last of a bond, bent and bowed
until broken.

She lives
and she learns
to unlock her own cage.
She severs the grip of the master’s sharp tongue
and she breaks his thick fingers, one by one,
and rebuilds her sweet life by the light of the sun.


A few weeks later, you will inhale it
and have your first flashback as you crumple against the cold tile.

Like the grainy, half-white bathtub,
it should have scrubbed your insides clean
and bleached your bones and body.

You have a friend
to thank for keeping you alive,
but now you don’t know how to survive;

your mother sees the mess of your dark body rotting
among cleaning supplies, amid a sharp lemon scent of anguish,
and tells you to keep cleaning.


One day
I found a bucket of something syrupy and clear
by the garage, and inside
was a cardinal,
face down, sticking out
oddly with none of a bird’s grace,
a pretty, slimy ruby glistening,
half-unearthed from its tomb;
yes, that white bucket was its oasis,
heaven beneath a hot Texas sun, a clear
choice for a sweet drink
before heading home,
and as it stopped to drink
it had to think,
“How lovely,”
while it delicately perched,
its head descended, its beak—
forced shut, was hushed,
its body—
tumbling after into afterlife,
found no way to sing, no strength to fly,
and I still wonder about those final moments,
its jeweled wings beat valiantly against death,
or whether
it accepted its fate
in silent contemplation,
or whether
it was even dead yet.


Your veins are especially prominent,
running along the length of your lean arms and your calloused hands
that culminate in your thick, pointed fingers.

How human you are–
how fragile you are–
with your veins so vulnerable beneath your skin.

But still they flow,
and still you beat,
beneath my moods, my fears, my doubts;

you pulse,

you pulse,

you pulse,

silently, endlessly,
beneath my lithe arms and my little hands,
keeping us both alive.