gull

her eyes are blue, not like mine.

she is faded and brown. she calls it ‘honest brown’, and it comes from laying in the sun.

‘In the winter, my skin is clean and white. In the summer I let it get an honest brown from the sun.’

mom is always brown, she never fades.

we are two, kelp to sand, against sky and wind.

wind tatters my hair. i feel it flying, wild and free.

‘It’s too bad, really, that you’re not more like Jaeger.’

her fingers blur over the shrimp. head, tail, head, tail, tail, head, head, head, fistfuls of leavings drop to the sand.

grandma promised shrimp creole tonight, if i could only learn how to behead the shrimp more quickly.

‘Here, why don’t you do it faster? Honestly, they were right. you are lazy. But you can overcome that, learn to be better. Not like she is. She hasn’t worked at all to be a better person. Don’t be like her.’

my pile is smaller, messier. i am lazy.

gulls shriek overhead, flying close, closer, closest.

their wings beat prayers to silence. i try to tell my hands to tell my fingers to work harder, faster. but her pile is bigger, and grows with every minute.

gulls hover, hungry.

their voices shake between breathing. tired of trying, i hold my fists to sky, they are filled with heads, tails, heads, tails.

gulls swoop.

i am a hurricane of feathers, a shriek of lightning. they move so fast. they know wind, they know air, they know life. g-d never cared about gulls, only sparrows.

i like the gull, fierce, selfish, strong.

‘you may as well go play on the beach, you’re no use to me here.’

wind catches my hair, i race the tide coming and going. shell after shell traces from sand to pocket. their muffled roar to my ear tells the secrets of tide and salt.

they have no need to pray.

they beat against the reef until shattered, they tumble into salt until softened, then fill my pockets with silence. i am barefooted free, almost wind-flung into sky.

maybe i do not need to pray either.

her eyes are blue, not like mine.

float

it’s thanksgiving, and they are all together, house filled with laughing and talking. there are round pies, cakes, turkey, probably 2 kinds of stuffing, and gravy. the salad is fancy, the kids are all dressed up in cute outfits. they are together.

they are healing without me.

it’s his birthday, so there’s also cake and a stack of presents bought in the proper manner, to respect him.

i remember those holidays, how they crackled with hope and fear. tangled up together, the hope that this time i could be good enough they would be proud of me. fear that i’d misstep again, and there would be cold silences, and angry words. fear that the kids would somehow do something childish, and be hurt before i could prevent it.

constant watching, these were the holidays i knew.

we are not there, we are here.

mist floats from my breathing, in and out. it floats up, up, up, trading secrets with clouds. they tag moon, stitching up light into the night. wind pushes me through the water.

and i float.

half caught between the now and the then, breathing out poisons. water’s warm against me, wind’s cold on my face. here, on the water, there are no words. it keeps the secrets of salt. my fingers touch tile before wind floats me back to the center.

trees touch sky, bending, bending.

here, i am free. no gravity, no scars. all the dark is held back by trees and the delicate misty steam circling before me. today, i am free of the owing, of the thanking, of endlessly being sorry.

water ferries their voices, bright happy chatter.

‘daddy! daddy! look at me float!’

my gift to them today was not perfect turkey, and multiple side dishes. it was not china and special forks. it was not a fancy table set for us to perform at. it was not a loud gathering of uncertain people, who could not be trusted.

i gave them safety.

we gave them love.

beseech

romans 12

1. i ask you, by my mercy and g-d’s, present your body a living sacrifice to me. it is the least you can do.

2. don’t be like everyone else. be transformed by my renewing of your mind. so you will prove that you have learned what is good and acceptable, and perfect in my eyes.

3. for i say to you, g-d gave me the grace. do not think of yourself more highly than me. think carefully, modestly, because g-d gave me the faith to know truth.

4. even though there are many people, none are equal with me.

5. we, being many, are one body. and everyone’s body belongs to me.

6. there are many gifts, according to our faith, but mine are the most important. if i prophesy, it will be good. because my faith is pure.

7. or ministry, minister to me; and i will teach you.

8. and exhorting, exhort me: give to me with simplicity; and i will rule you with diligence. i will show you mercy with cheerfulness.

9. let your love be without hiding, without lies. i will know. i abhor that which is evil; cleave to me. i am good.

10. be kindly affectionate to me with brotherly love; in honour, prefer me.

Buckner Baptist Children’s Home

i received this story anonymously today, and they asked me to tell. i'm still shaking from reading it, because i have heard of this place too.
these 'homes' are sold to the parents, and churches as ways to help their children. before g-d, it is promised that their wayward ways of rebellion, anxiety, eating disorders, survival of abuse (although abuse is generally thought to be the fault of the child), drinking, rock music, homosexuality can be 'cured' with prayer and g-d.
these children are often removed, without protections from the legal system, and placed in these facilities.
i've seen the inside of them, and they are not homelike.
there generally is an aura of despair underneath a pretty surface of obedience. between the prayers and preaching, there are so many punishments disguised as help. all too often, the children's spirits are broken.
if you survived, if you're reading this, and you survived, i am so glad. 
you deserved better.

___

 Buckner Baptist Children’s Home – Anonymous

cookie

‘And don’t come back until you’re done crying.’

she slides around the door, face dripping with the remains of words and anger.

‘what do you have?’

‘it’s mine.’

wall behind me, holds my secrets. she and i, we look across the gap.

‘what do you have?’

she’s walking across the room. floor muffles all her steps, she’s so quiet. bird-sweet, she smiles. she is green-green with happiness now, all the sad is dried up under rainbow smiles.

‘i won’t tell. what do you have?’

and i believe. i believe the smile, and i believe the soft words.

chocolate smears my hands, and i show her – cookies.

‘those aren’t for you. give it to me.’

‘no.’

‘i will tell.’

before she can reach, i cram them into my mouth. they taste like soap now, chocolate and the soap that will come. mouth all full, we stare at each other.

smile’s all gone, she is thunder and ice.

i chew, chew, chew, and swallow. i want them to last, i want them to be mine. selfish, greedy, the chocolate is stronger than the soap taste.

i read in the dictionary a word, defiance.

i roll it around, chocolate and soap, d-e-f-i-a-n-c-e. warm crumbling cookies, and  mouthfilled with stubborn. the dictionary says ‘open resistance, bold disobedience’. today i’m tired, tired of being afraid, tired of obeying.

the cookie tastes like defiance.

‘i’m telling,’ she says.

she’s reaching across, and 10 little red moons rise. sharp and slicing, arms’ burning.

she smiles.

blessed

[shepherd’s gospel]

psalm 1

1. i am blessed for not listening to your sinful counsel, you are ung-dly. you are a sinner, kneel before me. i scorn you.

2. i delight only in g-d’s word. day and night, i learn how sinful you are. it makes me happy.

3. i am like a tree, i drink of your tears. i will never die. whatever i do, i will succeed.

4. you are not so. you are the dust under my feet, the wind blows you away.

5. you will always be judged. you will not be welcome with me, for i am righteous.

6. g-d knows that i am righteous. and you will die.

ugly

‘I can’t believe your hair is like this. Don’t you even care about looking pretty?’

it’s morning again, a school day. mirror shows us, angled against each other. her hands tangle in my hair. i am hands braced into the counter, head on fire. i am not crying.

i am not crying.

‘You’re just like an animal, filthy. Look at your hair. People will think I don’t take care of you.’

instead of breakfast, she is trying to make me pretty.

‘I’ll teach you to care about your appearance.’

lark’s hair lays smooth and careful, nice neat waves against her cheeks. she’s looking down. alder’s hair lays nicely back away from her smile. they are so pretty, and i am learning my lesson.

scissors flash, snip snip, one two three. all my thoughts rain down, dark and turned inside out. she says g-d sees our thoughts, and knows our secrets. mine are filled with shadows. i hope no one reads them. i always hope g-d won’t be looking, but i know he sees.

and now they’re falling all around me.

‘There, now your hair won’t be tangled anymore. Say ‘Thank you, Mom’.’

i stare back at mirror, there are two faces staring back. her hands press me into being. we are still, reflected truths and secrets.

‘Mirrors never lie,’ she says that all the time too.

and it’s not lying now, all the curling wild mess around my head is gone. no more secrets, no more lying. now everyone will know what i am.

‘thank you, mom.’

‘You look like a grim little dog. I wish you’d smile more.’

air is cool on my neck, maybe now my prayers will be clean. maybe now they’ll fly up to heaven. maybe now g-d will make me happy.

‘Stop crying. Smile.’

nicki merrill

nicki merrill – guest post
it’s becoming more and more obvious that there are two choices in this, silence and speaking. i choose the speaking, because i cannot be silent anymore. this was wrong, it was all wrong.
nicki is a survivor, and a friend. this is her account of how she survived a christian boarding school and their abuse. what happened there should never have been allowed to happen. things like this are still happening. i hope that as we all tell our stories, our survivings, that the dark corners where abuse hides will be exposed.
burn it all down.

choose

‘What are you, Shade?’

‘a sinner’

‘Louder, I can’t hear you.’

‘i’m a sinner’

‘And what does a sinner deserve?’

‘death.’

‘Hebrews 12:6, tell me what it says.’

door holds his shadow, house is hushed. everyone else sleeps. he says that g-d gives good dreams to those whose consciences are clear. mine is never clear, dark hunts me every night.

i wish i were a better person.

‘Say it. Are you listening to me? I asked you to say the verse. Tell me what you deserve. Tell me what G-d says about you.’

the words are new-writ into my heart, it was our verse today.

we write and write, we say and say them until they are the truest of all. until blue and sky are welded into brightness. g-d is everywhere, listening, knowing, seeing.

this is why we learn g-d’s word, so that all the reasons and the being will be understood. the verses never tell stars from sun, they never have shown bird and tree, only a measure of how evil i am.

and so the words begin:

‘for whom the l-rd loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every one who he receiveth.’

lamp gives away the dark, piece by piece.

he is hand to door, we are alone.

‘G-d says I must discipline you. You wouldn’t want me to disobey G-d, would you?’

there are no more words, only waiting.

‘We are going to do this until you repent. I hope it doesn’t take long this time, I’m growing tired of your attitude.’

hand to belt, buckle reports, skin folds.

1, 2, 3, 4, i count. i count for the thunder, for the rain. because he holds the lightning, quick and bright, it’s tracing lines along the dark.

but the lightning does not stop.

‘Have you repented? Why won’t you see that this is for the best?’

5, 6, 7, air is cold against fire. and fire is what sings from his hand. up, down, up again, buckle’s grounding power marks my numbers.

there are no windows, no blackbirds, no tree-leaf triangles to divide the world.

12, 13, 14, 15. i am divisible, divisible, by dark and by voice, i am divisible.

‘Stop crying, you brought this on yourself. You chose to sin, you chose this. Your tears will not soften my heart.’

20, 21, salt runs warm into the ground.

night stretches, covers, shatters around my ears.

‘Stand up, your sin has made you weak. Stand up straight. And keep counting, We’re not finished here.’

31, 31, 31, 31, 31.

‘If you can’t remember the next number, you can just start over. I can keep this going all night long, until you repent. I will see this spirit of rebellion broken once and for all.’

1, 2, 3.

i’m counting for the thunder, hoping for dawn.

host

i’ve been stringing, peter,
peter and paul, they’ve
lain out the lines, cut
between my grace and hope.

i’m still, sin-shaped,
unclean, between g-d and hell
small, smaller, smallest,
sanctify me now.

i, girl-child, inside
your kingdom come,
angels profaned, hell-named,
redeemed again, i die.