Archives for category: abuse

Prehistory

I would like to suggest
a method of undoing this mess
that will rewind our errors
and erase every possible pain
we have caused each other.

First, I will give your watch back
and you, mine, to return the time
we took from each other,
moment by moment, for years.
It seems you took more from me
than I from you, judging by
the disparate sizes.

Nevertheless, we’ll call it even.

We can then backpedal
and somehow, from this
implacable position, move
forward in our evolution
as two distinctly separate
and wholly unrelated
species,

shifting from fossil
to relic to our vintage selves,
until at last we are amiable
babies playing on the floor,
and not arch enemies
possessing horrible secrets
about each other, drunk
with the dark power
this knowledge imparts.

We can pretend
that the sanguine birds
we once kept in a pedestal cage
were actually tiny dinosaurs
thirsting for blood and quietly
resenting their dish of seeds;
and the dragonfly that died
on the window ledge
was the world’s first biplane;
and we two, lone witnesses
to its epic crash.

Claire Juno, © 2017

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Late Bloomer

You were late, though I hardly minded,
as distracting as it was to see you
press your way out of your green sheath
and uncoil those layers, deep pink,
even as an early autumn frost threatened
to nip at your slender tropical petals.

I realize your delayed appearance
has nothing to do with your desire
to bloom, nor your ability to captivate me,
along with the curious hummingbirds
and sparring cabbage moths.

No, I understand it took some time
to catch up after someone mowed you down
in his ignorance, leaving you stubby and broken,
reaching with shredded leaves to soak up
any sunlight you could claim, and
claw your way back toward the sky.

A broken beauty,
though nobody would know it,
to look at you.

Claire Juno, © 2014

What’s-his-name

You’re asking me
to do the impossible,
I pleaded with him
as he turned the key
in the lock of the heavy
door. And then I was alone.

Surveying the piles
that towered all around
my little stool, the smell
of straw overwhelmed me
and I cried.

But then I heard a strange
sound: the skipping of tiny feet
belonging to a horrid creature
with the twinkle of a deal
in his shrewd eyes.

Curious and more than a little
desperate, I dried my tears
on the hem of my skirt.

By the fading pink
of twilight, by the cold light
of a moon ray wafting through
the bars of a tiny window,
he worked night after night.
He worked for me, but
he did not work for free.

We exchanged fortunes,
my jewels for his miracles.
But after his third rescue
he struck a cruel bargain.

It took sleepless nights
of sleuthing and prayer,
but in the final hour
I was able to call him
by his real name
and let me tell you,
he hated it.

He returns sometimes
in my dreams, always
to claim my child,
and always with
his foot in my door,
hissing vile things at me
with a voice like death itself,

and every time,
with my baby cooing
in my arms, I firmly
refuse him, trembling
and fierce: Not me,
not my daughter.

His eyes smolder
with evil. Enraged
by my courage, he turns
positively senseless,
sputtering strange things
backwards, broiling with rage
over losing the deal and so much else
he was sure he could claim.

Not me, not my daughter.
I know your name.

Claire Juno, © 2017

…inspired by the fairy tale, “Rumpelstiltskin”.

Strategy

Do you throw morsels
over your shoulder
when the wild dogs
are at your heels,
hoping the distraction
of your incomprehensible
generosity will give you
time to retreat to your
barren world once again?

From this place,
I throw up my hands
not in despair, but surrender.
I negotiate my own freedom
by finding what is still human
in the inhumane.

Quiet the beast,
and danger returns
to its slumber.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
who pave the muddy trenches
with ten thousand rose petals;
who see the fragility
of the monster,
and skillfully placate him
so that the vulnerable
can slip away unnoticed.

Is not all true kindness
without condition?

Some would say
I am the fool.
But the true fool
bites the throat
of kindness
and by doing so,
cuts himself off
from the only thing
that might save him.

Claire Juno, © 2014

Beast

Soon the mammoth gates will close,
the last petals fall from the rose,
the magic hour lost.

See now a dim light
on the horizon’s edge,
as darkness with its heady charm
runs for cover.

The battle over, a hand
once outstretched to aid
now retreats to safety.
Kindness only gives danger
a foothold.

His captive eternally bruised,
the beast dies moment by moment.
Whose fate would you choose?
The victory belongs to no one.
It seems the spell upon him
cannot be undone.

Claire Juno, © 2015

Prey

I know my lot,
though you’ll never hear me say
I agreed to it.

I just came in this way.
The forest floor and the sunlit
canopy above me are my only
witnesses to the perils I face daily,
just to make it to sundown.

I know I was meant
to be hunted, consumed
and returned to the earth.
To transfigure whatever remains
of my flesh into bitter dandelion
greens for some distant kin.

I am one of many,
and that is why we survive at all—
to give the world more of us.
Since we are too many
to begin with, fate steps in
and thins out the excess.

I have lost too much
to suppose it is not my destiny
as well. This may sound too much
like resignation. That’s just the
way it is in my world.

Once upon a time,
I was very young,
and when you are young
you do not know enough.
Your eyes are wide open
to the newness of the world
and you are slow and innocent
in the presence of danger,
because you have not learned
what danger is.

It was a fast education.
Each time I survive, my pulse
resumes its steady beat.
I feel life flowing through
my neck and limbs, and
my head feels clear.
Everything seems new again,
as though I am experiencing
life for the first time.
Terror is cleansing
in some strange way.

And I hop away, looking for
dandelion greens grown from
those who came before me.

Claire Juno, © 2015

The Return

Here you go,
here is what you asked for.
It was never mine, though
at one time that was
your intention, provided
I deserved it, in your view.

Apparently, I never quite
earned it and there it sat,
in your underwear drawer,
Chiampesan white gold
and diamonds, tucked
into a navy velvet bag, still
wrapped in blue store paper,
a tangle of ribbons

—and the receipt, either a reflection
of how much you esteemed me,
how much you owed me, or
how good I had to be, before it
adorned my neck.

No matter, really.
You have lost the ability
to hurt me, I cannot love
under terms, and I do not want
what you could not give
without condition.

Claire Juno, © 2016

 

My Place

Welcome, welcome.
This is where you will stay.
Even if you think you have
left, this space will continue
to contain you, because that
is the way I have designed
it to be. It almost defies
the imagination, but soon
enough, you will struggle
to remember what life
was like outside of here.
And forgetting will ensure
your docility.

I don’t expect that to make
sense to you just now,
but you will see, with time,
how my words prove true,
no matter what you do.

Over there on the door
you will notice a lock,
and here on the bureau,
a key. Rest assured, neither
are what they seem to be.
The parameters of this place
are not controlled by
external objects of security
or imprisonment. This is
nothing you need to worry
about, however, for I have
everything under control.

You may view me
as a captor, though I think
it would make things easier
for you — dare I say, even
pleasant? — if you thought
of me as the one who desires
to take care of you, here,
forever, by making sure
nobody else can reach you;
by becoming your ultimate source
of everything, a sort of
temperamental emergency god.

I know it may feel a bit like
you are owned; a domesticated
animal living within the confines
and caprices of her owner.
But what is there to complain
about? So long as you have
all that you need here
in this turret, so long as
you do not make ridiculous
demands on me, such as hearing
your opinion, acknowledging
your needs or considering
your feelings or rights —
well, I think we will both find
this arrangement quite
agreeable.

Remember, there is only
one side here. Mine. It is best
if you do not forget that
because I tend to be rather
unforgiving about slip-ups.

I will see that your wings
are clipped regularly, one way
or another, so that you cannot
escape the scepter of my
mercurial benevolence.

I will see that you have food
and water and air and modest
opportunities, though keep in
mind that there may be times
when I, in my sovereignty,
may choose to withhold or limit
even these commodities in order
to secure your compliance.

I see you turning slowly in place,
as though you were looking for
something. There are no mirrors
here; frankly I find them a distraction.
I shall be your mirror, your
sole source of self-identification —
reflecting back to you exactly
what I view you to be.

Claire Juno, © 2014

My Kryptonite

These buildings
I once scaled
are too tall and gray
for me today,
and the locomotive
rolls on by,
massive and broad,
unable to pique my interest.
Even light seems faster
than it used to be.
Not that it matters.

Birds fly overhead
with an ease
I now envy, and
the coat hanger
I tried to bend
in anger this morning
only exhausted me.

I rip my shirt open
from time to time,
looking for the usual
badge of courage
and strength, to
find a mere mortal
beneath the suit.
I can’t see through
walls anymore.

But in the end,
it was that picture of you
with someone new
that truly did me in.

Claire Juno, © 2015

Fairy Godsend

You are just a pair of boots, I realize,
and I shouldn’t really be this excited about you,
but I wasn’t expecting you to arrive in the mail today.

And then this package came and I was afraid
to open it and see you for myself, afraid
of what my impulses had rendered that night
in the online auctions.

There was something about the tension
and the thrill of it, and attempting to believe
that my status as winner or loser did not depend
on a ten dollar used shoe purchase.

This emotional vacillation led to confusion
as to whether I really, really wanted you
in the first place.

But secretly, I did — in my other life,
the one in my mind, where I am happy,
because you transform me out of my rags
and into my ball gown self.

So when I pulled you from the tissue paper,
I marveled at your velvety brown smoothness,
and those pretty buckles, and even though
I was wearing old socks, I couldn’t resist
trying you on right then and there.
I slipped into you so perfectly,
I let out a gasp.

It was as though you had been always intended
for me, from some little shop with a cheery cobbler
who makes only Very Special Boots, far removed
from the cruel deprivation of Cinderella realities,
of the nameless and unheard.

Though the rest of me was still very much a mess
inside and out, I felt transported in that moment
to the other side of a magic window, where the life
I had gazed upon was finally mine.

It was hard to watch that night as the minutes
counted down, but impossible to look away.
I had done all I could do, made my best offer,
knowing there were no guarantees.

And deep down I knew if I lost you to another,
it would be a crushing defeat too hard to bear,
after the near-daily reminders of other losing bids;
the finality of auction endings, clocks winding down,
and no second chances.

Claire Juno, © 2013

…inspired by the folk tale “Cinderella”.