Just when emotions have run out of juice
along comes a memory
something from the past
a breakthrough thought
and here i post the source: (filmed by Brian Newberry)
This interview comes to you in two parts. Part 1: In which I speak to Martina Newberry about her recent poetry reading, “The Language We Dare Not Speak” held in the Espresso Cielo Cafe in Palm Springs, California, on April 27th. And Part 2 in which I find out about her recent book, What We Can’t Forgive.
And now Part 1, including a 12 minute clip of the reading.
Judih: Martina! How are you?
Martina: I’m fine. How are you.
J: I’m fine and excited to talk to you. Today is Martina Day. I’d like to ask you about your poetry reading on the 27th of April. Was it for “Late Night Radio”? What was it for?
M: Actually it was a general reading. I picked something from each book to read. It was delightful for me.
J: How did it go?
M: I had never read here in my new home of Palm Springs and I had no idea of my audience. I picked something from each book and I didn’t know– I’m used to reading to students and other poets. In the coffee shops in L.A., everyone has been a writer at one time. I just didn’t have any idea what kind of audience they’d be and they were wonderful.
M: Yes, they were attentive and seemed to enjoy the work and I was just real real pleased. Cause I was nervous about it. You don’t know who they’re going to be. It was lovely. It went beautifully.
J: Did they ask anything or make comments? Were there certain poems that rang above the others.
M: Yes, one of the poems was received just amazingly well. I was very surprised. It was a poem that I don’t often read because it’s kind of long. It was called Beautiful. And I finished the reading with it and several people asked to know which book it came from because they wanted to get that book.
It’s never happened to me before that someone asked for a specific book because of a certain poem. It was really fun for me.
J: Wow, that’s great. Are you going to make this a regular thing, are you going to be going back?
M: I sure hope so. A couple of people asked after the reading if I was coming back or if I’m going to be reading anywhere else. And I said I’d like to but I don’t know. The usual thing because I wasn’t sure if Espresso Cielo Café was planning on inviting me back, and I didn’t really know what to say. So I always say that I’d like to.
J: Were there other poets in the audience?
M: No. It was a one-person reading. And the coffee shop went all out. They had invitations made up and they sent them out to the community. They had an article in the local paper and posters up. I was floored. It was like the biggest marketing thing I’ve ever seen for one of my readings. It was a small town and I guess that kind of thing is appreciated, and they paid for it all. It was great. I felt like a star –superstar me!
J: That’s amazing and that’s how it should have been all along. Of course. Are any of the posters on line, I’d love to see them.
M: Here, I can show you one here.
M: The Language We Dare Not Speak. J: Beautiful.
M: It’s Brian’s graphic and that was the theme of the reading actually: The Language We Dare Not Speak and I had that logo on all the little tote bags and little shopping bags and that kind of stuff. Yes it was nice.
And before we move on to talk, let’s revisit the reading at the Espresso Cielo Cafe, Palm Springs (clips filmed by Brian Newberry)
This is part 2 of an interview with Martina Newberry, in which she offers us two new poems and speaks about her recent book, What We Can’t Forgive.
J: Great. Okay, now I’ve got some questions that I’d like to ask you. First, I’d like to ask about your recent pieces. Are there any favourites that you’d consider reading now?
M: Absolutely. I just finished a poem that I’ve been working on for weeks, it just wouldn’t come right. So finally I put it away and thought finally this is going under “failed poetry”. But I picked it back up because a title came to me. When I got the title I thought I could fix this poem.
Anyway, I found a title for this poem and it brought the whole poem into focus. It’s called Guerilla Whining.
This poem is pounding on the door of your perceptions,
groveling at the knees of your conscience.
I offer you the precarious kiss of reality:
the work of the homeless—to survive one more night,
the limiting nature of nuclear incident,
the criminality of our prejudices,
the arrogance of our wealth.
The monsters of commerce call to us and we respond,
choking on $12.95 wine and caraway crackers.
The whites of the world’s eyes
are blushing with exhaustion.
Good people have calloused lips from sucking the blame
out of the tall, frosted glasses
held by congressmen and princes.
We want to be dauntless in an era that begs us to forget,
to ignore Iraq, Abu Grahib, New Orleans.
The fragile white palm of a politician’s hand,
forever urging the bloody adventures onward,
waving as the world’s warring stride off to meet,
is the palm no one touches. We only imagine it and still it
pushes, directs, encourages and waves “goodbye.”
Larry Levis says that “terror is a complete state of
understanding.” I get that. I agree with that.
Politics is a meaningless famine; it gives us
the necessary vocabulary to discuss our new myths.
It is compensatory collateral that makes of us
sheep children, floating in nameless liquid,
in clear glass jars on the shelves of freaking hell.
J: I see.
M: Yes. (laughter). I’m perennially angry about America’s politicians and I was trying to write about that and I couldn’t verbalize it and then came the title and I thought: Oh yes, I know what I want to say.
J: Amazing it just focused the energy for you, yeah? And helped you with the phrasing?
M: Yes, it did. And that happens to me. I usually start poems as untitled. I call them Untitled. It seems as if once I can title it, I make little changes and the poem just comes to life for me.
J: Interesting. I remember that at one point I had a title. A title came to me. I had nothing else but a title and I knew I wanted to write a book with that title.
M: I love it. What was the title?
J: Thistles and Marigolds.
M: Oh, I love it. Definitely deserves a book.
J: I did one, a chapbook a long time ago. But first I had the title. At the same time, a friend of mine said that she wanted to write a book but she only had a cover picture. Neither of us had content. I thought we could take my title, her cover page and steal content from the internet. No one would know. Kidding!
M: No one would know (laughter)
ed.note – We both take our poetry very seriously and the idea of plagiarism would never occur to us. Only we can express what we want to say, so that’s why the laughter.
J: In the end, nothing was stolen! But suddenly things come to birth of their own volition.
M: They do, in their own way.
J: Yeah, and each one’s different. The last book that you just came out with. What’s it called?
M: it’s called What We Can’t Forgive.
J: Yes and how did that come into being?
M: Because I tend to get very impatient or angry with the injustice of things and I also try to think of ways to forgive. I think about forgiveness a lot. I try to read what wise people have written about forgiving and about how we can and what we can’t forgive. And very often it comes to me.
I saw this movie called Magnolia. And in the movie the director, at the beginning or at the end, says that it’s all about what you can’t forgive. And in thinking about that and in the nature of forgiveness I was struck by how often I think of things I can’t forgive rather than what I can forgive. It’s very simple for me to forgive nice people and people who don’t mean to do the wrong thing, but reaching for forgiveness in somebody you know meant to do a bad thing is a difficult concept. And I thought I bet it’s difficult for a lot of people and so some poems came of that and finally a book.
J: I see.
M: Do you find forgiveness easy or simple for you.
J: Oh, God, lately this kind of question makes me very embarrassed. I’ve been studying now in a course of NLP in which people talk about the problems they’re dealing with and I’m embarrassed that at this time of my life, I don’t really have any problems and I’m almost afraid to say it. I don’t feel I have forgiveness to do. I’m off the chart these days for these kind of questions.
M: Oh, that’s great. I’m just interested in what you thought about it.
J: The only traumatic events I’ve had in my life, I kind of dealt with them at the time so much that there wasn’t really a lingering issue.
M: Okay. I understand.
J: Yeah, but that’s another discussion.
M: Yes it is.
J: I wanted to know if while writing your book, some of these things came to a head. Did you go through a process while writing?
M: Well, yeah. I did actually. As I said, my immediate reaction was well, that’s just the way I am. But what I found was that in thinking about these kind of things, the longer I addressed them, the easier it was for me to say maybe I can forgive or if not able to completely forgive it at least I could put it away or at least revisit it less often. It was a really good process for me. And I asked friends: what is there that you can’t forgive; is there anything you can’t forgive? I got insights from them. And I found that most people are really very forgiving. They’re very willing to live and let live. And to say well, we’re all just working guys trying to get along. I was very surprised at that. I thought because of our economy, I’d meet or hear a lot of complaints or anger and impatience, but instead, most people were very: “Well, it’s a lot of people’s faults, not just one and it’s just something we’re going to have to work through.” So I thought, either they’re very forgiving or they’re just exhausted. One or the other.
J and M: (laughter)
J: Or they’re used to it. They found a way to deal.
M: They’re used to it. Exactly
J: And after you wrote the book did you feel a sense of completion? Did you feel you’d attained another level of digestion?
M: Yes, I did. I felt as if pondering it, exploring it was the right thing to do. That looking into it, rather than just saying that ‘that’s the way I am’ that looking into it actually was a mellowing experience. That it was a way to digest it, like you said.
J: Okay. Would you consider reading one of the pieces from the book?
M: Absolutely. Here’s the book.
The cover’s from a quilt. I like to use people’s quilt designs. Oddly enough the name of this poem is Untitled, Unfinished.
The darkness resonates with neon.
we could all escape this planet at the same time, rise up as quietly
as anemones open, and stare up to where we are going, driven into
the beautiful dark.
Imagine it: a herd of the nicest people in the world, floating upward,
whistling, humming, laughing, knowing it’s all a magic trick,
enjoying the drift. There will be questions and conversations:
Am I still tripping on the mescaline
I took at that gas station restroom in Poway?
Did I go into a coma when I slipped and fell on my head at
that ice skating rink in Merced?
We’ll hear a resounding NO.
we will rise until we engage ourselves,
until death all around us folds
like a fan, only to open again
when chaos rearranges us.
J: Oh Wow, ‘when Chaos rearranges us’ that’s a good one.
M: (laughter) Talk about feeling powerless.
J: No, no But you claim, you wait, you know Chaos is gonna do it. There’s something of power there.
M: Yes, it is. You know it’s gonna get you.
J: I was reading something that Iyanla Vanzant wrote. She said that one of our tasks in life is just to clean up the mess in life when we can. To just clean up the messes in life and to accept it.
M: I love that: “just to clean up the mess in life when we can. ” I love that. I’m so glad you told me that. I think that’s really great.
J: But you’re saying the opposite. You said the mess will rearrange us.
M: Yes, but she says the duty is just to go back and clean it up again.
J: Yeah, It’s a pendulum
M: It is that.
J: I wanted to ask you about digital books. I saw a wonderful talk on TED talks this morning about a digital book where you could actually play with the flat screen and pick out pictures, fold them, move them. You tap on it and you get audio as well. You can move it down to the bottom menu and read while you’re listening. Here’s the link: Mike Matas at TED talks.
So I wanted to know, would you consider putting out your books digitally or getting into it?
M: Yeah. Three of my books are on digital now available for Kindle. And I think I’m glad anyway if anyone’s going to read poetry. If it means that someone’s going to actually pick up a poem and read it and think, hey I don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand this. If Kindle means that more people can do that, then yay, I’m happy for that.
The best experience at the reading the other night – a young man came up afterwards and said to me: “I’d never been to a poetry reading, I’ve never read poetry, and I’m going to buy my first book of poetry right now.” And I thought, somebody was introduced to poetry and I thought how wonderful because if he likes that he will explore other poets. So digital’s okay, it’s alright, if it means that people are going to read.
Personally I like a book. I like the pages. I like the way it smells, it feels. But you know, if people wanna read it that way, then…
J: I’m the same way. I agree with you though. There’s almost something underground about wanting to maintain paper.
M: Yes, there is. Can I use that in a poem? Underground… I like that
J: Yes, take it, take it.
M: There’s something exclusive about wanting our nice covers and turning the pages and fold one down, or write on them. There’s something about that.
J: I’m even thinking of mimeographed copies like back in the day and having one volume of your work and mail it to one another around the world, so as not to cut down too many trees. There just should be one.
M: Yes, exactly.
J: Now, what else. What’s new in life that’s grabbing your imagination these days?
M. Oh, a couple of interesting things. We made a new friend whose partner is deaf and I started trying to learn signing. And it’s so much fun. I’m not very good at it. But it’s so much fun trying to learn and trying to memorize the different signs for things. So whenever I see him I I try to practice some new signing on him. And it’s been really exciting for me and a lot of fun.
J: It’s a new language. In Israel, the signing is different than in America.
M: Yes, I know.
J: I was once part of a puppet show called Kids on the Block that worked with blind puppets, retarded puppets, deaf puppets and I had to learn sign language. And I kept trying to do my homework by looking at my English sources, but I could never find the right signs because in English it’s not what it is in Hebrew. So, I never quite made it..
M: That was something was very interesting to me. I sort of had the idea that all signing was universal, but it isn’t. It’s very different. So they still have to learn a new language, either way.
J: and dialect
M: But I’m really trying to learn it. I’m having a lot of fun with it. If I never get past How are you and I love you, then I’ll be alright.
J: How do you say I love you?
M: (signs with pinky and index fingers up.) And I learned you’re handsome or you’re beautiful.
M: So I’ve learned a couple of things. It’s fun. I’m having a good time with it.
J: It’s kinesthetic. It’s another way of using your brain. It’s brilliant
M: It feels like dancing. I love watching two people signing. It’s just like watching a dance, it’s the most delightful thing. I love it.
J: I remember watching two people signing in a bus on either side of the aisle.
M: Yes, I love watching it and it’s fast, I love watching the fingers flying.
Idiocy and how to deal with it
J: Okay, here I have a question: What’s your favourite way, Martina, of dealing with idiocy?
M: These days, I’m more impatient with idiocy; however, I am more apt to not call attention to it. I think I deal more with idiocy now by writing about it. I didn’t used to. I used to leave that concept out of my writing. Now I think I deal with it by writing about it, because as the years go by and I meet more and more idiots, it seems less likely that my saying anything is going to help. (laughter) So I just sit down and write something about it.
I very seldom call it to anybody’s attention. I can come home angry about something and say to Brian “That guy’s an idiot!” But other than that, I think I deal with it with my writing, and the things that I consider most idiotic go into a poem because I just don’t have a whole lot to say about it anymore to the person.
J: Yeah, I know what you mean.
M: I used to think that if you called it, if you said to a person You’re being an idiot. That maybe that would do something, that maybe they’d stop and consider what they’d said. But never. I don’t think that’s happened once in my life yet. I think every time I said it, the person just got mad, so….I held off saying it. I don’t do it much anymore.
J: There has to be a way, there really has to be a way to make someone realize, to stop dead in their tracks, evaluate their entire life and switch on a dime. I’m sure there’s a technique.
M: Yes! I love it. There’s got to be some way to do that. I just haven’t found it yet. But I’m gonna keep looking for it.
J: Yes, meanwhile.
New Book Venture
So what else? Are you thinking about any more books. What do you see for yourself.
M: Oh yes, I’ve started a new book.
J: Oh wow!
M: Well yes. It’s funny. I work on poems all the time, and what I try to do at the end of the week or at the end of the month I look to see if a theme presents itself in any way and sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. But I have a few poems that I’ve just started and I want to try working in some forms that I haven’t worked in before. I think I’ve written 3 sonnets in my life. I just wrote my very first ghazal.
J: Yes, I loved that. It was so wonderful. You invited us to participate. (ed.note – Martina posted her Unfit Ghazal in the Open Mic forum of Arcanum Cafe here)
M: It was the first time ever that I’d written one and I had such a neat time with the discipline. So this new book that I’m working with I’m going to experiment with some forms and some things I haven’t done before. And just see if a book comes out of that. I think it will but it’s new for me and I like taking my work to new places and see where I’m weak and where I’m strong, and can I get what’s in my heart out on paper in a more disciplined form than I’m used to. Make the brain work.
J: Good. Okay. Thanks, Martina. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
M: Yes, I have a question for you
J: Okay – let’s continue off the record!
Martina’s Blog: Roll With the Changes
Martina’s Blog on wordpress
Halina Birenbaum Speaks Out
Judih: Halina! I have so many questions.
Halina: I don’t have the time to answer a lot of questions or write volumes of responses. I’ve written so much already.
Judih: Yes, I understand. I know you’ve written a great deal and I’ve read some of your writing. I’m interested in you as a poet: how writing helped you survive. How it helped your soul.
Halina: I didn’t write in the camps. I wrote only once, when I was 11, about the flames and the horror around me. I ripped off a piece of a cement sack and found a pencil nearby and I wrote. But after that, it was impossible. Impossible in the camps.
I wrote in the ghetto in Warsaw. I wrote stories. And I read. I read books and studied with my brother.
I read books about another way of being and that’s what gave me the strength to go on. Knowing there was another world, and that the world could be the way it was written in books.
That’s what kept me going. Through all the waiting.
Waiting. Waiting for another day. Another scrap of food. When would they bring food. Waiting for the hunger to pass. To get through the cold. The conditions were so terrible. And fear.
The fear of death was always there. When would they take me?
My first poem was written as a story. I wrote “The Tears” as a short story and people told me that it was a poem, so that was my first poem.
they say that they are bitter
pungent, they choke, suffocate
they burn eyes, cause wrinkles
everyone is afraid and ashamed of them
they are considered a sign of weakness, effeminacy
an expression of adversity, sickness, mourning
people run away from their sight, hide behind them
for me it is much worse when they are not there
when their source dries out
this means that I am numb
that nothing can move or affect me anymore
that I don’t know how to worry dr how to be glad
that I have given up the fight
that nothing is left to conquer, desire or experience anymore
it means that I don’t care about anybody
and no one cares about me
therefore I am a stone
a living corpse
for me tears are necessary
I have to feel their burning fire under my eyelids
feel their wet warm trace on my face
that cramp in my throat
that shiver in my body
that quickened heart beat before they appear
I have to feel their welcome beneficial warmth
that burning pain of bitterness, indignation or protest
I have to see them in other people’s eyes
like a reflection and a response of their emotions
which are in me and grow in others toward me
for me tears are very precious
they are a cleansing form of life’s evil dust
from mediocrity, weariness, contempt
tears are sincerity, the truth, human sufferings
but also human gladness
tears can show human soul
often hurt, wretched and embittered
but often radiant, rejoiced
never stone hearted
for me tears are necessary to feel alive
to show that I have a heart
and that I am truly a human being
(ed.note:”Tears” and other poems are available online at Poetry on the Shoah )
Then I wrote a great deal and a book was published, Hope is the Last to Die, about 330 poems, and translated into Polish and it’s now in the Auschwitz Museum.
These days, I’m occupied taking care of my husband from six in the morning and I need to go to sleep early in order to wake up early. I’m very tired and I receive so many e-mails that I don’t have time to answer. It’s very difficult. I’m tired and I have no Shabbat.
But tonight in Ashdod, there’s an event being held by Yad Vashem. Children have been rehearsing songs for the Holocaust, in commemoration of International Holocaust Day. They’ve also selected one of my poems to sing. The composer of the music will be there, performing on piano, and I’m invited to attend.
This is a real mission for me to go there, but I must go for these children who’ve worked so hard.
The event is by invitation only, but I’m inviting you if you can attend. (ed. note: Halina offers me a chance to see her, to be with her at a location closer to my home than her city of Herzliya)
Judih: Unfortunately, I have to attend a seminar this evening, but I’ll see if I can make it, afterwards. Thank you, Halina. Thank you for your time. And I hope you enjoy the evening.
Halina’s book: Hope is the Last to Die is available at this site.
What will happen? Will Judih get to Ashdod to hear the concert and one of Halina’s poems set to music and performed by a Children’s choir? (to be continued…)
I was lucky enough to connect to David Jones, this morning. He had just returned from a dress rehearsal for the event “How Art Saved My Life“, a project conducted by Vita Arts, a group of experienced artists dedicated to applying art to the process of healing. The show will be performed in Seattle, Saturday night Jan 15 at 7:00 pm.
Beforehand, there’s a workshop offering hands-on support for women in need of artistic expression to help alleviate trauma. Click onto the link to find out how to attend.
This amazing project needs our support. I spoke to David about his role.
Judih: Tell me about your newest project
David: I’m involved in a play, a series of vignettes called ‘How Art Saved My Life’. Its about how art plays a seminal role in the lives of abused women. I was chosen to participate in the story in order to give a voice to the abuser. There will be aerialists and performers. I’m very excited about it
I actually play the role of the abuser and I’m wearing a suit.
Judih: Why a suit?
David: The abuser can be everyman, someone you can see on the street, a familiar figure, rather than a stereotypical version of a rough wife-beater, wearing a wife-beater undershirt. We wanted to make him look like a man everyone has seen, regardless of his stature in society.
If people were exposed to the possibility of what goes inside the head of the abuser, perhaps they would be more aware of the problem.
Judih: Is your part scripted or are you performing improv.
David: It’s scripted. I actually wrote two poems for the event: One ‘The Bad Guy’ is the abuser declaring himself – showing his lying and his cheating. The poem reveals a lot about the abuser himself. He does a lot of this out of fear, of himself, of the women in his life, and certain things that he is unable to control
The second “I Survived You” deals with how the abused became the abuser, because abusers don’t just wake up one day and start to abuse others – it’s a process. This piece relates stories of the abuse he’s suffered in the past, all at the hand of women. This piece is based on facts from my own life. I use anecdotes of abuse I personally experienced and which colours a lot of the misogynism in my work.
There’s something that someone said that we must remember: “All abusers, all these men had mothers.” They all had women in their lives. There are statistics that are out now that talk about abuse in the home towards children. True that men overwhelmingly are the major source of domestic abuse , but these new stats show that in abuse against children, the perpetrators are women.
In my poem “I Survived You” that’s a true story. My mother used to send me out to the backyard to get a switch to beat me.
Judih: How do you think that How Art Saved My Life can help heal the victims of abuse?
David: I’m hoping that the audience can see that art has a healing effect on the abused and is capable of changing the life of the abuser. I’m hoping that they come away with an understanding of how each is damaged by the mores of our society. The abused are damaged and the abuser is damaged as well. How can I say this? The persecuted becomes the persecuter: it’s cyclical.
And each has their part to play.
And I’m hoping that this project will illuminate everyone’s part and show where they have common ground. Hopefully this can lead to indicate what each can do to bring some healing or reconciliation in their lives. I maybe dreaming. I’m hoping it’ll be a healing opportunity for people.
If tonight’s dress rehearsal was any indication, people will be affected. One woman approached me after I performed my first poem and told me that she couldn’t believe that I had written those words, that I dared to say them outloud. She was shocked and angry. I obviously touched something in her. But I didn’t push the issue, I said nothing.
Judih: It would seem that this woman used your ‘character’ to express what needed expressing – you provided her with an opportunity to vent her fury.
Judih: Will there be some kind of follow-up, some form of group support?
David: I’m not sure, but there is an earlier workshop that will offer chances for expression.
Judih: I’d like to know if you have ever sensed an audience and changed the atmosphere mid-way through a poem?
David: No. I look at the audience beforehand and decide what I’m going to read. Sometimes people expect the darkness, and I will give them the light. It has just as much of an impact, as if I would give them the darkness that they expected.
Judih: As Allen Ginsberg used to go on stage and simply perform without notes, have you ever tried to live mic it?
David: I’ve had no experience with that. I don’t think I would be good at getting on the mic and coming up with poetry. As I tell people all the time, I’m not a rapper. I can’t rap! And, in fact, I think if I did, I’d get too dark for most people, so no, I’ve never gotten up on the mic and done a poem from the moment of feeling. I tend to craft my poems.
Although people have often suggested I’d be good at stand-up, in that kind of Chris Rock, Paul Mooney kind of way.
Judih: I don’t know Paul Mooney. I’ll google him.
How long will ‘How Art Saved My Life’ be running?
David: Just one night, Saturday, Jan 15, 2011, in Seattle.
Judih: I wish this blog had a larger reading audience. I’d love to be able to push this event. It sounds wonderful.
David: Well, I just want to say that I boast that I’ve been interviewed by a blogger in Israel. And I want to thank you for your time and your interest.
Judih: I’d like to be able to get your words out to as many people as possible.
David: Well, as my father used to say: Once the words are said, they don’t just go away. They keep on going. And Bob Marley said: words are power. Just because you don’t hear them anymore, doesn’t mean that they aren’t affecting someone. They still ripple out.
Judih: That’s the truth.
All the best to you on your performance in ‘How Art Saved My Life’ and I hope to speak to you again. I want to sign off with the two pieces featured in ‘How Art Saved My Life’. Thank you, David.
The bad guy
I’m the bad guy
The one who cheated on you
With your best friend
Her marriage broke down
And I took advantage of her
She told you
But my lies were better
Than her hard truth
I’m the bad guy
The one who hit you
When you questioned me
Coming in hours late
Smelling of alcohol
Having wrecked your car
Ran up your card
And denied it all
I’m the bad guy
That molested your daughter
When you trusted me
And didn’t have money
For a decent babysitter
Or available daycare
I told you she was sick
But I was the sick one
I’m the bad guy
Who screamed at you so loudly
It hurt your ears
When you told me
The utilities were due
The rent was late
The baby needed diapers
And you couldn’t do it all alone
I’m the bad guy
Who stole money from you
Nights out philandering
While you sit at home
Wondering where I was
Or whether I was alive
I’m the bad guy
Because I don’t know
How to tell you
How afraid I am
Of the beast inside
I’m the bad guy
I didn’t start out this way
I was your lover, brother
Father, friend, uncle
Co-worker and any other man
To tell you
I Survived You
I survived you
When you told me
“Go get me a switch boy”
Beat me with it
Until it broke
Went and got another
Bigger one yourself
Told my father
Who reluctantly beat me again
So he wouldn’t appear
In front of you
I survived you
In 1962 when I helped you
With your books
You had dropped
Your racist brother
And his friends
Beat the shit out of me
And said nothing
I survived you
When you would send
Your disruptive little monkey
To the principal’s office
To be beaten with a board
For asking questions
Martin or Malcolm
I survived you
When you had sex with me
At your house
Because you were curious
About black boys
Once your curiosity
You never spoke to me
I survived you
When you took my kids
To a foreign country
While I was at work
Filed for divorce
Then married a crack head
That threatened them
When he was high
I survived you
When you grabbed my ears
Dug your nails
Into the side of my head
Screamed at me
That you loved me
Threw a kitchen chair at me
And made me sleep
On the couch
With one eye open
I survived you
Making me the bad guy
Telling me I was worthless
Ridiculing me for crying
Silencing my fears
With your contempt
I survived you
But the damage is plain to see
-D Jones 2010
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