family

trauma and literature

i’ve been watching that show parenthood on hulu lately, and i’ve been crying at every episode. i’ve been writing lately about my mother, and how much she hurts and hurt me and how i hate her, even though i don’t, but there are significant parts of me that still do, and i don’t know how to reconcile them yet, or at all. and so there’s the writing that has to be done, because there’s nothing else to do about it. i haven’t been able to exorcise this stuff out of me.

i was in my creative writing class last semester and we were workshopping a book of my poetry, and the second poem, the one that follows the martyr poem is about me. and my mom. and her telling me about her online affair with a 19 year old. when i myself was eighteen. and her telling me they met through an online chatroom about leather … fetishes i assume is the right word there. you can read the poem. but the ‘funny’ thing about it was in workshop the teacher asked the class who they thought the woman was in the poem, because it certainly couldn’t be the mom, even though that’s who it seems to be; that no one’s mom would talk like that. that it simply couldn’t be. true.

and at the end of the class i said as much. i said it was a mom, my mom. and everyone was silent for that beat too long when something awkward has been said, and you don’t know how to react. much like in the poem itself.

and so, how does it end? does forgetting happen, or numbing, or leaving or reconciling. surely, i know this isn’t the worst motherly behavior. surely i know people who have had trauma greater than mine. but. to acknowledge it as trauma … isn’t enough. it’s not full enough, or un-cliche enough. it doesn’t lessen it, or make it better, or take it away.

i was in my senior year of college, only a few months away from institutionalization, though i didn’t know it at the time. i only knew i was drinking in class by then. in film class though. experimental film. the only way to watch bunuel, of course. i was taking a class called trauma and literature. we read books about domestic violence, the holocaust, slavery. and i remember. mostly i remember this one book about domestic violence where the man slams a kitchen drawer on his blonde wife’s fingers, severing them, and we hear and see through her eyes that moment of necessitated numbness when she doesn’t feel anything because she can’t. because it’s too massive to feel anything at all. and so she’s intrinsically protected by her body and all of human decendency, and i know that moment. that suspension before the agony. i lived that suspension. and i don’t know how to land those moments. how to lay them down, how to put them to rest.

and so i watch television that makes me weep, and i ache in a place that is unchartable. and i wait for something to change. for change to overcome me like long awaited sleep. for it to catch up to me and allow me to let go of my breath and trust that maybe for once, and yet maybe for the millionth time, i can be safe in whatever’s happening, drawer or no drawer – i have to believe that something. will change. mainly because it must.

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