It’s hard to be interested in modern poetry without being familiar with Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, but I’d never taken the time to really check them out. Katherine gave me Sarah and Phil at a time when I really needed them. Their work is this mind-boggling, brain-scrambling, soul-tugging and emotion-wrenching exploration of lived experiences. Today, Katherine showed me this:
After watching this, I stared at PC Hammer, slack jawed and silent before whispering, “I want to have babies with his brain.” Then I watched again. And again. And again. But the repetition hasn’t eradicated the meaning yet.
I never wanted to be the kid who was ruined or traumatized by my parent’s divorce. Actually, I spent most of my childhood wishing they would break up, make legal what was already so shattered within our home.
I spent the years of my youth huddling in my closet, hiding from my dad. Hours and hours I sat perfectly still and silent, because if he didn’t know I was home, he couldn’t hurt me. Hurting my mom, me, and sometimes my sister was one of my father’s favorite hobbies.
My dad told me lots of stories, how he never wanted a second child, never wanted me, wanted my mom to abort the fetus. He told my sister first, and in a fit of adolescent rage she flung the facts at me. I don’t remember that. I don’t remember a lot, because if I let it all in I would just wake up wake up wake up and forget why. I don’t remember the things my sister said, but she broke down a few years ago, crying and apologizing. It doesn’t matter; I heard it elsewhere, often.
But then he would say, “I love you.” and I’d say, “I love you, too” and I’d add that too, that superfluous too, because I didn’t mean it, I couldn’t mean it. And he wouldn’t respond with an “I love you more” but always with an “I said it first.” because that’s what mattered to him. And I’d like to know what those words mean. I love you, and I said it first. These words are just letters combined and I don’t understand what they’re supposed to mean to me.
He used to tell me this story, over and over, about how he tried to leave us, our family, when we lived in Germany. My mom and sister were out, and he was supposed to be watching me, the infant. But he was packing his things instead. He was leaving. And then he looked in the bassinet, on his way out. And I smiled. And I grabbed his hand. And he cried and knew he couldn’t leave. And I’ve spent my whole life hating myself for loving him in my infancy. He told me this story again and again, and I don’t know what he wanted me to feel but all I ever felt was that I was the one who’d kept him around, that I was responsible for the endless years of violence and abuse.
When the divorce did happen, things didn’t get better. I was sixteen. My sister had already moved away from home. My other sisters were with their families across the country. My mom stopped getting out of bed. I was sixteen and so alone, and confused. And I never wanted to be one of those kids traumatized by my parent’s divorce. I thought it would make things better, but it didn’t. Not at first. Not for a long, long time.
There was never any gravity in my home. I don’t know how to trust. Stories and words float around me and I can’t always tell which voices are just voracious and which grow from pure hearts. Nothing is forever, but there must be moments of truth and beauty and honesty. Despite the best efforts of many nasty people I’ve known in my life, I’m still hoping to find the gravity, the words that are given weight and density by the truth of their meaning.