The savagery by which we flay ourselves apart

those of us spoon fed self-hatred, in our cribs

inheriting not the lacquered confidence of our elders

nor accompanying narcissism—

but instead, chimera, hair in womb grown inside out

abomination; unnatural, inbred, unclaimed

staring at deformities neck in mirrors slick with humor

and find no place, nothing safe, all is

abjured changeling,; wide staircases containing inherited ghosts

no solidity to claim ourselves, the invert’s slope

of DNA, perhaps our very clay; weave of making reversed

mistakes leaden with ancestral weight—

best suited to drowning.

I dove into warm water that first time abroad

sun licked me clear of salt, running through Greek

olive groves, I didn’t yet know, dour scold of truth

how pinches in dark follow into daylight, and children

in their propensity toward exclusion, push away

those without succor, without piss and vinegar

for even now, ‘nice’ becomes ‘boring’ and ‘spiteful’

the lusted after beauty who steps on your neck

with taunts of skin color, body shape, moles and

diminishment; flayed, irregular, standing at the edge of

inner-city swimming pool, veruca sock and ugly blue-black hours

I heard the call of mermaids, they buoyed me on waves before

permanently pulling me under, where for decades

I trod, water inside my head, watching life magnified by

the depths, depriving all oxygen, I learned

to eat less, sleep longer, believe in no-one, least of all

myself, for to believe is to hope, and there is

no hope where cruelty and rejection flourish unchecked

by those who would save us with kindness

if they were not subject to thrall of cruelty unbound.

This earie retreat, where disappointment couldn’t remind

me I wasn’t one of them, I didn’t make the fold, seamstress

stitching perfectly straight, around me. I felt the cold burn

of Winter and equal scold of Summer, nobody came to

claim; we can stand in place forever and not see

how old we get without moving.

Lovers laid their executions at my feet and stepped away

laughing behind their fingers, at that obscene perpetual longing for

truth; say it once and mean it forever! Who but a child

believes? Till they too are ruined?

Then, older than acceptable, listing on watery shelf

staring with vinegar vanity at the demolished spaces

where once I filled, now sunken; a balloon without

helium, we speak in high pitch, against incessant crash of waves

submerged ships and their watery treasures, tarnished

and all the tan children have made their nests high

against encroaching storm, their lovely progeny, not born with

mis-matched eyes requiring patches, nor skin absent of

melanin, nor premature curl of blindness encroaching fiend

no, it was always there, you just —

didn’t see it, fool.

Portent at the edge of each day, lusting to suck you asunder

where you fade, in a dream, awaiting your birth

though you were almost born and life ticks rapidly by

your accouchement an abomination, your parents, fled

faces turned in askance; whatever could you have done

by existing —to cause such diminishment? Who said

first, the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference

they’d tell you glibly, how absurd your self loathing—

even as you learned it in their stead, somehow

taking wrong paths, listening to a voice instilled in 90 proof

ruinous it was, hijacking brief shock of joy, the sabotage

of living, a dowry without kin; so we spin, salted—

and raw, for the next cycle of moon to make us well

our faulty genes, our terrors, our poor ghosts

who wake in terror, who shake us clean of strength.

Where does a child grown, find her way

without learning first, how to walk on earth?

When swimming seemed to avoid the worst thorn

yes they destroyed me. Yes they bled—

still scarlet blood didn’t bring the living back from the dead.

I returned back to the waters edge—

where Poseidon’s flotsam memories burnish waves

and silence reigns, a lackluster gloat

for you … regarded as worthless wreckage—

you, could be anything you want, unless

those inside your head tell you otherwise

then you are beneath the waves—engulfed

oh the sea, the sea,* where rocks tall—

prevent ever, your clambor to shore

and distance is an ache in your chest

like muffled conche sound, when water

enters caves, ever screaming void.

(Inspired by The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch, 1978. Winner of the Booker Prize).

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