Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Days

Pocketwatch_cutaway_drawingThree hundred and sixty-five days
Endless endings and pine fresh starts
Exploding in dust, they pass by
And we ticker tick count them off

The inconstant metronome of
Three hundred and sixty-five days
Unremembered, skin that touched skin
And eyes that met and fell and met

The ways in which we sacrificed
Our minutes to laughter and sleep
Three hundred and sixty-five days
Is almost nothing, almost all

Winnowed by loss and ecstasy
We sing out loud so we can’t hear
The final ticking seconds of
Three hundred and sixty-five days

by Heather Emme

To read all the #verseday poems, click here. To read my twitter poems, click here.

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The Juxtaposition of Tears

TW: Assault, rape and other icky things.

Crying has a long human history. One of the oldest recorded stories of tears is the Goddess Anat crying at the loss of her brother Ba’al. It is said she drank the tears like wine. When I was a child, I related to the story of the woman who cried at Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair. I had atypical internalized guilt for someone so young. Tears were penance for my sins.

Today in my Facebook feed, this video popped up more than once (warnings if you don’t want to watch a video related to some pretty brutal assaults):


In this video, convicted rapist and former police officer Daniel Holtzclaw weeps as he learns that he has been found guilty of half of the charges laid against him. He faces, potentially, 200+ years in prison.

I watch the video and I see something achingly familiar.

As a victim of sexual violence that went on for years, I see what happens as the body copes with the idea that its autonomy is not sacrosanct. I see the agony of learning that your plans for the form you were given will not be honoured.

I see the slow dismantling of hope as each verdict is read, much like the way hope erodes each night when that door opens again. I know what it is to cry in a way that threatens to turn you inside out.

I am inside out and backward, all the raw bits out so long that they’ve scarred over. I don’t cry much now, even when I want to cry, when I need to cry. I am self-contained like a strange human eco-system that poisons itself, but tries not to let it spread.

I understand his tears, just as I know he will never understand mine.

Bathurst Street and Bloor (An Ode to Honest Ed’s)

(This #verseday poem is for my Toronto peeps. They will understand.)

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Photo by Don Toye. Click to see the original.

I am Honest Ed
The captain said
And turned toward the shore
He slowed a clip
And moored his ship
At Bathurst Street and Bloor

As ship, a shop
A circus top
With flashing lights, a store
In wonderment
The patrons went
To Bathurst Street and Bloor

A pauper’s price
For tins of spice
A dime will get you four!
At half the cost
You still get lost
Exhausted, floor to floor
In rows and rows
Of bags and bows
At Bathurst Street and Bloor

Our Ed’s no goat
But he’ll eat his coat
Before he’ll charge you more
For an Elvis bust
A pizza crust
A custom fishing lure
A cup that says
‘Toronto!’
From Taiwan or Singapore
For pleated skirts
Or neon shirts
From nineteen eighty four
For anything
That Ed can bring
To Bathurst Street and Bloor

So travel down
Koreatown
And through the spinning door
It matters
Not a spatter
If you’re rich or filthy poor
For he landed
Empty handed
Our most savvy raconteur
And built a shop
Which begs a stop
At Bathurst Street and Bloor

by Heather Emme

(Fun side note. I met Ed once. I was working at the Princess of Wales as a teenager. During the show run, I was at a booth, waiting to sell product when the intermission hit. Technically we were supposed to sit and do nothing, but my boredom was not easily assuaged. I was doing a crossword. I missed the call that went out over the walkies that “The eagle had landed.” That was code for “Ed’s in the building.” I was caught up in my crossword when an older gentleman leaned over, looked at my puzzle and offered an answer. It was Ed. He smiled and went in to the show. His guess was wrong, but he was still friendly. 😉 That’s my Ed moment. Feel free to tell me about yours below.)

To read all the #verseday poems, click here. To read my twitter poems, click here.

ACE: In The Whole

I am fortunate to have a circle of friends that is full of teachers, both in the literal sense (they work in schools) and in the less-than-literal sense (they are smarter than me and know things they can teach me.) One of the benefits of being surrounded by smart humans who understand how we learn and develop throughout childhood, is that I am often abreast of changes to how we look at learning and growth.

A few months ago, my dear friend Laurie posted an NPR article about the Adverse Childhood Experience study (ACE.) Initially I skimmed it and found the whole thing intriguing. However I was working with a PTSD specialist, so I didn’t spend too long dwelling on new ideas.

When my work with my specialist went spectacularly south, I started to think on the ACE study again. I re-read the article. Finally, I took the quiz.

The quiz asks 10 questions, each relating to a childhood experience that has been demonstrably shown to increase chances of certain behaviours, illnesses and outcomes. The more of these questions to which you answer yes, the more likely you are to be suffering after-effects of your trauma. It should be noted that there are limitations to the questions. There are no questions that deal with witnessing acts of violence or war. There are no questions about peer bullying. There are no questions about peer rape. The focus is solely on family dynamic.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that my number was high. So high that half my score was the highest level they were noting. I wasn’t shocked. It was not news to me.

This graphic that accompanied it gave me pause:

ace_pyramid_wotext.127135420_std.gifThat’s a helluva pyramid.

Still, drastic graphics aside, the most useful moment of clarity  was not in the content. For once, it was in the comments.

Most people commenting fell into the lower numbers. A few, like my love, were zeros. A spattering were ones, twos, threes.

A very small number of commenters, like me, fell into the high numbers. Our stories, our tone, were different. There was a desperation, a falling down into ourselves, that seemed to mark us as just too far beyond what is well and normal. There was a lot of talk of addiction, job loss, prison time. We were the destroyed minority.

Still, I am a person with perpetual – I wouldn’t say hope – stubbornness? I haven’t been able to successfully stop trying. I don’t want to. I still believe I deserve to be happy.

But.

But I’m done comparing my successes and challenges to the ones and twos. Of course I’m not where they are. I didn’t start where they did. Maybe my executive functioning is poor, but I keep going. I make lists and set reminders and plan days in advance and often fall apart at the last minute, but I keep doing it. I keep making lists. I keep making plans. I keep trying.

But I’m not a two. I’m not a zero. I’m me. I’m the kind of person that the non-existent fates decided should get pummelled with most of the hammers.

With that in mind, I think I’m doing pretty damn good, just being here.