Bad Enough

i didn’t go

to a centre

or to a hospital

 

because i assumed what happened to me

wasn’t ‘bad’ enough

or violent enough

 

besides which

it had been a long time

since it happened

but i was depressed then

so it is only now

that i see it

for what it was

 

i don’t know if i can ever explain

how much it hurts to ask for help

because when you ask

you hope like hell

the other person

will believe you

 

it’s like

jumping from something high

and asking for a rope

just before you start to fall

 

but to everyone

this has ever happened to

i don’t need to know

the further and better particulars

 

i don’t need to know

the what, the who, the how

the when or the where

or the why

 

all i ask

if i ever tell you

is for you to believe me too

Dogs You Don’t Know

“Hey, what are you up to out here all on your lonesome, huh?”

He crouches down, closer to the dirt and the dust and waits. There’s dirt under his fingernails, and his boots started off an ochre colour and now they’re black. He hasn’t shaved in a few weeks, and he favours one arm over the other, but there’s no mistaking him.

There’s no mistaking eyes that dark.

The dog moves towards him, body posture relaxed, sleek, lean.

You shouldn’t pet dogs you don’t know, or so the old mantra goes. But he did know dogs. He’d grown up around them. On a farm, if you can believe that.

 

“Hello,” he says, trying a smile through his gristle. “My name’s Frank Castle. What’s yours?”

The dog, ears forward, tail wagging, moves forward close enough to close the gap between them and lick his face.

“Ah so it’s like that, is it?” The former marine says, sinking his hands into the creature’s fur. He has no collar, no tag, not from where Frank’s standing.

“C’mon, you gonna show me round or what?” he stands, wipes the dust from himself and starts walking again.

It’s twilight, and the last of the sun is shining through the stark, brittle trees.

The sky is the colour of honey.

 

When Frank whistles the dog comes quickly, neatly by his side. He’s sleek, and lean, a German Shepherd, and he looks like he could run for days.

So they do.

Bottle-Necked

You boarded the bus

it was crowded

with people standing around

the doors and exits

bottle-necked

 

You were smartly dressed

with your cuffs rolled up to your elbows

clinging awkwardly

to those handles

that are too high for most people

 

You were pregnant

not enough to leave stretch marks

or to swell your ankles

but enough to show

so that people would come up to you

and touch your tummy

without your consent

 

But as I watched you

from my seat

I noticed

the scars along your arm

white, raised

the width of a razor

 

over and over and over

 

On both arms

it’s clear

you found room

when there was none

 

And I wanted to apologise

and say that I’d been through the same

but how could I do that

without reminding you

to look down

to see them, all over again?

 

How do I say

that I did that too

that I know what it’s like

without reminding us both

of the pain?

 

How do I say

it’s alright

without you trying to explain

how old you were

and where you were

when you did it

for the first time

 

How can I tell you

that it’s not your fault

and that you only needed help

without implying that first

you were sick

and didn’t know any better

 

How can I tell you

that I love you

and I think you’re valuable

and you’ll make a great parent

when I don’t even know your name

 

 

The bus pulled up, slowing like an exhale

it’s my stop

and I still haven’t formed any of my thoughts into words

so I said excuse me

and I left

and stepped out onto the pavement

 

and then I realised

in that moment

that I was so caught up

in my own compassion

that I forgot to offer you

my seat

 

 

Self Portrait

you painted a self portrait recently

of your tiny fingers dragging into your tummy

fingernails digging into your flesh

 

and all I want to do

is to take that tiny hand

and take those tiny fingers

and kiss them gently

softly

the way I always do

 

you may not believe me

but I find that self portrait beautiful

 

because it reminds me

of the softness of your skin

and all the ways I can say I love you

without saying the words aloud

 

it reminds me

of how smooth your skin is

how warmth responds to warmth

 

so forgive me

if all I ever do is study it

to follow the lines of your veins

along the back of your hand

 

and think about

how I might kiss you

or your nipples

the next time I see you

 

maybe

I didn’t react ‘properly’

to your artwork

but to me

an emotional response

is all the artist ever wants

 

and all I want to do

is to take that tiny hand

and take those tiny fingers

and kiss them gently

softly

the way I always do

 


 

 

So this poem is inspired by a self portrait my wife did for a friend’s zine, Bodies. You can find the painting here: http://artbyval.ca/post/142359318947/i-recently-provided-a-painting-for-a-friends (NSFW).