Time and Again

April 1, 2008
Time and again people have asked me
How I have sustained myself in writing a novel;
Where the fire came from, that carried me
Through hundreds of pages of work—
And now I answer them.

Because my name was failure,
And I was a failure
And I lived my failure
And I hated it.

I will not fail again; I will not fall so far to the bottom.
You may not touch me, not ever again
Because you said you were helping me,
But every time I tried to gain my feet, you kicked me over.
Yes, I hate you. I hate you all even as I know
That hate is bad; well blah blah blah
That is all just f***ing words, f***ing bullshit
All you ever gave me was f***ing bullshit
And you expected me to be happy? To thank you?
To keep letting you kick me?

No, I didn’t lashed out at you, but I stopped trying to stand
What was the point, if you just kicked me over again?
The only thing you ever talked about was fixing me
As though I was broken, a broken object
And then, the little frightened, angry child I was would scream
And sob, screaming that I was broken
I knew it,
I knew I was broken
And didn’t work
But don’t keep trying to fix me
Because you’re just breaking me more.

But you just couldn’t listen, could you?
You didn’t watch the warning signs,
And I gave up trying to stand, so that when you kicked me
It still hurt, but I didn’t fall anymore.
And that was when you hurt me worse than any other time
By hurting my best friend. By telling him that he was broken
That he didn’t work,
Like me.

But he couldn’t take it like I could
You ruined him, and now his face is changed forever.
You broke him again and again and again
And all I could do was watch from the sidelines as he changed
Huddling in the corner, and I saw my friend,
My dear gentle, lovely friend
Try to kill someone, I watched him strangle someone,
And will never forget it the look on his face, in his eyes
The tightness of his mouth, the shattering, desperation of it all
Of him wanting to do something but not knowing how
Because you broke him and broke him
And only talked about his weaknesses, never praising him
And telling him what a good artist he was;
Did you even know what a good artist he was?
Could you see talent at all?

After my friend left I hated you more than ever,
But I knew something else—
I wasn’t going to give up standing and letting you kick me
Until I became like him. Never.
I would never give you the satisfaction of seeing me break.
So by myself, under the hammer of your blows,
Numb to the pain in the momentary beautiful rage of it,
I stood up; and my legs wobbled a bit, but I stayed standing.

Because you couldn’t break me
Don’t you dare kick me
One day you will regret
What you did to us, to me.
Because I am not broken anymore; I am healing.
I can stand, I can move, and now, I can write.
Yeah, bet you didn’t know about that did you?
Because all you ever cared about was my weaknesses.
All you ever talked about was how broken I was,
Failing always to notice that tiny, beautiful glimmer
hidden far away, where it couldn’t be damaged.

You never cared much about my talent,
And mocked me by praising everyone else’s writing,
When you knew that mine was the best.
But I bit my tongue, and kept writing.

Because I wrote for the joy
Because I wrote for love,
I wrote for my hatred for you
And it’s healing me.
And there is nothing you can do about it.

There’s my fire; as I write I heal.
Even now I feel my wounds closing a tiny bit—
Inching shut, my words the stitches.
(ItItItItIt looks like stitches, too doesn’t it?)
And one day, I will be totally healed,
My legs strong and used to standing, alone
My eyes shining with the glimmer that you never noticed
Rising up in my body and shining through my skin
And I like to think that you will regret it then
I like to think that maybe then, though God wouldn’t want me
To hurt you, as you hurt me
Perhaps you will allow yourself to feel a tiny bit of the pain
Perhaps you will have the grace to break yourself a bit.

But if you were able to do that,
Then I would have been able to forgive you
Long ago, without writing this poem.
Nevertheless, I reserve my judgment
For one far more apt than I,
And I will retreat to my writing,
Stoking the glimmer to shine all the brighter
Until all can see that I am not broken
That I am healed because of what I am,
What you could never see in me—
I am a writer
Now and forever.

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