Forty Springs Ago, She Understood: a poem

The abuser will always soften the situation, romanticizing the victim’s pain, her brokenness, and in some cases, her death. Then, he’ll blame himself. And hearing his remorse, the crowd will sympathize, nodding their heads in agreement, “Yes, she did deserve better. She was a beautiful girl, inside and out.”

And they will forget how ugly he had made her. Forget his hands and her face. Forget who caused the bruises, when they see the loneliness on his shoulders. Forget who was the abuser. Forget who was the victim.

Thirty springs ago,
they waded through the stream
to reach the lake behind her father’s cabin.
The rain had awakened the water
to rise up and down,
pushing and pulling her
over wet, waxy boulders,
and when she clung to his shoulders
he struck her away from him
as quickly as he apologized
and kissed her over and over
till she said she understood.

Twenty springs ago,
they found a cove with glowing tadpoles.
It was here, he gave her a ring
and promised her a lifetime of spring weather —
oh, how she loved the rain.
He kissed her gently,
then fiercely,
and when she removed herself,
the chimes of crickets and river reeds
covered the thumps of his fists
against her cheeks and her ribs,
till he made her understand.

Ten springs ago,
His eyes traced the purple veins
that blended with her purple skin
and the sapphire brooch
that blended with the blue dots
on her hospital gown.
His calloused fingers
interlocked with hers,
the way the tubes on her splintered arms
interlaced its way up to her intravenous bag,
still, she wanted to understand.

Because forty springs ago,
she held his hands when they met
at a forest creek by fate,
when he cried because his mother withered
at the hands of his father
that very hour.
She taught him to hum
to the rain’s numbing pitter
until he found a sweet melody
and saved himself from a bitter reality.
But all he heard was escape,
and all she did was understand.

So that spring,
Her chest lay as still
as the lake on a clear, spring morning
because she only understood.

 

 

 

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