Those are words the publisher uses to describe Veils, Halos and Shackles, an international anthology of raw, powerful poetry on the oppression and empowerment of women. As a contributor, I have to confess that none of those things had anything to do with my creating the poem that went into it. Writers cannot always describe inspiration, but in this case, I can.
When a tumor, an acoustic neuroma, decided to take up residence in my ear and brain, I remember the surgeon asking if I had experienced blunt trauma to my head at some point. He was researching possible causes for the tumor, in my case, he brought to mind being whacked HARD on both sides of my head at the same time by a man I loved who was calling me, “Stupid.” I am not stupid.
Like women all over this world, I fought back. Eventually I freed myself from the violence. Nobody knows if physical abuse was the cause of my tumor, but they did remove the thing in an eight-hour surgery, thank you Dr. McGee! The first thing I wrote days later—while still in a morpine haze—was a poem called “In a Shard of the Bedroom Mirror.” I am not a poet. (Well, not publicly.)
My brain evicted that memory as surely as the surgeon’s scalpul sliced out my tumor. I don’t know any science to back this up, but believe, no BELIEVE, that the emotional trauma from that abuse has haunted me for years. I am not a ghost.
Alive and fully relevant, that poem was chosen for the anthology though unlike others in the anthology, I doubt my words will shock anyone. Domestic violence is all too common in this country—BUT my words might startle a woman who really needs to get out of a dangerous situation. My recovery, my strength, might inspire her to reach out to a friend, a minister … a total stranger who cares. I care.
I am not a victim.
If you are going to be in Houston around May 7, join me at the Menilfest|Houston Indie Book Fest for an interactive workshop called “Words CAN Heal.” About 2pm.
Because someone out there needs to hear your words.
And don’t forget I’ll be reading in Ada, Oklahoma on April 1st at 3 p.m. at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival.
If you need help, call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or text LISTEN to 741741 and a counselor who cares will respond. Reaching out is your first step to a new life.