I rip my chest open I find blood maggots bricks dirt manure garbage two-by-four's nails rusty nails a claw hammer a bombed-out city a backed-up toilet a keg of fishhooks. I rip my chest open I find snakes frogs lizards a black swamp nervous wolves flames heat prisoners a rack a wheel a dungeon rats ants cinder blocks fish heads. I rip my chest open I find an animal on the highway flies swarming around restless corpses a bloated steaming raccoon carcass rotting raw meat broken bones torn flesh a hunting license a gun rack deer intestines in the snow severed pheasant heads + feet on newspaper empty shotgun shells. I rip my chest open I find a slaughterhouse a press a torture chamber winged demons on ice evil farm animals up to no good an earthworm spilling its guts on a hook a neglected graveyard stones kicked over. I rip my chest open I find shattered glass baseball bats a blacksmith anvil angry horses a rabid goat a frightened monkey in a space capsule a pressure cooker an incubator a shovel a knife a deep dark hole and daylight.
For those who are not familiar with the term body memory, here’s my brief take on it from a post I wrote a while back called “The body is the gateway”:
The body is a container, a vessel, a vehicle for the expression of energy. Sometimes energy gets stuck or trapped. This can result in physical pain, discomfort, structural problems, or illness. A story is also a container, a vessel, a vehicle for the expression of energy. Energy can be trapped in the body in the form of a story. Some stories that emerge from the body are literally true and verifiable in terms of one’s real world experience. This type of story is often referred to as a body memory.
Today’s poem came to me quite spontaneously one afternoon many years ago as I was lying on the bed having a little rest. In another previous post entitled “Poetry, dreams, and the body”, I wrote about the changing nature of my relationship with my body at that time in my life that opened the way for this poem to express itself to me:
I was also, at that time, coming into a new form of relationship with my body. I’d been treating my body like a mechanism for most of my life, a strange and mysterious other that felt external and separate from what I thought of as myself, an unreliable machine that suffered from all sorts of inconvenient problems and breakdowns that no doctor I’d seen could explain. I know now that this sort of separation and dissociation from the body is very common among men and boys in my culture. I also know now that it’s common to another demographic group of which I am also a member: adult survivors of childhood abuse.
Somehow, and I honestly can’t say how this came about, I found that my body was, like my dreams, another rich source of imagery and information that expressed itself well in poetic language. I believe this discovery was largely stimulated by the emotional processing work I was doing at the time, in which I was taught to tune into my body as a way to locate and unlock the psychological and emotional energy I’d been forced to repress as a child. As time went on, I gradually began to see my body as a partner rather than as an adversary. I also found that my body had something to say. I only had to give it the time and the space to speak.
The violent incident recalled at the conclusion of this poem is explored again from a slightly different perspective in a poem called “out of body” from my new book, Scapegoat’s Cross: Poems about Finding and Reclaiming the Lost Man Within.
For more poetry on video, visit my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/rickbeldenpoet.
Dr. Phil Tyson, a Manchester UK psychotherapist who specializes in working with men and men’s issues, recently posted his review of my book, Iron Man Family Outing, on his blog, Men’s Well-Being. He concluded his review by saying:
Rick’s work, if it is anything, is transformative. It holds out in optimism that by courageously facing the child we were, we can create a more rewarding future for the adult we want to become.
You can read his full post in its entirety at Men’s Well-Being.
In other “IMFO in the UK” news, another counselor based in the United Kingdom, John Kennett of Kent Counselling for Men, recently added Iron Man Family Outing to his Amazon UK Listmania list “Men, masculinity and maturity”, describing the book as a “raw and powerful means of accessing the inaccessible.”
In response to this recent UK news, a friend remarked to me via email, “I do think it is great that Iron Man is offered for sale in English pounds.” I have to agree.
I’m pleased to announce the completion of the manuscript for my second book. Scapegoat’s Cross: Poems about Finding and Reclaiming the Lost Man Within is both a companion and a follow-up to my first book, Iron Man Family Outing. I’m very proud of this new work and eager to get it out into the world where it may be of use to others.
I’ve posted some preview material on my web site at rickbelden.com/new_book, including an excerpt from the introduction and some of the poems that appear in the book.
I’m also making preview copies of the complete manuscript available to those who’d like an early look. Please see rickbelden.com/new_book for information about getting a preview copy.
I’m very pleased that my book, Iron Man Family Outing, has been selected as the Book of the Month for August 2009 on psychotherapist Rebecca Lincoln’s blog, The Mindful Beat. Rebecca features a book each month with a particular theme and this month’s theme is “Conscious Masculinity.”
In her comments about my book, Rebecca said:
What a treat to read such an authentic and heartfelt book. Through the use of poetry Belden tells his story of growing up with an abusive father. Belden allows the reader an insight into his heart and takes us along in his struggles to claim a conscious manhood. If you are looking for pretty poetry, this isn’t the book. This is raw, truthful, and captures both the darkness and the lightness of meeting one’s past. While Iron Man Family Outing may seem to be for men, it helped me as a woman have a better understanding of what men may be going through within themselves.
You can read her full post in its entirety at The Mindful Beat.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out recently that my book, Iron Man Family Outing, had been recommended in a post entitled “Books Written For and About Men” by therapist Kellen Von Houser on her blog, Kellevision. In her comments, she said:
Rick Belden is a fellow Austinite who has written a book, Iron Man Family Outing, of healing poetry about his own personal journey of growing up male in American society. His poetry is moving and poignant. His descriptions of his family, himself and his relationships strike a chord with everyone with whom I’ve shared them. I highly recommend this book.
Kellen’s recent post “Making Yourself a Target: Replicating the Scapegoat Role in Your Life – How to Stop Doing It” is yet another insightful entry in her excellent ongoing series on the the role of the scapegoat in dysfunctional family systems. This is a subject that deserves far more attention than it gets, in my opinion. I’m grateful to Kellen for shedding some light on the experience and the dynamics of the scapegoat role, and for providing practical, helpful information for those who need it.
My book, Iron Man Family Outing, continues to receive positive reviews from readers and is now ranked number 10 in the top poetry books by United States authors on Amazon.com based on customer reviews.
Here are a few highlights from recently posted reader reviews for Iron Man Family Outing at Amazon.com:
Jason Fierstein of Phoenix Men’s Counseling praised the book’s “use of metaphor” and said the “poems are very transformational, and really give a voice to the modern male experience – one which is frequently (and unfortunately) not discussed.”
Jack Kammer of The Center for Men and Boys in Social Policy commented on the isolation many men feel with their so-called “personal problems” and said the book “makes it unmistakably clear that any man who sometimes feels alienated from his best hopes and from his own, best, most cherished view of himself is most decidedly not alone.”
Life/Executive Coach Sean Casey LeClaire said that “Belden explores the shadow side of the male journey” and added that the book “comes at a wonderful time, as millions of men find themselves without work … the opportunity to face themselves with courage and decency, which Rick’s poems do, is most timely.”
The complete archive of reviews for the book is available at http://rickbelden.com/reviews.
My previous post “body memory”, an excerpt from my book Iron Man Family Outing, is one of many posts featured in the May 2009 edition of the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse, which is hosted this month by Marj aka Thriver at the Survivors Can Thrive! blog.
my elbow remembers riding my rocking horse off the front porch my skin remembers slap of the flyswatter metal wire handle my tongue remembers bar of soap shoved in my mouth my hand remembers spilled milk on the first day of first grade my stomach remembers crying in front of everyone 'cause I lost the fight my knee remembers wait for me daddy before I fell + broke my leg my feet remember please teach ricky how to skip pinned to my kindergarten shirt my chin remembers falling out of bed into a daddy's mad again hot sunday night my nose remembers can't breathe comic books in ragweed darkness my fingers remember building model rockets in a cool summer basement my neck remembers father's hands closing tight around my throat my ears remember mother screaming stop it dick stop it. time passes but nothing is lost I can't fool myself my body remembers everything.