door slammed shut on
memories of fear
I ran far away but
escape came too late
for the child.
a liquid black cloud spreads its fingers across the family sky like ink from a squid filling an aquarium tank blotting out the sun turning everyone and everything the color of a funeral shadow blue. a virus infects the family tree twisting the future obscuring the past spreading from generation to generation feeding on the children turning the adults into monsters or rendering them mute. a parasite enters the family bloodstream burrowing into hearts and minds anchoring in tender bodies protecting and propagating itself with a trance forget forget forget. I will not forget and I will not pass these nightmares on to anyone else. I'll pull those black fingers down out of my sky I'll dig this virus out of my roots I'll burn this parasite out of my blood. I'll hunt down every last trace of this psychic infection this evil rot that was injected into me when I was a child and I'll haul it out into the daylight where it can't survive. I'll scream it out I'll vomit it out I'll drag it out of me any way I can tooth and claw root and branch blood and bone until I've purged it from my life and cleansed myself completely. I reject the conspiracy of amnesia and silence that allows this systemic scourge to thrive unchallenged in secret in dark and helpless places I reject the family commandments thou shalt not remember thou shalt not feel thou shalt not tell I will remember I will feel I will tell I'll take back my life from this shadow blue plague and if that makes me an outcast a traitor in the eyes of the family then so be it.
About the artwork:
The art that accompanies this poem is a mixed media painting called “Virus” by the very talented Canadian artist Staci Poirier. Staci created her painting as a both a response and a companion to my poem. You can read more about Staci here and see more of her artwork here.
Painting and poem were featured earlier this year on the Good Men Project website with a “zoom page” for the painting where you can view larger images of various sections to see some of the marvelous detail.
The artwork and poem also appeared together in the Fall 2012 issue of the Jungian journal Depth Insights, which featured Staci’s painting on the cover and includes some additional background from her about materials used to create the art as well as some of her thoughts on the themes that are being expressed.
Depth Insights is also available as a free PDF with painting and poem presented side by side on page 8.
It’s been a great pleasure to be a part of this poetry-and-art collaboration, and I’ve been very happy to see my poem and Staci’s art presented together in multiple places in such an elegant fashion.
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.