A while back I had a deep conversation with someone I trust deeply. She asked me why I haven’t shared my poetry lately. I told her that isn’t that I have stopped writing poetry: I have one that I’ve been working on for over a month, which is unheard of on my end. Instead, my blog has remained empty due to a sense of fear, frustration, and worry.
How do you share poetry that is deeply personal when you feel as if your abuser will turn it against you in court? How do you express the depth of sorrow that fills every inch of your being when such an acknowledgment might lead to people saying that such expressions are marks of weakness? How can you be expected to care for children if you write these things that make you appear weak before others?
The poem I am writing is about the pain in and wounds on my knuckles after long sessions with my punching bag. As I burn calories striking the punching bag, my hands often end up aching deeply. At times, the skin has broken. Once, it took weeks for the tear over my knuckle to heal. More than once I have sat in my car, in my chair, at my desk, and even stood in the pulpit while feeling my fingers and knuckles throb from exercising the night before.
If I share a poem about hitting a boxing bag, will that be seen as a sign that I am violent? If I share how it has been a long time since I have felt safe, will that be enough to overcome the presumption that I must be a violent person just because I am a cisgender white male?
Do people know how my weight has made me feel unable to flee for decades? Do people know that my professional role and personal beliefs have often conspired to make me feel as if I have had to take the abuse time and time again? Do people know about the memories from being struck, the pain from hearing the derisive laughter, or even the sorrow of having children taken away because on the outside I may look like a bad guy at first glance? Do people know how I felt as if I would lose my job if I ever said anything and how it felt when my abuser acted as if nobody would ever believe me?
So, can I share that poem? Can I share poetry about how the bag welcomes my feelings when the world might not? Can I share a verse or two about how the pain of bloody knuckles sometimes makes me feel real and grounded during a troubling time in my life? Can I share that my knuckles ache but I am okay with that pain? Can I share that it means more to me when I choose to turn the other cheek when I actually know that I have an option? Can I share that the bloody knuckles come with the knowledge that I need not be afraid?
I can, but even in a month where the veil is pulled back on this issue in my life, I probably will not share that poem. It isn’t ready and I don’t know that I’m ready to trust others with my wounded soul when they read those words. Instead I will simply ask others whether or not they understand that people are not always the way they look on the surface.
October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.