Tag Archives: abuse


My grandmother feared for her life. That’s why she stayed.

She helped raise her brothers and sisters in the orphanage and boarding schools of Kake and Sitka after her parents died of Tuberculosis. Her father was Mexican, came to Alaska to work in the canneries, her mother was Tlingit. She married a white man and had twelve children. Her husband, my grandfather, raped her and their daughters, beat the boys. He was an alcoholic and died of a heart attack when my father was sixteen.

My father watched everyone he loved get beaten or raped for his whole childhood.

I cannot wrap my brain around this. The words aren’t in English.

All twelve of those tiny heartbeats. All of the scared little anxious blood pumping little pulse prayers. Survival blood. I carry it inside of me, suspended in my cells. The tiniest particles you could imagine, all swirled together with my own experiences and everything I have ever touched. It seizes, awakened, and I am trying to cry it all out of me. Like I can somehow love all of the bad things out of their past. I want to go back and Peter Pan my cousin who wet the bed ’til she was a teenager because her father came to her in the night. I think of my friend, neglected as a child. I want so badly to hug all of the love she didn’t recieve back into her.

But I can’t. It doesn’t work that way. I can’t take my uncle’s invisible handprints off of my cousin. My friend can never recieve enough embraces to make up for the lack of love she endured. And I can’t cry my grandfather out of existence.

When I was being inappropriately touched by my stepbrother at the age six or seven, my father had the file labeled “abuse” tucked so so so far away that he didn’t believe it, or he needed to deny it. And he didn’t come back into my life until I was eighteen. Even though he continued to see my brother every summer.

I am left with questions.

Does my father know how to love?

Did his mother love him? Was he ever a baby boy scooped up into the nest of a cradling embrace?

How come I’ve never seen a picture of him as a teenager? A kid, a baby?

Why didn’t my father want to raise me? Did the years just kind of get away from him?

Didn’t he want a baby girl of his own, to put all of his love into?

Didn’t he want to reconcile all of that rage and create something beautiful out of love?

Does he think I am beautiful?

What’s it like to have a father-daughter dance?

What does it feel like to have your father hand you a bouquet at your graduation?

What’s it like to ask your dad for advice?

What is it like to cry in his arms?

What does it feel like to be protected?


Most days I feel ok not knowing the answers to these questions.

But some days, like today, I am curled up, a sobbing little girl. And there’s still this hole in my pumping heart.

And I know that we’ll always be filling these cracks.


diamond tooth

remember how we met?
do you remember that first night when you made me feel like I was the only person in the room.
like I was special.
I can’t quite remember the first time we had sex.
but I remember flowers at work.
I remember tiny gifts and new ideologies.
I remember hand-rolled cigarettes and moon-lit serenades.
books, records, asparagus, bikes
all that stuff that love is made of.
I remember you looking deep into my eyes and kissing me slow.
I forgot that you had a girlfriend.
I forgot that you kept me a secret.
I forgot that you would call me to give you head on your lunch break.
I forgot that you had sex with other young girls at the same time.
I forgot that you were thirteen years older then me.
I forgot that you called me your niece as a joke.
I forgot that we didn’t use protection.
I forgot that you pressured me to get high.
I forgot that you paid me to do your housework.
I forgot that you stalked women.
I forgot that you got some other girl pregnant.
I forgot that you encouraged me to fuck your friends.
I forgot that you stalked me when I was with other people.
I forgot that you fed girls drugs, convinced them to have sex with us.
I forgot that you fucked me too hard.
I forgot that one time you choked me.

pipe tobacco

folk songs and travel stories were told over drinks and pipe tobacco.
I think I was seventeen.
your life had seemed so romantic.
simple and sweet.
hitch-hiking through a blizzard to play a small cafe.
spirited eyes.
I had a couch and yeah, I offered it to you.
I liked the idea of befriending a travelling folksinger.
you were forty-seven.

I didn’t cause a scene when you started to touch me
because my mom was asleep in the next room
I suppose it means you want it if you just lie there, eyes glazed
and your mind is anywhere but that moment
looking up at the patterns of the textured ceiling.
I suppose it means yes when you don’t say no loud enough.

the next day I gave up a year of charted menstruation
I swallowed a pill because I didn’t want to be pregnant.
I was scared.
my thoughts were distorted and I became depressed.
I slept for two days.
and I’ve never been able to understand what is so painful about this experience
because society tells me that it wasn’t rape if I didn’t fight.
but I am just dying for someone to tell me
why I had an anxiety attack when I saw you that summer years later.
and why it made me nauseous when you put your arm around me,
and said you were excited to see me.

I realized that you look fondly on a memory that haunts and revolts me.
the smell of pipe tobacco elicits a feeling more violent that vomit.
I smell it and I look over my shoulder, frightened.
and with a proud smile you told me that you wrote a song about me on your new album.
like I was going to be excited.
all I can think is
how many songs on albums are girls who didn’t say no loud enough.

dog fight

I was recently asked to tell about my most memorable scar.
It was supposed to be light-hearted ice-breaker
you know, tell a funny or daring story to reveal something interesting about yourself.

I thought of telling them about that time you were too rough.
That time when you were on top of me calling me a slut,
pulling my hair and not listening or letting up
when I told you my leg was caught in the couch.
See, it had slid into that space
between the back of the couch and the seat,
and there was this rough wood there
and every time that you thrust into me
my leg rubbed against that jagged piece of wood.
And I don’t think I cried at the time
but I was bleeding when you came on my body.
And I paid for your cab home because it was snowing when you left.
And I think about that scar on my leg when I see you
and you ask me how I am.

I thought of telling them about that scar.
but I decided to tell them about this time I got bit breaking up a dog fight.
Because I didn’t want them to know I was weak.