The Ghost of Denial

I took a poetry course last fall and one of our first prompts was to write a poem with a title structured: “The [Concrete Noun] of [Abstract Noun]”. I came up with “The Ghost of Denial”.

The Ghost of Denial

Everything’s fine.

No, well
yes,
but really – Everything’s fine.

Yeah, I cry
sometimes
at night
most nights
every night
when no one can hear me
but
it’s how I always got to sleep
so I’m used to it by now.
It’s like
my lullaby.
It’s okay.

And yeah, he’s drinking but
it’s just one
bottle
and he’s young, you know
he can handle it.
He’s got a good tolerance.
He’s okay.

And yeah, we fight
but everyone fights
right?
It’s healthy
to fight
and I just get him so
angry sometimes.
It happens, you know
And I am pretty stupid
like he says, you know,
He’s not wrong.
It’s okay.

No, he never hit me.
No,
of course not,
well, that one time
but I really got him angry that time.
I shouldn’t have broken that glass, you know,
it was expensive
and I just get him so
angry sometimes.
It’s okay.
It happens, you know.
It’s okay.

Yeah, I’m bleeding but
you know,
my body,
my soul
just does that sometimes.

And yeah, I’m here
but
not really.

EJZ 09.24.2015

Stand Up and Speak Out

Many of you know, a year ago today I escaped from an abusive relationship. This year has been a journey of rediscovering and learning to express my identity. This poem was written the day after the criminal charges I pressed were finalized in court and I was able to read a statement on how my victimization has impacted my life. It summarizes the most valuable lessons I have learned this year.

Stand Up and Speak Out
Elizabeth J. Zinn
October 29, 2015

Stand up and speak out
for the times you couldn’t stand it
and couldn’t speak it
It’s not your secret

Stand up and speak out
for all the times you were told
to sit down
and shut up
That your voice was not something that mattered,
Coerced and cajoled to never be heard,
only seen
unspoken, unstanding,
misunderstood,

silence

Stand up and speak out
for the fact that your truth
was a threat to their illusion,
delusion of dominance,
so they turned it on you
threatened to torture
to terrorize
if you told the secrets that shielded their shame
I’ll repeat it –

It’s not your secret.

Stand up and speak out
for all the dreams laid to rest
Traded for nightmares you forgot how to wake from-
WAKE UP
Stand up
and speak out

Stand up and speak out
Rip out the threads of the threats and untruth,
The damage they drove you to deem you deserve,
Til you could not tell the difference
between the reality choked in their hands
and the concoction they forged
to replace
what you understand
to be real

Stand up and speak out
Take back the your power from the ones who abuse it
Who sewed your mouth shut with lies and lived just to use it
against you,
convince you the truth from your lips
that they strangled from sounding
is a lie you’ve been telling –
Listen,
they can say it
But they can’t steal it –
They’ll never control truth
with hands afraid to hold truth

Stand up and speak out
For the feelings they’ve trampled, denied you to feel,
Wrung out to dry with calloused disease
voraciously craving control
and deception, your
perception
pulverized by persistent perpetration,
repeated by psychopaths purposefully mis-preaching:
your feelings are flawed
feelings, your fault
feelings, pure shame
feelings, pure guilt
feelings, be punished
feelings, be blamed

Feelings
are yours
And if they are trampled,
if they are ignored
They are your right
To stand up and speak out for

Stand up and speak out
For your rights
For your wrongs
You are responsible for your own life
It is nobody else’s
to belittle or blame
It is holy
and wholly
your own
to control
and your soul
will thank you

Stand up and speak out
and claim the word, No
and shout back, No more,
You may have pushed me down to the ground
But I,
I am choosing to
Stand up
and speak out
for I can longer stand it
and now I can speak it,
now I can scream
it
was NEVER
my secret.

EJZ 10.29.2015

If you are suffering, there is help. Your pain is not your secret to keep.
www.thehotline.org

Stop

I looked up “synonyms for power-hungry” and I got
“ambitious”.

In our power-over society with lust for control,
we are taught that, “Stop”
is a four-letter-word,
that “No”
is disrespect to our elders,
but “Fuck”
is just fine
for a girl, barely aged nine
to speak and receive from
men with desire for dominance.

This poem is for everyone who was never taught
to utter the word, “No,”
who were told to erase it, instead, from their lexicon
and replace it with, “Sorry”.

You have nothing to apologize for.

This is for the girl who said, “Stop, no,
it hurts,”
but couldn’t be heard through the palm, open
over her mouth
so she shut it.

This is for the boy on the street
that was beaten for walking to a foreign rhythm,
who could not say “stop” because he did not know
the language of white terrorists.

This is for the girl at the party who can’t remember if she said no or not
because that’s what the drugs were designed for.

This is for everyone who has witnessed a crime
but choked on their words when they went to yell, “Stop”
because the crimson glare from his knife was too much to bear
and the sweat on their palms crippling, cold
so they shoved them in their pockets and ran
away
with the guilt and the shame of their silence.

This is for the ones in the street
starving
for their next hit
crawling on damp pavement,
searching for a needle
because they couldn’t say no that one time
and now
they will struggle to ever say no
to the regret corroding their veins.

This is for the child
petitioned
on the internet
for pictures
of her blossoming body
who couldn’t say, “no”
because he was a grown-up
and her parents
were not there to teach her
or let her
say no.

This is for every time you blamed me
for your addiction
to psychosis
and I couldn’t scream, “No”
as your hand gripped my throat
because I was afraid
that any breath of air I exhaled in attempt to escape
would never come back to me.

I have nothing to apologize for.

This is to remind you that your words are worth more
than the pearls that he gave you in attempt to excuse
each time he would beat you
to convince you
it would never happen again
to keep you
around until he could choke you
with that necklace of manipulation
until you had no lips of your own anymore to speak or say, “No.”

This is to remind you that you are more valuable
than your legs or your breasts or the way that you move
your hips when he begs you and pokes you and
holds down your wrists
as you wish you remembered how to spell “Stop.”

I learned to say, “No”
I learned to spell “Stop”
with an escape route, my two legs, twelve steps and
a restraining order
to leave behind lies,
the bruises and scars,
the insistence
that “No” meant “yes”
because I was his woman,
his property,
like I owed him,
like he was doing me a favor
by intruding my body,
stripped
of a soul by his –
– did they call it ambition? –
Quest
for control –
He is lost.

And I ran

And now,
with a climax of character,
the prowess of principle
an orgasmic oration,
I’m coming
I’m coming
I’m coming
I’m here!

And no,
I won’t stop.

EJZ 04.28.2015