Today's challenge from One Stop Poetry is to dust off an old poem that celebrates and begins to speak to our origins as poets. Here's my offering with a commentary that follows.
I stomp on pain-staking ground
shifting beneath my feet
crumbling under my sole and you
stumble over my disturbances
heel ball toe
I dance alone in darkness
to the beat of remembered tongues
speaking lips words unspoken downcast eyes
for fear of seeing and unseeing
a child hurt and told
not to move because
He says so.
She sat and sits there still
a dark live thing bone in hand
pressed by a will too big to escape
the press the prod her body's surrender
to a hand feeling and unfeeling
the sun's beat against her back
her squint for turned heads
in fear of remembering hands and un-remembering
hands before they touch
she must exist to hurt.
Night like mercy came and comes
a veil to cover myself to express
my mad dance my breaking
of old ground beneath bare feet
I speak by heart
an unpracticed passage written
by remembered hands on my body
and forced performance
to choke on furious fingers
remembered and stuck
in my mouth down my throat
told to suck and take
in dirt between flesh and thumbnail
like exacting measures of poison
for the healing I half-believed.
I hesitate in darkness, listening
for the unremembered sound of my flowing blood
and alert to false echoes like a howling dog
bemoaning a pitch imperceptible to the human ear
yet howling still
I do not want to be
alone and still
I hurt you .
because I am frightened by your unspeakable shadowy form
because I am an unremembered ghost
because I am sorry for my pain
because I am mad with desire to touch the space of myself in you
because I need myself these days.
because I desire broad daylight to dance
with you on ground made new
by the together of our feet,
these days, still
I am asking for second chances
to be to love
myself and more
to offer you
Ami R. MattisonJuly, 1991
On “Solipsistic Regrets”
This poem is my earliest surviving poem, previous ones having been tossed, burned or perhaps tucked away in the forgotten remains of my past.
With the exception of re-formatting the font, I’ve left this poem exactly as I’ve found it. The elder poet in me begs to “fix” it. At this early stage in my career, I had no clue about line breaks or punctuation, much less an understanding about how to use words to their best effect. So, it remains as is, a reminder that I began somewhere else and fortunately have greatly improved.
I was 25 years old when I wrote this poem to my first girlfriend. It was towards the end of our 5 year relationship, and we were breaking up. I wrote this as a way to explain how the events of our break-up were triggering old scripts of violation and abandonment in my life.
When I titled this poem, I’m pretty certain that I had just learned about ‘solipsism’ or the theory that the self is the only reality. And I remember I felt that the word suited my sense of how I’d become caught in a morass of my past and how my memories of it had suddenly become my present reality.
This poem was the first time that I ever wrote about my history of childhood sexual abuse.
But what I remember most vividly about this poem is how I felt keenly that there was no other way to speak of my experiences except through poetry. A letter, a conversation, or a story wouldn’t do. Only poetry could possibly begin to tell of these experiences from my past; only poetry could speak how I felt in that moment when I wrote this poem.
It was a powerful lesson: poetry is necessary; it speaks for us when nothing else can.
© Ami Mattison