The time between the ages of 18 to 24 were my crisis years. I was suffering from severe depression and post traumatic stress disorder, but my family was telling me there was no reason for my suffering and it was my own fault. I was in conflict. I wanted to trust myself but had been taught not to. I had also been taught to pray. So I davened. I davened for truth. I begged God not to let me remember something that wasn't true. I never wanted to think these terrible things about my father who I love and who I needed. I was teaching in T.I. around the time that I wrote the following poems. I was a lead teacher in the afternoon pre-1-A. I told my director at the time, Sara Itzkowitz, that I was leaving because I needed to be hospitalized. She was shocked. She asked me to reconsider. She told me I seemed so together and so balanced. I am a product of a family that specializes at seeming together and balanced. I could have kept this a secret and lived a seemingly normal balanced life. But I took a different path. A more difficult path. A path of taking responsibility for my feelings and memories. A path I wish my father would have taken.
Exposing the Secret
Our house is so clean
its rooms echo purity
open doors and
I wonder how my hands became stained
amidst such perfect cleanliness
the attic and basement leave no clue
the closets speak generations of praise
in confused disbelief
I begin the insane task of
digging under the basement floor
muscles bruised and aching
years of frustration
buried under layers
of pure innocent earth
I come upon a well of filth
that perfectly matches the stains
on my soul
Nothing to Hold On To
I thought I knew some things about myself
then the quake began
a faint tremor that rose to
this mind-cracking crescendo
shaking me to the core
reality split me down the middle
tearing the facts from my white-knuckled grasp
hurling me into a black abyss of
nothing to hold on to
here I crouch in my corner of cold illusion
fatigued fingers stirring painful circles
in a sizzling boiling cauldron
I'm four years old. I'm lying in bed in a room that I share with my sisters in our little white house on Paul street. I am experiencing familiar feelings of terror and shame. I am trapped.
My father comes into my room and lies on my bed. I stare at the red and white checkered curtains. A familiar numbness creeps into my mind. The numbness will dull the terror. It will dull the pain and shame just enough so that I can get through this one more time.
I am not real. I can't be.
He rolls partially on top of me. I can't breathe. I can't move. Something is poking at me. I can't see what it is. It's cutting me. He's too heavy. I am going to die. I want to die. I have to die. Tatty, no! Don't hurt me!
Something is in my mouth cutting off my breath. Tatty, No! I'm going to die.