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Here/Not here

          The dialectic of trauma gives rise to complicated, sometimes uncanny
          alterations of consciousness … which mental health professionals,
          searching for calm, precise language, call ‘dissociation’.
          ― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery
 
 
 
i. Not here
 
the most direct route
to not here
 
is not breathing
the familiar sensation
 
over the head, familiar
constriction of the breath
 
that no conscious tactic
can overmaster
 
the body is not convinced
that now is safe
 
the body knows
how it survived
 
 
ii. Am/not
 
I climb into the walls
I live there
 
I ease into
the wood of the desk
 
my grit-grained heart is stilled
I am
 
disengaged
if you rip me out into open air
 
into a living, breathing
writhing world
 
you must reconstitute
me
 
atom by atom
 
 
iii. Strange
 
the times when all familiarity
is stripped away
 
the street, the house,
the room — 
 
known to be known,
perceived as strange
 
whose hands are those
whose face
 
in the mirror, that terrified
fractured gaze
 
 
iv. Nowhere
 
that anguished month when I
was nowhere to be found
 
living with an anguished
stranger/lover
 
until the day I wondered
if I had the wrong idea of love —
 
if it was possible to love someone
and hate them —
 
it was like unexpectedly seeing a friend
come around a corner
 
‘Me!’ I said
as the me that I recognised
 
re-entered my body
through my eyes

 
v. Oblivion
 
the night I drove
as if in a temporal bubble
 
no idea where I’d come from
or where I was headed
 
I was there in the car in a point of time
that travelled through space unattached 
 
to before or after, oblivion behind me
and before me, a testament to,
 
celebration of, the times
when oblivion was what saved me
 
 
vi. Here
 
the quickest path
to here
 
is feeling
so if you learned
 
to bury your feelings
get used to digging
 
get used to
the heft of a shovel
 
the delicate use of
an archaeologist’s brush
 
some of what you unearth
will be so old
 
it won’t look human
but these remains
 
are yours
get used to rage
 
that pounds through you
for hours at a time
 
get used to days
of nameless grief
 
get used to the body’s
joy, sign up
 
to come back to
the world you belong to
 

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Poem Audio

  • Tricia Dearborn reads 'Here/Not here'