PTSD Awareness Month: Poems


Here are three more poems from my various collections on the nature of the violence I grew up with and PTSD. Than you for reading!




Family Values


Denial carves deep, the truth betrayed

As she watches her soul drip off the blade


Pain becomes comfort, trust becomes threat

She’s beginning to break, but they’re not finished yet


Love is divided: dominion/defeat

With no middle ground in which to retreat


Again and again they annihilate her soul

Splitting her brain, wanting total control


“Snap out of it now, it isn’t that bad

Nothing is wrong, stop looking so sad


Now, this might hurt, but it’s for your own good

Stop sulking as if you’re so misunderstood


It’s all out of love that I invade this space,

Erase your reality, leaving no trace


I’m saving you, trust me, you don’t want to know

Perhaps this won’t affect you if it doesn’t show”


Shadows and secrets, the family’s domain

A prison of dread in which she remained


Blinded, noiseless, bound by fear and shame

Awaiting rejection, assumption of blame


We blocked the scenes, smiled, waved to the crowd

Each taking up no more space than was allowed


The lesson was learned: you should be what you’re not

One child submitted, the other one fought


Needing was selfish, a luxury shunned

“You may BE a child but stop ACTING like one


For crying out loud, I’m doing my best

Your father’s a bastard, I can’t ever rest


Sweetheart, can you help me in all of my strife?

It’s not asking much– all I want is your life”


© Sarah Henderson 2002




Blind Fury


What was that omnipotent power he had

To control your emotions while driving you mad


Then somehow make you feel that you were at fault

For every abandonment, wound, and assault


So slight that you couldn’t articulate it

A snake in the grass that suddenly bit


With no way to explain just how low you feel

And no one to believe that his harm is real


You naively try to block out the world

As you switch back and forth from woman to girl


Pretending so hard that nothing is wrong

Telling yourself you have to be strong


While watching your mother continue to fade

Losing life and love slowly, shade by shade


Seeing the small deaths he inflicted on her

Wondering how much more she could endure


Again you are struck by the weight of his word

When you think about everything that has occurred


How he was able to slowly destroy

Every last bit of our innocent joy


Simply by looking at us with disdain

Casually triggering torrents of pain


While knowing that no one would stand up to tell

He imprisoned us all in invisible hell


© Sarah Henderson 2003






You don’t have to be there to see it

You don’t have to see to believe it


You can only tell what you feel

You can’t tell that it isn’t real


There are fears you cannot explain

And some unidentified pain


That keeps you locked in the past

Under shadows that memory has cast


While clawing to stay in today

You’re suddenly hurtled away


To times when you were not safe

From violence, dysfunction, and rape


When your life was always at stake

There was only so much you could take


And it stays with you year after year

‘Till you hit that final nadir


When so much as a hand on your arm

Can be felt as serious harm


And what’s seen when you lay down your head

Prevents you from sleeping in bed


The curtains are always pulled tight

For the fear that during the night


A shadowy figure will pass

And their eyes will peer in through the glass


You will always be watching your back

You will never feel safe or relaxed


Sudden noises will cause you to start

Put your hand over your pounding heart



And resign to lifelong nightmare

Of which you will always be aware


© Sarah Ann Henderson 2004


Do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

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