We Must: A Hurricane Poem

21106756_10155282314234342_7874135219911076783_n“Be Someone” sign in Downtown Houston

 

We Must

 

The sun

Is out

But the storm

Is not over

We must keep watch

With those

Who work

Or weep

This night

We must keep hold

Of those things

Most important

And learn to grieve

What is not

What is lost

To take joy

In what is left

We must have hope

And believe

Not just in God

But in each other

Compassion

Is salvation

And love

Will dry the tears

The earth has cried

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2017

 

For all those affected by Hurricane Harvey

 

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Psalm 29:10-11

My Father’s Eye’s: A New Poem

Hello, all. I wrote this poem recently. It may be difficult to read, but that’s kind of the point. It’s meant to reflect the dissonance between the what I was taught about myself by my biological father and what I know to be true about myself through God. As always, thank you for reading!

CW: sexual assault

 

7/29/17

 

My Father’s Eyes

 

In my father’s eyes

I was a burden

Something taking money from his pocket

Food from his mouth

 

In my father’s eyes

I was a toy

If he couldn’t lose me, he’d use me

To fondle and fuck

And torture to his heart’s delight

 

In my father’s eyes

I was a whore

A little red light district to visit

I did owe him, after all

For allowing me to exist

 

In my father’s eyes

I was less than human

And I knew that

When I asked him to kill me

He refused even that kindness

 

Turn the page

Next chapter

 

Now I know he was full of lies

The truth is with my real Father

My Father in Heaven

 

In my Father’s eyes

I am beloved

I am a flawless, raw diamond

Formed out of years of darkness and oppression

 

In my Father’s eyes

I am more than a conqueror

I am His workmanship

I am holy and blameless

 

In my Father’s eyes

I am a new creation

I have a heavenly calling

I am the salt of the earth

And the light of the world

 

In my Father’s eyes

I am a daughter

I am healed

I am free

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2017

 

 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

 

PTSD Awareness Month: Final Poems

Thank you all for following me through PTSD Awareness Month as I try to create more understanding around the issue of trauma and it’s aftermath. These last two poems have a bit more of an empowered tone, and the last one was written quite recently. I hope you’ve enjoyed or at least gained some new insight from reading this month’s posts. I appreciate each one of you who takes the time to visit.

11/4/11

 

Echoes

 

The echoes of trauma are hollow and deep

The penetrate even the most peaceful sleep

 

I wish for the day I will hear them no more

When they won’t come knocking on my bedroom door

 

I thought I was over this, thought I was done

Thought I’d beaten the trauma, thought I had won

 

But it’s back to haunt me, filling my dreams

With more rape and more terror, more silent screams

 

Why is this happening, where’d I go wrong?

I thought I was doing the right things all along

 

And yet it is back, toying with my fear

The echoes of trauma so loud in my ear

 

And all that I know to do in response

Is do my best not to give in to its taunts

 

To go back to therapy, listen to what’s true

And remember that I am stronger than YOU

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2011

 

 

5/28/17

 

The Other Side

 

There’s a kind of victim cycle

The experts never talk about

 

Not victims who become victims

Or victims who victimize

 

It’s the victims who grow to help other victims

A cycle of healing, not hurting

 

What the experts don’t tell you is that once you’re a victim

You are inextricably tied to every other victim

 

In that intangible yet undeniable way

That only shared experience can create

 

It’s like this horrible club that you never wanted to belong to

But once you’re in it, you’re so glad you’re not alone

 

In this club we share the most holy words of comfort

One victim can offer another: Me too

We share words of encouragement and empowerment

 

Some victims dedicate their whole lives

To the plight of other victims

 

So as the cycle of suffering continues

Let us remember that right alongside that is a cycle of healing

 

As people choose to use their pain to help others in pain

Or to prevent that pain from ever happening

 

As we stand together in our shared experience

We are stronger than the violence

 

Our voice will overcome the silence

And someday there will be more healing than pain

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2017

 

 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and                                      not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

PTSD Awareness Month: Poems

shutterstock_171315269

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!

 

7/21/02

 

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

 

8/13/03

 

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

 

2/7/04

 

Stalker

 

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

Poems for PTSD Awareness Month

June is PTSD Awareness Month, so all throughout June I will be posting poetry I’ve written related to that topic, several in a post. I hope you find them eye-opening, informative, inspiring, and hopeful. Thank you for reading.

Content Warning: Sexual Assault/Rape, Violent Language

3/10/14

 

Try to Remember

 

She asks me to remember

And I try, reluctantly

She asks questions for which I have no answers

No answers

Not even God has satisfied the curiosity here

 

Think back

 

When the young were meant to be innocent

And the cared-for not meant to be doing the caring

What did you daydream about?

Were you allowed to dream at all?

 

When you danced and twirled like the girl in your music box

When you lived two lives side by side

How did you manage your plentiful secrets?

How did you weave your lies?

 

When you lost your body so you could lose yourself

When you turned the pain inside out

What did you grab at the end of your rope?

Who introduced the concept of hope?

 

Think back for me, she said

These things

Are still important

 

© 2014 Sarah Ann Henderson

 

2/16/14

 

And Then

 

And then

 

I am hurtled slo-mo down the rabbit hole

My brain decides down is up, safe is dangerous

I am snowblind to comfort

 

Trauma is a form of time travel

An emotional Tardis

Triggers spin me back without warning

 

And then

 

I awake to find that I’m drowning

Disappointed in my brain for falling into this trap again

Though I understand the cause

 

It takes weeks to sort out

To stem the tide of trauma

To see the signs and symptoms

To get myself in line

 

And then

 

I may have a space of “normal”

Where no triggers happen to lurk

I get used to feeling ok

 

And then

 

© 2014 Sarah Ann Henderson

 

9/1/16

 

Beyond This

 

With your hand over my face

You told me to keep my whore mouth shut

 

With a gun to my head

You told me no one would listen

 

With a knife to my throat

You reminded me that it wouldn’t matter if I talked

 

Because I was nothing

Because I was no one

And my words were worthless

 

You didn’t need weapons to terrify me into deathly silence

Just the look in your eyes was enough to do that

A black beyond black

 

Yet they gleamed when I cried

When I bled

When I begged

 

Evil enjoys cruelty for cruelty’s sake

 

Pretty soon I went quiet

Not wanting to give you the satisfaction

At that you became more violent

And I, more silent

 

Until you were essentially raping a corpse

My soul having long fled the scene

 

By the time you had sunk to torture,

I was existing in a tomb of silence

 

I kept your secret so well and so long

That I eventually kept it from myself

 

Wrapped in so many layers of terror and shame

Of guilt and disgust

Degradation and pain

This secret stayed secret

 

It took unlearning every word you ever said to me

Every lie your evil tongue spat

To unwrap those layers and speak the truth:

I never deserved any of that

 

I was an innocent child

Completely blameless

Every bit of that shame belongs to you

 

I won’t carry that now

I won’t die or stay silent

Your secret is no longer my burden

 

You called me slut, whore, worthless, unloveable

But all that is meaningless now

Because God calls me His:

Daughter, beloved

What you should have called me but chose not to

 

I’m beyond that now

Whatever evil facilitated your sadism belongs to you alone

I will not hate myself for being your child

 

And I will forgive you

Not because you deserve it

But because I do

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2016

 

 

 

How I See You: A Poem About a Shift In Perspective

Joan of Arc for you. Elizabeth I for me. 😉

 

I wrote this poem today, after talking to someone who knows me probably better than anyone else on the planet. I was telling her how I felt so down right now, how after all that’s happened in the past year my spirit felt crushed with grief. And well, she had some words for me about that. 

Thank you for loving, supporting, and guiding me, and sometimes giving me a total shift in perspective! You are a light in my life and I’m so grateful for you. So grateful. Love you.

5/17/17

 

How I See You

 

I sit here, nursing my spirit

As I feel it, bruised by so many blows

I sense that it’s crushed, but a wise woman tells me:

You’re not crushed,

You’re a fucking hero

I see you burning so brightly

I see you strong and fighting

Yes, you’ve been beaten, but no, dear, not crushed

Your spirit is nothing if not shining

You’ve run a gauntlet of pain

You’ve been honest and vulnerable

You’ve faced grief and trauma

And forgiven the unforgiveable

Only heroes do that

Only heroes come back

Only heroes keep fighting

Only heroes know how

To use the gifts of darkness to move forward

To find those gifts in the first place

I see you stronger than ever

On the cusp of something great

Remember that you’ve done more than you ever thought possible

And you’ve got a whole new life to create

 

For Krista

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2017

 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.

Psalm 34: 18-19

Let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread…for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.

Deuteronomy 20: 3-4

Holy Spirit, Come: A Poem and Prayer

I wrote this poem/prayer as a way to call on the might power of the Holy Spirit. As a way to bring that power into my life to help me heal and let go and move on. Feel free to use this yourself if you think it would be helpful to you.

5/12/17

Holy Spirit, Come

 

Holy Spirit, come to me

Light on me like a dove, stay on my shoulder and guide me

Holy Spirit, come to me

Like the flames of holy passion

Burn down every remnant of trauma, of shame, guilt, pain, grief, rage, hatred, sin, and death

Burn away anything that keeps me from fully surrendering to God

Holy Spirit, come to me

Like the waters of baptism

Wash me clean in your deluge

Flood me with your wisdom and peace, your energy and courage

Come, Holy Spirit

In your light, let me be light

Fill me with your light of healing and hope

Until I’m nothing but love

And have nothing but the wish to serve

 

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 14:26

 

 

A Poem on Depression

For Mental Health Awareness Month 2017

4/21/17

 

Insidious

 

Depression is a snake

Lying in the grass

Just waiting for you to walk by

To strike

 

All it takes is one mistake

A missed class

A failed test

A lost item

To give the shame an excuse

 

To attack with a vengeance

To make you wish to disappear

To drag your good brain through the mud

 

Sometimes you can ignore it

Enough to function again

 

But sometimes it takes hold

Dragging you by the ankles

Back into that silent hell

Where there is no light or meaning

 

You scream

Only to realize there’s no sound

You fight

Just to find that you’re paralyzed

 

And all you can do is wait

Frozen

Until God thaws the grief

That holds you captive

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2017

A Poem on Grief

3/21/16

 

The Shapeshifter

 

Grief is eternal

Like energy, it cannot be destroyed

Only transformed

Grief is a shapeshifter

From disbelief

To terror

To rage

To agony

To relief

To begging

To resignation

To normality

Sometimes

All at once

Grief can strike like lightning

A single, sudden event

That spreads its fiery forks across your life

In an instant

Or

Grief can grow like kudzu

So slowly you don’t even notice the green tendrils snaking

Attaching themselves to your walls

Until your life is choked off

By the leaves

Grief begins as a parasite

That sucks the life out of us

To survive, we must become symbiotic, synergistic

We must learn to live with grief

Not in spite of it

We must face it

Feel it

Touch it

Embrace it

And know

That we can shift through our

Grief

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2016

This Poem Gets Real, Quick

This poem has in it real things people have said to me when they find out my story, especially some of the more violent aspects. I’ve gotten some weird responses over the years. The things that are said to me are real. My responses, except for the very last one, are things I wish I had said.

11/16

Strange Things People Have Said To Me When They Find Out I have Been Raped

 

You ask me,

How are you even standing up right?

 

I say,

I was raped, not murdered

I’m still alive

 

You ask me,

How are you even forming coherent sentences?

 

I say,

He put a knife to my throat

But he didn’t cut

I still have a voice

 

You seem amazed that I’m not more broken

Would you feel better if I were still bleeding?

Still screaming?

Still sobbing?

Would that help you make sense of the evil people commit against each other?

 

You say,

Your story is one of redemption

 

I say,

You must be talking about the perpetrators

Because only sinners need redemption

And in this case

I didn’t do anything wrong

 

You say,

I didn’t know the depths of grace until I knew your story

 

I say,

I didn’t either

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2016