Welcome to the last week of WfR’s “Outcry” poetry series honoring Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month. This week I’d like to change things up a bit and end on a really positive, empowering note.
For the final two poems, I’ve selected pieces that were written just this past year. This one in particular, My Father, My Perpetrator, is about a process that was extremely painful and yet in the end, possibly the most freeing thing I’ve ever done for myself.
A little background here: My father was my perpetrator throughout my childhood; my mother did not know this. He left when I was sixteen and my parents divorced a few years later. He left my mom virtually broke after the divorce- she chose to go back to school and complete her nursing degree while working other jobs- so I was in a position where if he didn’t pay for my medical and psychiatric care I was screwed. At the time I was on the verge of death from anorexia and desperately needed hospitalization, etc, so was forced to take his money. The therapy and inpatient care saved my life, but he made stipulations that I had to have contact with him and he was allowed to have contact with my treatment providers otherwise he would not pay. This went on for almost ten years, until finally I got to a position where I was well and recovered and financially secure enough to be able to refuse. He had me very confused by saying that he was concerned for my health and he cared enough to pay for my treatment, all the while denying any abuse or neglect or mistreatment of my mother and sister. One final phone call last summer, and that was the end. He is dead now, in all but a physical sense. And I have never felt more free. So here’s to you, dad, and all your lies and manipulations and crap that you pulled over the years. And by the way? I’m keeping your last name, so when I publish my writing everyone knows who I’m talking about when I refer to my abusive father.
My Father, My Perpetrator: An Epitaph
Bits of reality, torn from time
Which version is yours, which version is mine?
I know what’s real, but then, so do you
Who gets to decide whose truth is true?
Is it in the middle, a mix of the two?
I don’t want to compromise my truth for you
I thought I had settled this, thought I was done
Thought we’d get to this point and be mutually shunned
But you planted this seed of tortuous doubt
And I couldn’t let go if I didn’t find out:
Who the hell are you? Who were you then?
Do you really love me? If so, since when?
How can you deny the things that you did?
The abuse that I suffered and dutifully hid
You speak to me now as if you weren’t that man
Like you don’t hold the phone with the very same hand
That put a gun to my six-year-old head
That slipped under the covers of my childhood bed
You seem to think that because we’re polite
That you have a point or you could be right
But when you mentioned Mom everything became clear:
I will never find love or nurturance here
I have only one parent, an incredible mother
Never again will I wish for another
She’s all that you aren’t, all I could need
I’m no longer willing to bow to your greed
To pretend like you care, to fake-like your wife
To pretend like you know anything of my life
God Himself could tell Mom to leave me and she wouldn’t
Tell her to stop caring for me and she couldn’t
This is the woman that I’m a part of
You can’t imagine the force of her love
You never got it and you never will
The love between father and daughter you killed
You may not be dead but all hope and doubt are
I’m not letting you cause me anymore scars
This is it, you’re no more, at last there’s an end
There are some things for which there’s no making amends
© Sarah Ann Henderson 2010