Beautiful backbone

by Talicha J.

I want to pick up the phone,
dial your memorized number,
wait for the line to click,
your voice clear on the other end,
and say:
I’m worried about you.
I hear you aren’t doing too well these days
and I want you to know I still care.


I’ve been told your back finally gave in,
the weight of your insecurities and fears
were just too much for it to avoid caving in on you.
Are you still in there?


Seemed like you were always breaking
while I was always lacking the necessary skills
to masterfully restore you.
Did they give you pills to dull the pain,
or was it just a slip of paper prescribing no more heavy lifting?
If so love, please put down your guard.


Your backbone used to be beautiful.
Do you remember how my finger tips fell for your vertebrae?
How my palms kissed their way between your shoulder blades?
My hands were always eager to make your back smile
because I knew how much you needed it.


Friends tell me you still don’t sleep at night,
Do you have nightmares,
are you afraid of something?


On your free-fall journey
I wish so much that I could extend my arms and catch you,
whisper wellness into the flesh of your weakened back,
kiss my way across the valley of your spine,
but I’m not allowed to catch you anymore.


You are strong, can withstand so much pain
proven by the fact that you once walked around a whole
week with a broken hand before finally giving in
returning home with a cast and a sheepish grin.


But is it really your back that’s keeping you from living?
You’ve shown the physical pain can be withstood
I worry now about your spirit.
Its seemed cracked for so long and I want to remind you
of how amazing you really are.


But I can’t pick up the phone,
dial your memorized number, wait for the line to click.
It’s been too long since I’ve heard your voice,
and I couldn’t bear to hear you sound broken
without breaking with you.
Did you know you live with a monster?
You know, he made me into something similar,
by growing claws to fight off the nightmares his hot breath seared into the back of my neck.
My cheeks are a river bed of blood from nearly biting my tongue off to keep his secrets buried between my thighs,
My body doesn’t think it can keep telling his lies to empty bed sheets anymore.


I don’t trust men now.
That’s the real reason I don’t want to have children any longer,
he stole that dream from me the moment his fingertips brushed along my cheeks,
down past the gentle skin of my neck and along the curves of my breasts.
My body trembled in fear and repulsion but I was too afraid to say anything,
too afraid to let go of the breath trapped inside my chained lungs,
afraid if I’d let go I’d have started screaming and wouldn’t be able to stop until I was no longer breathing.


I am no advocate for war but Afghanistan kept me safe.
For months I was able to sleep without the fear of his shadow creeping at the edge of my bed.
No hiding behind bathroom doors as he counted out loud to ten.


To all the mothers of the soldiers who never made it home back then, I’m sorry.
I know it’s inadequate.
Your sons and daughters fought for my sanity and the innocence of countless others like me whose monsters went away to fight their own demons with government issued ammunition.
All we can do is wear your children’s purple hearts in the hollow spaces that have been carved out of us in hope of becoming whole again.


He carved me into something that doesn’t quite fit anymore.
I am an unhinged door creaking open vehemently and slamming with a bang in the winds of a storm he created.
His hormones were a hurricane I wasn’t prepared for.


I want to go on national television and beg from the place beneath my decaying rib cage for mothers to guard their daughters and sons bedrooms,
make sure the locks to the bathroom doors are in working order on the nights that you’ll be out late in case he decides to play hide and seek with their virginity.


His morals are a broken levy in the ninth ward of my body.
Katrina taught us flooded wind-swept souls that no one’s going to come save us before it’s too late
So we learn to tread in the muck the monsters leave us to drown in,
try to climb our way to the rooftops of our vacant souls to wave our bared bones as white flags towards the darkness of each night.


We swallow down the sobs we hope you’d comfort us from if you only knew the truth.
Press our tears into the pillow case and hope you can’t sense the way they make the whole room smell of sadness and salt,
the way the ocean smells after the storm has passed, but I’m only guessing.


We’re not afraid of half-opened closet doors or the dark spaces beneath our bed frames any longer,
we know the monsters don’t have to hide anymore, they just walk through the front door.


Did you know you live with a monster?
You call him husband.
Your daughters call him father.
And I was too afraid of taking those titles away from you
Do you understand now why I haven’t called?
More importantly, why haven’t you?

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