poems about recovery


The first time
you took off your clothes
in front of me, you slid
the white fabric of your blouse
off your arms and revealed
the pale ladders
of scars.

You never referenced them
directly. You said you were
lost, once. You said you
did things, once, and you
did them because they
helped you survive yourself.

I didn’t say anything,
but you took my hand
and pressed it to the
ridged rows of your flesh
and for every line you left
upon yourself and healed,
I found another reason
to call you beautiful.

losses don’t mean i’ve lost, 
for every friend that’s gone,
there’s someone else i love,
some other thing’s begun. 
i’m too lucky to count stars,
i’m not only a broken heart, 
i’m more than a loose part,
been waiting for a new start,
here’s a chance to get what i lack -
and i’m not looking back.
—  a change is gonna come || r.m. || 12.25.17

the aftermath of losing you again


I miss the way summer would pull me into your universe by the hand, making me foolishly wistful for more.


I recall the details I shouldn’t, because the details are all that’s left in this chest of heavy regret.


Let me breathe anything but loss. My lungs feel cold inside of me. The shivers never stop.


These hands that wanted to hold yours ended up pushing you away, and now they feel emptier than ever before.


If I had known there was an expiration date on gentle secrets and hopeless dreaming I would have kept each one rather than reducing them to simple words.


Don’t remember. Don’t remember why you loved. Don’t remember all the chances that slipped by like the months full of halfhearted silence.


I ache for you midday when there’s nothing else to ache for.


How does my name even sound alright without yours to follow? How does a pair become a past tense?


I don’t miss you. I miss you. I don’t want you. I want you. I don’t need you. I need you. I don’t love you. I love you.


I wanted to call you when the walls came tumbling in, but there was too much chaos to add to even without your voice shaking my world even more.


Does your newfound love make you see sparks rather than an inferno? Everyone knows it’s fun to play with fire before the blaze.


You found you can belong without the comfort of our voices. But I am still at the line that spells risk, living in the echoes of conversation that never mattered.


I am insanity. I am wreckless beginnings and terrifying ends. Untangle yourself from the knots I wove to protect you. Escape feels like abandon.


I think of you again. And again. And again. Stop. Leave. No, don’t leave. I’m sorry. Again. Beg. No, don’t beg. Again.


The empty seat beside you doesn’t belong to me anymore. There’s no reassurance in coming back for more when all there is to go back to is a relapse of lost promise and someone who was set on letting go.

put down that gravestone

you’ve been carrying. bury

the people who leave–

they are dead to you now.

ghosts are everywhere.

stop holding your heart out

to strangers like samplers,

hoping they’ll love the sun

under all that lonely. people

who love lonely people

are always trying to forget.

you know this, because you

are one of them. & that’s

okay. just breathe in deep.

like a firefighter pulling bodies

from the wreckage, only

you are the wreckage,

you are the fire &

you are also the firefighter

which is all to say that

you are trying to save yourself

from yourself. depression is just

an overstaying visitor

who forgets who actually owns

this body. it is whole without

anyone else in it. there is

no monster here,

only the shape of a falling star

where your heart should be.

northbound & reaching, a

hero telling her story. it starts

like this: once upon a time,

you rode the dragon

& saved your own life.

Natalie Wee, from “How to Save Your Own Life”, Our Bodies And Other Fine Machines

Why is the sky full at 10 past noon? She seems to be laughing, but there are words bubbling up. She’s trying to tell me something, she’s trying to toss her message down my throat.
I’ll clamp my mouth shut as my ears flood with jumbled words. Once upon a day, I listened to the sky as she sang me a love song. Then the storms came, and I turned cautious at her voice.
I know I’ve been negligent. Careless with my body and the muscles wrapped around my bones.
Foolish, she calls me.
Cruel and afraid.
Perhaps she is not wrong.
 Perhaps I should have listened to her storms.
Perhaps, she’ll sing me a love song again.
Or perhaps the love song must come from me this time around. A song through the hurricane as her wind batters my windows and pulls the tree roots up from the dirt.
Not yet. My mouth remains shut, and I cover my ears. I know I am wrong, but my body is not ready for the storm.
Not yet.
—  Miriam Kamens, remember when the sky sang me love songs
conversations with my father

“Daddy, how did they hang the stars in the sky?”

God put them there to light your way to his kingdom. 

“Daddy, why did you make my sister cry?”

She’s a sinner and it stains her soul. Touch her and you’ll be corrupt, too. 

“Dad, why can’t I read those books I borrowed from school?” 

They are of the world, filthy. How dare you for even having the desire. Go study your Bible if you absolutely must read. 

“Dad, can I give our lunch to the homeless man down the street?” 

No. God gives to us because we serve Him. His poorness is his own fault. If I catch you talking to him again, you’ll be rebuked at my hand.

“Father, this is the boy that I want to love.”

Foolish child. Love only comes from God. Either change him or tell him goodbye at once 

“Father, she’s just a friend, please-” 

You are tainted with the sin of the world. You are a lamb and I am the slaughter. God sent Jesus to die for your sins. I will spill your blood like he did on Calvary. 

“I am leaving. See you in hell.”

Prodigal daughter, you’ll come back home. They always do.

“Daughter, where are you? I am weary and scared. I have not heard from you or God in years. Why?”

God does not talk to you because he gave up on you a long time ago. My god is the love I have for myself. I am worshiped daily from the mouths of my friends. I have seen heaven in the city lights as I drive towards the future. God may forgive you but I don’t have to, and may this anger burn so bright that you understand what hell on earth is. 

I just want to be happy and I want to be with you and I want to go back to being myself, but I don’t know that I’ll be able to have all three of these things. I don’t know if this reality will be full of all these hopes and dreams or if it will all stay in my head with my doubts and regret.

-don’t know

It takes five seconds for you to realize you might not be okay. Where your eye starts to twitch and you forget you aren’t 13 stuffed into a room where the yelling down the hall is louder than your headphones. No matter how many times I tell myself to say something or give up, nothing ever comes out. But that’s only five seconds. And pretty soon you’re back at work, typing on your computer, and you pop your knuckles and pretend like your anxiety isn’t stuck in your throat like a pill you’re prescribed to swallow. Night time is the worst though. You pop your knuckles 17 times but the anxiety hangs around your bed like a one night stand with an ex. You’d forget your name if it wasn’t written on your pill bottle. Swallowing these has become my favorite ritual. As if a dose of serotonin can make you forget the time you scrubbed the dishes until the sponge started falling apart and cutting your hands. Pieces of fleshy sponge falling into your open wounds. But you couldn’t turn around yet. He was still behind you and your mother wasn’t home. I wish my head was not my own. It has been thrown around so many times, looking back and forth in the shower waiting for you to walk in. I was a prisoner in my own home. And now I am one in my own head. Do you ever wake up and forget who you are? Like these fingers must belong to someone who hasn’t dug them inside her own skin, counting slowly to ten as each nail dug deeper into this body that I no longer recognize. How do I tell my children about the time I wanted to die? How do you eventually learn to look yourself in the mirror after you’ve cried? I don’t know. I guess you just try.
—  A.D.H and my PTSD
parting words
—  i told myself i’d write
until my fingers went numb
and the taste of you
turned into something sour,
something i could spit out.
i told myself the words
could make it better,
that poetry was the
on the map of
getting over it
that somehow the pages
i’ve filled with your name
mean something more
than missing summertime
and mouthfuls of you
something more than
an apology for everything
i didn’t do wrong
something more than
realizing the scars you left
are real, raw
and still bleeding
i told myself i was worth more
than 3 am phone calls
and dragged out silence
and cigarette breaks
and orange peels
and coffee grounds
and stale apologies,
left outside for days
and so i’ve written,
until the taste in my mouth
is so gritty, so bitter
that i don’t know anything else
and your name fills
every corner of my poems
and the memories
keep me up at night
but i think today
is the last time
i write about your hands
and mouth
and eyes
i think today
i put down my pen
and stop feeling sorry
for the scars you left on me
i think today i will heal.

it’s just that it’s difficult, you know, unlearning everything, swapping out the mechanisms. it’s so clear in my head, watching him move gears around on a magnetic table, aligning them together, arranging them so the tension was right and the clockwork ran smooth, one interlocked part to another to another, seventeen gears all in harmony so the picture of the stupid clown would turn on the other end of the demonstration. i know how those hands feel on my hips, in my hair, tugging me along, and it’s frustrating. it’s hard. my hands don’t slip on my own gears like that, i can’t swap the parts out and around and get the tension right. i think that i am under that table, trying to move the gears by pulling the magnets along, hoping it interlocks. i’m trying to spin the clockwork by turning these tiny magnets in circles, like bored kids do in front of refrigerators, like a tool in a screw that’s been stripped. it makes sense, i get the concept, but it’s screwy, i’m screwy, i’m sorry. i stood there, i stood right next to him and watched him do it in real life, and it’s simple, so simple, but i just can’t do the same to my head.

-///- the phillips or the flathead. grey.b

My Own Myth

in the context of circumstance

the self grows to know itself

to sense the boundaries

of its own sky and earth

then change turns the past

into a persona carried in a purse

an approximation of what has passed

a new world fabricates a new existence

in which vertigo is haunting every cliff

in which chaos displaces consequence

and identity becomes a myth

no longer believed in //

every definition, undefined

every line erased

every truth becomes a lie

told by a past self

in a past context

in another time.


Artwork: Tumblr reblog, artist unknown

i am too teary for the strength of my eyeliner. i am too raw for the red of my lipstick. i remember all the times i was told to take it off – blush, black polish, shirts, skirts, more. it started so young.

i will jump when a car backfires, but i only flinch when i hear locks slide home. i learned my smile from dolls, not playmates, my laugh from movies, not recess. i was a good child, quiet, contained, i have always kept the parts of me that scream in the crawl space, wrapped up in blankets, next to the bones of other vermin still caught in their kinds of traps. i can’t lighten up, shadows took me when i was too young.

i am hard to pin down because at one time, i wasn’t, and all the monsters were much bigger than me. i heal up quick, but if you find little teardrops of red on the floor, they’ll lead you my way. i know that maybe more time in the sun would teach me to grow like the plants do, would weather my skin a little bit thicker, leave me some color so i’d be harder to find in the dark. but the dark –

the dark, the sweet dark’s call. it’s a lullaby that’s been sung for years. it’s the only one i know. when you rock a girl – not to sleep, no, stop – when you rock a girl to a song that says you have to, i’ll hurt you, stop crying, don’t tell. when you rock a girl like that. when you rock her like that. when you rock her like that, don’t be shocked when the lullabies she sings are all in minor chords.

-///- a minor. grey.b

What I Really Want To Know Is... (a poem?)

When will my body be mine again?
When can I stop hurting, allow myself to be happy again?
When will I really believe all the nice things said to me, the nice things I say to me again and again and again, again?
When do I learn to stop punishing myself, hurting myself, learn to be kind to myself again?
How long does it take for the little girl inside of me to forgive me, love me again?

Dear everyone who took me from me, in case it wasn’t clear, again, I don’t hate you.
I think I hate me.

you were young but they were stupid.
your body was a temple and somehow
all the wrong people came to worship it.
you let them, you kept letting them
but you are not the one to blame for this.

and you tried to be lovely, didn’t you?
to be polite and malleable and say thank you
to catcalls mistaken for compliments.
girl becomes sand, becomes water,
becomes gone, if you let her.

start apologizing to your body instead of on its behalf.
befriend your skin despite the wrong people who already have.
here is the only thing that belongs entirely to you,
don’t ever let it disappear.

—  the battleground becomes a body, sarah kate osborn

Things I Can’t Do if I’m Dead

I straighten out the wrinkles on my daughter’s dress
Even though my own blouse is far from smooth
But that’s okay because there’s a twinkle in her eye because Mama you’re so pretty
And I’ll tell her how smart she is after I tell her she’s lovely because
I never want her to judge herself based on what the mirror says back to her face
And my wife has a sad smile on her face in the other room because she knows the scars of the past
But I’m no longer afraid of the pancakes she’s making
And life is messy
And life is good

Well meaning people will ask how I’m dieting for the wedding
I’ll kindly tell them that I’m not because love is a feeling and commitment is a promise and neither of those things involve shedding pounds to fit into a dress that can be tailored to you anyway
On my wedding day I’ll be glowing in a way past anything foundation can provide
And my hair will be thick and in loose curls and when I look down the other end of the aisle a number on a scale will be the farthest thing from my mind

One day when I’m at work after grueling years of graduate school and clinical supervision that I survived only by the grace of God and a well fueled body
A smart and scared girl will ask me about freedom
She’ll want to know if it’s worth the agonizing and terrifying tightrope walk to the other side
If it’s worth shedding her self-destructive armor to embrace the fullness of life
In all of it’s glory
And all of it’s excruciating pain
And I will take this girl’s hand
And I will tell her the story of my life

—  Ellen AP

today i will eat
i will cook
something green
and i will eat without guilt

today i will breathe
fill my lungs deep - deep
make myself feel live/life
today i will go outside

today i will get up
i will open the curtains
look at the sky and
smile down at the breathing city

tonight i will sleep
i shan’t lay restless in bed
no nightmares will bother me
tonight i will rest

and tomorrow…
tomorrow i’ll start all over again

—  Poem about recovery, February 2018