survival poetry

The Thing About Trauma

It’s not as easy
as being Something That Happened to You,
a package you opened once.

You will wake up in a new ZIP code,
have to wander your way home,
carry a few of the things you love
to this new place
you live in now.

& so you buy throw pillows.
You put up twinkle lights
and have a big celebration,
point at the open windows
and tell everyone who has ever seen you crying,


look how I have not caged myself,
look what I have made
out of two paint buckets
and the blessing of my still-here body,

but, of course, trauma leans into the bar cart.
Spills a drink on the new rug.
Breaks off the door handle on his way out.

Trauma sends you letters,
without warning,
for the rest of your life,
usually disguised as something else— 

a medical bill, maybe,
or a box of photo albums packaged up by your father,
just so you remember
trauma knows exactly where you live—

who did you think built the house?

It’s almost like experiencing a culture shock. When it’s all said and done, it changes so quickly. You won’t know how to prepare yourself for it. You really can’t prepare at all.

It will start with him pulling out of your driveway before you make it inside the house. You’ll stand there, watching his tail lights disappear into the night. Without even realizing it, it will slip out under your breath, “He really doesn’t love me anymore.”

You’ll wake up the next morning and hope it was a dream — but it wasn’t. You will remember the text you had waken up to just 24 hours earlier, and your heart will pound so loud you can hear it. “How did this happen?”

Calling him will go straight to voicemail. You will hear, “I’m sorry, the number you dialed has a voicemail box that has not been set up yet,” a total of 15 times before giving up.

Weeks will go by and the empty feeling won’t go away. You meet up to give each other’s things back. “Is that it?” he’ll ask you. You’ll fight back tears and smile at him, “Yeah, I guess so.” Then you’ll get in your car and drive away before he has the chance to.

His mom will see you at the grocery store but she won’t say hello. She’ll avoid eye contact, and you will feel that rejection at your very core.

He will wave at you when you see him. You’ll wave back and smile. It will be forced. It will hurt.

His friends will talk about you. You’ll hear names being tossed around, like “psycho” and “stalker,” and you will have to smile at them anyway. Being the bigger person gets easier with practice.

Eventually, you’ll look around and it will just appear to be normal again. “This is the new reality,” you’ll tell yourself. “And it is okay.”

—  except from an unfinished book #127 // “Breaking Up is Hard To Do”
This is for the survivors
The ones that will never forgive their abusers
The ones who will always have hate in their hearts
The ones who were not made softer or kinder by the horrible things done to them
The ones who became warriors and never learned to take off their armor
This is for the survivors that no one talks about because it isn’t pretty enough
Because the anger is white hot and ugly and poisonous even years after everything went wrong
This is for the survivors who are barely doing just that
Because God damn are we trying

“So it happened.” He says with a shrug. And I feel my body tense; stomach twist; spine become stone.
But he tilts my chin up to meet his gaze. And his eyes call me survivor. Not victim.

“Now you have to choose.” He tells me,“ Will you be bitter or better?”

—  Whatever you’re surviving. Whatever you’re coming out of. You decide where you go from here. // Ceres

who has been my new boyfriend
through two birthdays and the funeral,
but I like to call him that,
know too well the way men steel-plate
themselves inside my joints
until my body has to relearn running.

& he knows
a few parts of this story,
but I didn’t want that man’s name
back in my bed.

just told him,
picture yourself in a theater with your eyes closed,
your own palms pressed tightly to your ears.
on the drive home, 
he’ll describe each scene frame for frame,
talk about the previews, which one
the two of you should not-see-together next,
and you will feel lucky enough in that moment
you won’t notice the entire city of Portland starting to melt.

months later,
when he says it is your favorite movie,
you will nod and know it is
not worth arguing over.

(“are you trying
to tell me

you’ll tell yourself it’s true.
tell yourself
it’s the best movie
you’ve ever seen.

there’s a dead girl inside me.

i can feel her rattling around,
her lungs choked with loss,
heart pounding like wardrums.

she had a laugh like summer rain
until the world tore it away.

(little girls who wish on stars
don’t last long on the ground.)

there’s a dead girl inside me
and i’m the one who killed her.


Here’s my messy heart.


we are dying in the streets, a series of private disgraces made public, shunned by the fathers and mothers who thought they raised us better, oh my love—

we are breaking our own hearts but hell if they’re not getting any bigger. hell if we’re only left with scattered shards and scraped up hands, oh my love—

we are choking down our grief stricken sobs with laughter so sharp it bleeds, like every body strewn battle is a victory in the end, is the end, oh my love—


—  but i’d rather be called by name (amc)