June 23, 2017

Sorry I disappeared again. It wasn’t a good time to talk about what’s going on because still nothing is resolved but sometimes I want to talk anyway and I’ve wanted to for a while now.

A friend asked today about the meaning of metaphor to me, because it seems kind of outsized to people who aren’t me I suppose. (And I didn’t know what to say to him, that it’s that or care about PEOPLE? That this is what you get for asking how I liked Wonder Woman?) But I do like metaphors. Last night I put on my pomegranate necklace and this morning I paired the bangles I’ve worn for over a year down to two, one with four raw birthstones for the girls and me and one a little evil eye bead on a delicate chain. The pomegranate is delicate too, a little stamped circle suspended in the crooked hollow between my collarbones.

I wrote about pomegranates when I was 19 and trying to make sense of having been raped. I thought I was a Persephone of sorts because I knew how it felt to have the wide sky above me and the earth falling to abyss beneath my feet. I knew the allure of swallowing what it would take to bind myself to the land of the dead, admitting too that this meant not ripping myself away from my rapist. I knew that there was a part of me left behind even when I walked on safe land again, that there was an emptiness that could pull me back in and I would never fully escape.

I’ve talked about some of those feelings with my support group for non-offending parents of abused children, because these stories aren’t new to me the way they are to parents who might not have lived in this world for years. I wear a pomegranate now for Demeter, ancient goddess of shared custody, for the time I know my child is serving as queen of the world of shadows before she returns to my embrace and the dull, repetitive, necessary work of keeping the world fed and things where they need to be. I have grown old and I understand differently now.

It’s not a fertility symbol for me, though in general it is. My womb is empty and will finally be emptied in ablation this summer. The commitment after to never being able to carry a pregnancy pushed me to grieve that a bit for the first time, but I know it’s the right and necessary choice. I have the children I’ll be having for now at least and Colton and his wife are set to make me a grandmother before the year comes to a close. I have borne fruit in other ways.

Plus pomegranates are delicious, tart and tender with the papery toughness at the core of each ruby explosion, their worthwhile stain left on fingers. Sometimes things also just are what they are. I’m reading Roxane Gay’s Hunger and devouring the ways she talks about surviving and building herself around the sexual violence she suffered. I feel a need to caveat that hers was younger, worse, and yet it resonates so strongly with me, the guilt and the shame and the hiding and confusion. The need to make a story out of something that can never be a simple story.

I wrote the Persephone prose poem at the end of my teens. I wrote a sort of related sestina too because everything I wrote then was related to that moment that had broken me and left me trying to break myself more to feel and be as awful as I felt was right. The sestina did well for me, got published and passed on for a prize it didn’t win and didn’t deserve to. That had been my dream from my early teens in fact, just to be nominated for a Pushcart because winning seemed like silly hope. And there I was 19 and in an abusive relationship and I had accomplished what I’d set out to do in life and I wanted to make sense of feeling I deserved nothing more or nothing better. I thought making that story of understanding might change what I felt I deserved, that running a support group or writing a whole music composition with accompanying video might somehow capture enough that it would move me, but knowing everything I could read about rape and trauma helped but didn’t save me. I wanted things to make sense but sometimes they don’t and can’t.

Foster care in theory takes into account “the best interests of the child” except it’s in the child’s best interests never to have needed foster care. By the time we get there, the brokenness is part of the story. And I tried to be aware of that in writing stories here, in eliding what I felt I should and revealing what felt okay. But it’s all such a tiny partial view from one moment in life. I’ll be older and I’ll see things differently. The children I’ve cared for will have their own stories of me and of themselves. That’s all as it should be.

Today Selah is wearing a dress that Mara wore to her own kindergarten picture day. Selah will have something else when it’s her turn this fall; the girls like matching still. We saw Mara’s kindergarten teacher at a city festival a few weeks ago and she saw Mara twirling in my arms and said, delightedly, “She was always the girl who turned around and around and around!” I had never noticed that about Mara but of course it’s accurate. She was and is just Mara, my first little child, so special that it’s hard to even know which parts are extraordinary. I’ve never had a metaphor big enough to hold her or any of the children. I’ve written a few poems about them, but they’re all too personal to share.

No one has ever asked about my necklace. I’m not sure I’d have an answer except that there’s something about stories about goddesses that makes it easier for me to remember that there are many ways to be human. I thought that mine would be as storyteller or sense-maker but I’m not sure to what extent that’s true; mine is just mine.

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