To Bear Witness

I stuck my head between the opened doors

Of a cupboard


Found him there, in the broken emptiness,

The numbness of my face and fingers,

The immovable whisper without a voice.


He’d walk with me

Wherever we were unseen.

Where nothing could be heard.

Where the things between us could be hidden and exploited.

Where his finger landed on my lips

And disconnected everything within me.


The breath entering through a shut door.

I learned, not fast enough, that the possession

Of a key saves me. I hear my name in her rattling mouth

And I know that she knows, that she knew the secrets

Of his excessive and drunken body, better than anybody else.


The more I ran away from him, the more I

Sunk into her softly hardened body and

Came close to the pain inflicted on her, without

Words, the humming of her skin, a scream so silent,

A burial ground underneath the powder and warmth.

I loved her, in ways untaught by anyone, unseen, bewildered

And in such need it devastated me.


I press my cheek against your dead face and

Call you home, he roamed around freely across

My body, I pirouetted, a puppet, crushed porcelain

Heart. You always needed the faces to smile and look

Happy, because you knew the truth behind the forced grin,

When he touched you, when he touched me and her, when they

Took everything and it still wasn’t enough,

When they interchanged us all, back and forth,

Domino over domino, and we hate the way they make us smell.


“Portrait of Princess Louisa of Great Britain” by Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702–1789)

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