I suffered abuse, sorrow, and shame. Broken to the point I forgot my name. Isn’t lost and alone the same? I just wanted personal peace, I was a caged bird craving release. In the dead of night I fled into the street.
I’ve been slapped, punched and leashed to a chain, I have bitter, never-sweet memories of soul-crushing pain. Now I’m outside shivering in the rain. Homeless but alive, I can’t complain. A reason to smile, though my lips are swollen and bloodstained.I’m always forgiving my abuser I know right?! Insane. I admit being safe from harm is strange. I guess it’s foolish to believe abusers can change. We battered women rationalize and we internalize the blame. Weakened repeatedly by the remorse and love they claim.
In truth they lie, manipulate our hears and pretend. Wounded and emotionally damaged, we move back in ignoring the pleas of concerned family and friends. I often reflect on the beginning of the end: The tragic whos, whats, whys, and whens. If man doesn’t love his wife as Christ loves the church, isn’t it a sin? My unconditional love an open wound, my home a prison.
Silently I disappeared in plain sight, went missin’, with child I now had better decisions to make. The flesh heals but the soul breaks. From the daily emotional scars and physical aches, I still suffer depression and nervous shakes. Can’t remember the last time I ate. Moving back was a terrible mistake. I fear to rescue myself I maybe too late. His toxic affection came in the form of hate. I have old sorrows and even newer regrets…but wait! My children had to witness my face while screamin’ for my life, being beaten and chased.
I broke out in Shingles, a form of depressive-mumps. Alarmingly I was dropping weight, losing my hair in clumps. It started with a slap, then a punch. I was choked unconscious, but “only” once. I wanted to escape, afraid of the risk. “Haven house” did not exist. For years I endured the cruel humiliations, disrespect, and kicks for buying Captain Crunch instead of Tricks. Or for something I forgot on the grocery list. His anger and displeasure communicated by fist. There’s always a reason, if not that, then this.
The bathroom mirror spoke my truth, my tears mixed with the shattered glass. I was finally tired of being tired at last. The end of the beginning had finally begun. To protect my children, I called 911.
“911 what’s your emergency?”
“My husband’s drunk and he’s hurting me,”
“Are there any drugs being used?”
“What? No, I’m being abused,”
“Calm down ma’am
Who is the accused?
“Is he still there, are you battered and bruised?”
“Hurry please! He’s kicking the door,”
“It’s okay ma’am, just a few minutes more,”
“Please hurry I have a newborn and a five-year-old daughter,”
“Ma’am do you have an active restraining order?”
“What? Yes. I mean no. HURRY he has a gun!”
“Ma’am are you still there? Hello? this is 911.”
It went on for years, the abuse and livin’ in fear, fooling myself, lying to family and peers. “I tripped, fell down, I cut myself with shears.” Sad for what my children see, shame for what my neighbor hears. Ambulance fees and police reports, the photos of my abuse not allowed as evidence in court. Men judges, prosecutors, and their cohorts,
“Abuse is no excuse”
You know the sort.
Think Row V. Wade can be solved with a tort. It was premeditated, so they figure, said: “Battered Women’s Syndrome was no excuse to pull the trigger.” Dismissed the fact my abuser was armed, drunk and bigger.
The D.A. hinted that “a married woman cannot scream rape.”
Judge said “I had ample opportunities to escape.”
The jury never heard my 911 tapes of past incidents when I was burned with cigarettes, cut with a knife. Officers testified that I was possibly a wandering wife.
Now I’ve been punished twice. To save my own I had to take his life.
I am no longer homeless, I guess, nor alone. I’ve discovered many battered women who call prison home. Convictions predicated on gender cuts lady liberty to the bone. I’ve been called everything: bitch, trash, nothing, even so-and-so. But never Jane Doe.
About this poem: a conversation with Truth N. Poetry
Poet Douglas Levon Dawkins, aka Truth N. Poetry, answers questions about where he drew the inspiration to write this poem, why he writes from the point of view of a woman, and more.
Why did you decide to write this poem from the perspective of a woman?
I wanted the voice to be authentic and I wanted the poem to allow the reader to hear the unspoken hurt, pain, and sorrow in my pen. It was important to me not to come across as a man who has taken literary license to make this subject matter user-friendly. I knew a woman’s voice would sound unapologetically raw and full of the right emotion.
Is your writing informed by your own experiences, or the experience of those you have met?
Yes, very much so. I grew up in an abusive household and had to see my mother victimized by domestic violence. I can still hear the painful cries of my mother as “the” stepfather hit her with a closed fist. I knew the pain because myself and my brothers and sisters were victims of the same physical and emotional abuse. In my heart and my skin I can still feel the punches, kicks, and slaps, the ugly words used to scar the soul. When I write about homelessness, I remember sleeping on the cold concrete, in dark doorways, so that no one would see me, having only clothing on my back.
What do you want readers to take away from this poem?
I want this poem, like all my poetry, to cause readers to do more than shake their head, or say “that’s a damn shame.” I want people to start the action, not just conversation, on how we can help women trapped in abusive and violent relationships. I want people to take action for women who are homeless because they had to escape, or had to protect themselves and their children by taking their abuser’s lives.
Douglas Levon Dawkins aka Truth N. Poetry is a poet and writer born and raised in the Bay Area. Prior to his incarceration, he was homeless, and says poetry and art have helped him in his lifelong battle with depression. He is currently incarcerated in California.