Early Incest Poem (Title is the Trigger Warning)

5 feet hands on a

on a four-year-old

not much feeling

mom’s nowhere

Dad who is dead you are haunting her now. She can’t go to sleep – you’re back in the bed. Incest, it’s so unfair, the way it keeps her dead and him alive.

I wrote that for Jane Doe in the late 1980’s. It was a feminist literary collective at Hampshire College. I couldn’t use the letter “I” or say the poem was about me or my experience.

I went in and out of truth-telling for decades. I hid back under a blanket in my writing and life. I still do when the consequence of telling the truth is more than I can bear.

This morning I’m seething and furious and tired.  I have apologized for having been abused and the aftermath as though it is something I caused and have to be sorry about.

I am not responsible for what was done to me by others.  I did not know, believe or feel this with every fiber of my being though. Not for decades.

How could I?

Look at the culture we live in. Watch the news. This week it’s the Cosby case, but there’s always something. Always.

Cosby reminds me of my first step-father, the one I called Dad.  Dad was affable and gregarious and likable.

None of those adjectives protected me.

We live in a world that makes survivors answer for the unfathomable. How does a guy who stars in a sitcom or treats for ice cream at Dairy Queen assault, molest, drug or violate those who know, like, love, trust and are maybe related?

Fuck if I know.

I’ve got no words to make that understandable or easier to get.

It’s a cruel ask. I’m tired of searching for answers to impossible questions.

Imagine if every victim of terrorism had to speak for the bomber before getting empathy or justice. It’s ridiculous and what’s required of survivors of interpersonal violence. Proximity and intimacy do not make guilt by association.

Proximity and intimacy do not make guilt by association.

I don’t know how someone capable of being funny, sweet, loved or needed can drug, molest, assault, violate and take advantage?

To know the face and name of one one who violates does not make what’s done less criminal, wrong or painful. or me capable of explaining it or them.

Prey doesn’t choose teeth as tattoos, those marks belong to the one who bites not who is bitten into.

If blood is pouring from my skin I need suture, nurture, and assistance not to be questioned or cross -examined as though I am a mystery to be solved.

To know the name, face or voice of the one who violates does not make anything or anyone hurt less – in fact – it magnifies, complicates and compounds pain.

I don’t know how to get others to understand or respond better to what seems so obvious. don’t have witty slogans, memes or Pinterestable images for unfair, rape, sexual abuse or wrong.

I don’t have witty slogans, memes or Pinterestable images for unfair, rape, sexual abuse or wrong.

I have a message for survivors.

Dear Survivor:

I’m sorry you were hurt. I’m sorry you were injured. Getting hurt hurts everyone. You aren’t strange or at all to blame. You were only human.

I see you. I feel you. I hear you. And that will be small comfort if those in your life do not.

To not be believed or supported by those you love and need is brutal.

It does make life, healing, trust and moving on harder.

Harder is not the same as impossible.

People can and do heal. I can promise that and back it up with experience.

You may feel utterly and entirely alone for a long time. It is a terrible feeling. It is possible to have that feeling and one day to know you are not and never were alone.  and – you are not alone.

It’s o.k. not to believe that. and – you are not alone.

Please know you do not have to choose loved ones or the truth. There is another option.

You can choose yourself.

Know every single one of your experiences and feelings did and do matter. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. Then. Now. Forever.and now and forever.

Regard yourself the wish to be regarded. and now and forever.

Even if others don’t.

It is not a cure-all but it hleps.

I wish I could change the world and take away your pain. I can’t do either.

I will tell you how I’ve helped change my life though and what I wished I knew sooner.

  1. Trust your needs.
  2. Believe in yourself.
  3. Believe other survivors.
  4. Try to be who and what you need and learn to have your own back.
  5. Look for allies and guides.

That’s it. That’s my bad-ass social action plan.

I tell you this because I get tired of hearing my beautiful, stunning, vibrant, gifted, loving, caring and strong friends blame and shame themselves for being in agony.

It doesn’t help.

Can we interrupt each other whenever we cycle back through self-blame, shame and even hate?

Will you call me on it when I forget?

Will you let me call you on it, too?

Can we be that radical, warm and tender with ourselves and one another?

Can we fight for our lives even if it take our whole lives?

I am tired of feeling sorry for what was done to me.

I’m tired of autographing apologies that aren’t mine to write.

I’m tired of treating the past as a life sentence I can’t change.

Let’s protect ourselves and one another.

Let’s tell the truth.


I was never damaged. I was broken into not a broken person.

I was broken into not broken to begin with. person.

I can know and honor that difference.

I don’t require fixing.

I am holy, sacred and worthwhile. I require no fixing.

I don’t need approval or revenge.

I am taking back all my father tried to steal from me that never belonged to him.

I am taking his dead hands off of my life and using my name without shame or secrecy. apology or shame.

I am coming back to life and to myself and to my body at long last.t last, it is me

Truth wins. Love saves.

Let’s save ourselves and one another. We can.




You Matter Mantras

  • Trauma sucks. You don't.
  • Write to express not to impress.
  • It's not trauma informed if it's not informed by trauma survivors.
  • Breathing isn't optional.

You Are Invited Too & To:


  1. I love this. I can hear your anger and I get it.. How we blame ourselves for being abused, for not coping better with the fall out. How I blame myself and am silenced by my own shame. The sucking swirling whirlpool. It is indeed badass radical to believe in other survivors and yourself – that’s how we overcome, silence the shame, grow courage. I’m trying. I love yoir raising of the different standards of judgement, empathy and how unthinkable it would be to apply those of CSA to victims of other brutalities, like terrorism, where the personal is automatically the politcal and public outrage and sympathy spills from all quarters. The fact that it’s generally not a random stranger in CSA is what makes people want to bury their heads in the sand and wounds our very souls. And by their nature those wounds separate us – the fear, the lack of trust, the shame of not coping better. Its lonely, and I really appreciate hearing others voices who know, that helps me feel less alone. So thanks

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