Trauma Art #1: Poetics of Trauma

In 2018 I am going to be using some of my creativity (what little of it there is) to try to express the trauma I’ve been through and the ways in which it continues to haunt my present through a series of art works, essays, and today, even poetry.

It isn’t merely a therapeutic, masturbatory exercise. I’m trying to make my own trauma understandable by materializing bits of it that have been difficult for me to express or explain to either my partner or my therapist. They’re communication tools. But they are also ways of signifying things that have happened that cannot be expressed in phallogocentric symbolic registers. Inspired by the brilliant students in my Queer Utopias class, I’m making art to express what has thus far eluded words, expression, blogs, or journals.

If you’re here reading, welcome. This is a deeply personal space, so I ask you to be mindful. If any of my expressions resonate for other trauma survivors, then making myself vulnerable — in this way I’ve been doing since I started my first website for survivors of intimate partner abuse to tell their stories — will have been worth it.

My first entry is my attempt to explain to my current partner what it’s like every time I hear them make a seemingly innocuous, mildly irritated sigh. Because it never used to be innocuous.

“The Sigh”

The last
little whimpering gasp
of anger
Just as it’s forcibly repressed;

Stuffed down into
a pressure cooker stomach
until the temperature
of your rage
gets too hot to be contained.

The sound of an invisible trip wire
I’m about to trip
over.

The warning
I’ve just stepped
on a land mine.
Click.
And then the next shift…

The cocking of a gun:
the slow rotation of a bullet 
into the chamber
hammer pulled back.

Pavolv’s bells of abuse.
The hum of electricity
before the shock in the floor
teaching which ways
not to go,
which buttons
not to press.

The crunch of an eggshell
not avoided
carefully enough.

Time stops.
Sound drops.
I hold my breath.

It is the harbinger
of the explosion
that is about to consume
everything.

The premonition
of broken cupboards
holes in the ceiling
barricaded doors
a shattered TV

the impact — 
left by the chess piece
I toppled
and you put through the screen — 
looks like me:
an image fractured,
fragmented around a point,
shards of light
trying to make themselves
make sense;
coherence
abandoned
to shock.

It is the sound 
of the pin
on an invisible grenade — 
I did not bring here
because I did not know
our home
was a war zone — 
being pulled.

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