Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Help My Unbelief


Help My Unbelief
(The 5th of 6 in my cycle of poems, The Valley of Shadow)

You are silent.  

But I was told that you are instant,
Present,
Help in trouble,
There for me,
Rushing to answer before I even finish asking.
The Cliche for every need.

Gutpunched.
Blindsided. 
Breath knocked out.
No one ever yelled at me!  
Ever.
Where is this coming from?
Did we not make vows? 
To love?  
To cherish?
What did I do to deserve this from you?
Stunned.  
Speechless.
The fire from your words burns,
It hurts.
Run, get away, hide,
Anything but stand in front of you and take this.

God!  Help!  Why?
But You are silent.
Married three months.  
Have I made a terrible mistake?

I am an expert now.  Beaten into submission.
I do what I need to do, whatever to avoid the blows.
But like clockwork I come short 
And you’ve been waiting.
You are always right. This justifies all.
You shrink me to nothing.
A mere boy,
and you the grownup,
so weary of playing that role.
Humiliation and condescension work best and sting deep.
You press in until I confess.
‘I’m sorry’ achieves your goal 
Though I don’t even know what monstrous thing I’ve done,
that makes me now your enemy.
Domination and control have usurped this marriage.

I stumble into the darkness
Going nowhere.  Just far away.
God! Help! Why?
But You are silent.
I drift alone in an ocean with no land in sight.

Ex nihilo storm force ten.
Nauseous I rush to close the windows
So the neighbors will not hear the shriek of your gale
Blasting at my heart, smashed against the wall.
They might think something is amiss.
Marital dissonance
sears my ears, batters my soul.  
Forced to dance to your discordant tune.
This feels so wrong.
I don’t know how to get away.
And you think this somehow good, proper, necessary?
Can you not see what you are doing to me?
Or is there a darker truth?
You are aware.  
You do know.  
You calculate to hurt.
Mocking words, 
shrill shouts, 
shaming names; 
Your savage contempt crumples me like a piece of paper, 
rips all my efforts to love you into a thousand pieces 
stripped away by the tempest.

Nobody hears.  
Nobody sees.  
Nobody knows.
Where can I possibly go?
I am all alone
Married to you.

Denial presses the darkness back into its hole.
I am fine.  Really.  We are fine.
Such great parents, a model couple.
On show for the relatives,
on display for the church.
But alone I break,
I plead with tears:
God! Help! Why?
But You are silent.
Change me! Change her!
I cannot hold it together.

I fall into blackness.  
No moon.  No stars.  Mid-day in eclipse.
You round on me.
Pounded by your accusations - 
‘Distant’, ‘morose’, ‘selfish’, I ‘take no initiative’, 
I am ‘mentally ill’, a sick sick man,
I force you to be the responsible one.
And then the ever-present chorus:
you are always, always right.
Never been wrong.
Just keep repeating, with feeling,
like some mindless praise and worship refrain. 
I remove myself.  I cannot respond, 
lest I throw up the emptiness substituting for my heart.  
Sit in my office.
Stare at nothing.  
Weep.
I don’t know what’s wrong.  
I believe you.  You are my best friend.
It must be me.  
It must be me.

I cry, I shout, I beg -
God! Help!  Why?
But You are silent.
My pain, my confusion finds relief
Only with distraction, its pleasure 
Sharp relief to our barren bed.

The darkness is too great.
It presses.
I want to die.

I get help.
Unpacking decades is hard.
I begin to see what I have done.
I begin to see what you have done.
It's a lie.
It isn’t me.  It’s you.  All along.
I ask you to stop.  Many times - 
STOP!

How dare me.
Rage, Storm, Verbal Blows bucket down.  
You laugh at me.  You pummel me.  
Accuse me of unfaithfulness.
Accuse me of lying.  
You transform self sex into adultery.
Hint darkly of divorce.
You take my deepest, most painful struggles 
and weave an ugly new narrative,
Reimagining me as having betrayed you 
when I’ve only ever been faithful.
My pain and confusion
Shared in confidence,
Becomes evidence for the prosecution.
I ‘abandoned’ you.
‘Stopped initiating intimacy’ with you.
But who can pretend to love when splayed upon your rack?
Never mind that you are wrong,
a playground bully hellbent on imposing your will.
Thirty years of intimidation.
It's worked so well.  It's the only game you know.
And my enabling part played to perfection.
No more.
Never mind your evidence makes the opposite case.
It suits your narrative.  
And you make it your reality, the story that gets told.
At least you are consistent. 
You have done nothing wrong.
Martyred by my terrible faults.
And if a ‘harsh word’ has been levelled at me, 
I have richly deserved it.
For you, it’s just another strategy,
one of many, the end the same,
to maintain control.
But I’m an Aztec prisoner, heart ripped out,
Your serial victim,
Tossed down your temple stairs.

This marriage has already died.
No breaking news, no service, no burial.
Just a corpse.
I keep trying to shake us, to wake us from slumber.
But only the foul rottenness of your contempt rises up, 
Of softly spoken brutal words.
You keep wielding the knife 
while all along proclaiming that I have murdered us.

Prayer without ceasing.
I am lost.
Everything that was safe, secure, settled, tied down,
Now unmoored in this hurricane, 
slammed onto rocks
Smashed again and again, splintered, 
broken pieces of wood.  
Flotsam.

God. Help. Why?
But You are silent.
What’s left of my life washes up on the shore.

Everything is broken. 
I am broken.
Broken.
I keep trying to run in the dark.
I trip. I fall.  
Stumble, I fall again.
Bloody knees.  Bloody hands.
God it hurts too much.  It’s too hard.
I don’t think I can go any further.
I don’t think I’m going to make it

Mother of God.
I stand before your icon.
Am I kissing heaven,
Or am I banging my head against a wall?
Every promise evaporated, every vision a mirage. 
Was it only ever about her control and my fear?

Loss takes many moments.  
Everything that was mine has somehow bled to her.
Sitting now in her house, robbed of context, 
stripped of all meaning.
My boyhood furniture, my mother’s hutch, 
my college photo albums, 
and all my books.  My bed.  My sofa. 
My grandfather’s World War I Army overcoat.  
Pictures of my children, the hoarded treasures of a life.  
Seized. By default.   
But not just things, 
Appropriated friends, 
who never stayed around long enough to ask why.
Happy to judge, second opinion be damned.  
And our life together reconstrued 
to make her look so very good 
and me the worst of villains.

It’s all gone.  Nothing left.
But the phantom pain of an amputated life.

I sift through blackened cinders.
In my loss, all I have is You.
God.  Help.  Why?
But for all the eager verbiage about You,

You’ve never been One for words.