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This poem about child sexual abuse split me in two today, and I thought it was worth a read.

Ghost Story
by Matthew Dickman
for matthew z and matthew r

I remember telling the joke
about child molestation and seeing
the face of the young man
I didn’t know well enough
turn from something with light
inside of it into something like
an animal that’s had its brain
bashed in, something like that, some
sky inside him breaking
all over the table and the beers.
It’s amazing, finding out
my thoughtlessness has no bounds,
is no match for any barbarian,
that it runs wild and hard
like the Mississippi. No, the Rio Grande.
No, the Columbia. A great river
of thorns and when this stranger
stood up and muttered
something about a cigarette,
the Hazmat team
in my chest begins to cordon
off my heart, glowing
a toxic yellow,
and all I could think about
was the punch line “sexy kids,”
that was it, “sexy kids,” and all the children
I’ve cared for, wiping
their noses, rocking them to sleep,
all the nieces and nephews I love,
and how no one ever
opened me up like can of soup
in the second grade, the man
now standing on the sidewalk, smoke smothering
his body, a ghost unable
to hold his wrists down
or make a sound like a large knee in between
two small knees, but terrifying and horrible all the same.

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Y’all, I’m just tired. And you know what they say in the Anonymous programs–don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. I’m pretty good on the first three, but I’m flat exhausted emotionally. This feelings business is serious, and the cost is high. Worth it, but costly.

When I get this tired, I’m more susceptible to lies. The one I’ve been wrestling with the most lately is that I’m just too broken to be fixed. There are too many pieces of me smashed into jagged shards, left in random locales, lost forever. I’ll never get fixed, get healed, be what I’m supposed to be. But this morning, I felt like Jesus said, “Grace is what says it doesn’t always have to be this way.”

And so I’ll accept, without knowing the why and wherefore, that grace means I don’t have to stay fragmented forever. Let it be so.

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This is a Mary Oliver poem (you may know her for the quote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”) called Rage. I read it this afternoon, and I was undone.

What’s more, someone who borrowed the book before me wrote in pencil, “Child abuse?” There’s no question, and I’d venture to say it’s sexual abuse from the context. Her work is beautiful, in my opinion. Please, enjoy.
You are the dark song
of the morning;
serious and slow,
you shave, you dress,
you descend the stairs
in your public clothes
and drive away, you become
the wise and powerful one
who makes all the days
possible in the world.
But you were also the red song
in the night,
stumbling through the house
to the child’s bed,
to the damp rose of her body,
leaving your bitter taste.
And forever those nights snarl
the delicate machinery of the days.
When the child’s mother smiles
you see on her cheekbones
a truth you will never confess;
and you see how the child grows–
timidly, crouching in corners.
Sometimes in the wide night
you hear the most mournful cry,
a ravished and terrible moment.
In your dreams she’s a tree
that will never come to leaf–
in your dreams she’s a watch
you dropped on the dark stones
till no one could gather the fragments–
in your dreams you have sullied and murdered,
and dreams do not lie.

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