You shook me by the shoulders until I quit trying to stand.
I held my knees to my chest and let my balance break. Again.
How many blows does it take, to break?
I heard the first cracks a year ago,
Drowned the sound and the bruises
With hand towel and soap;
Hours in the shower.
Sweat it out, no one will know
How many tears I drain
To make it to tomorrow.
Leave a handprint in the clean steam
And dry myself off,
Like I’ve made a resolution this time,
Like the depression is gone.
You shook me by the shoulders.
I held my knees to my chest.
How many blows does it take?
I’m going to break, but I did my best.
Step away from the fogged glass
Where my ghosts stay to hide.
But I can’t leave my whole past
Like I leave that room behind.
The steam will clear
But I’m out of here,
Because I hate the look of my reflection.
Where my ghosts get too near
And the future I feared,
Is already here like an infection.
But I signed up for this, right?
I signed up for all of it.
The shaking of the shoulders,
The deadlines, like boulders,
Fights I’m too proud to quit.
I’m sinking insanity;
Promises tied to my ankles,
That I accidentally made
When I had an open schedule.
I think it’s one more blow, before I break,
One more sane breath,
And one thing to say;
I’m going to break now, but I did my best.
I don't look anything like I used to,
I did my best.
That paper clip just couldn't be bent back into what it was before.
Your fingers were strong, but the steel was stronger.
The marriage license lies loose-leafed in your top desk drawer,
and you won't admit it, but you kept the paper clip too,
thinking he could bend it back into what it was before;
maybe his fingers are strong enough.
They were strong before, with a gold ring
pinched between his thumb and forefinger.
Strong before, when the house was being nailed together.
Strong back when he held his children for the first time,
and strong when he pointed his finger at you for the last.
But his pride was stronger.
Too strong for even a four-bedroom house with 26 acres
and enough chain-link fence to keep anyone from getting in; or out.
It filled up the dusty corners that you hid in
and it smelled of time decomposing between unfinished floorboards.
It sounded like the flat voices
that never stopped nagging from the plasma TV
and it felt like empty pockets, empty bank accounts,
and an empty spirit that couldn't afford to pay for his pride anymore.
Your fingers learned to be strong for 19 years;
pinching pennies even though it made you the bad guy,
typing papers that swallowed your kids' childhoods,
and wiping your eyes behind their backs because you thought
they weren't allowed to see you cry.
Your fingers are strong. His are too.
Yours build others; his build only himself.
You fill your pockets now with love,
and his are still full of pride.
You can keep trying to bend that paper clip
back into what it was before,
but steel is always stronger.
Sometimes it's better that way
because anywhere the paper clip goes,
dusty corners follow.