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Poetry a journey into and out of an abusive relationship

Many years ago I was in an abusive relationship.  During that time and in the healing period after leaving the relationship, writing helped me to structure my thoughts and helped me to find my way forward.  I have avoided putting these old works up here for a few reasons.  I was a different person then.  I have moved on and I am happy to forget.  Oddly most work of mine which has been published was written during this time.  I have decided to share the poems here because I have always felt that those in abusive relationships need to know that many have walked their lonely path and cliché as it sounds, time does heal.  Still if you are in an abusive relationship, know this, abusive men do NOT change NEVER!!   I kept a journal after the relationship ended, this recorded the time when I was still stalked and instituted a family violence case which dragged on, and on until months later finally a guilty verdict was reached.  Extracts from my journal were published in Fair Lady magazine and a South African anthology Glass Jars among Trees, published by Jacana.

People in abusive relationships do not generally spot a nasty character and decide to forge a future with them.  They meet someone and often fall in love with that person’s good qualities (I was always a bit of a sucker for a man holding a guitar).  What people don’t realize is that abuse shows itself gradually, a fit of temper here and there, interspersed with good times.  At first you don’t see what is staring you in the face because lines are crossed so gradually that you forget where your boundaries should be, you forget what is normal.  The relationship lasted 4 years.  Getting out was difficult and the healing took a long time.

This was written in the first few weeks of meeting.

POLLEN LOVE

I love you

as pollen

soft drifting

In spring sunbeam warmth

Carried aloft on fate’s quiet breath

Still not seed

Still unsown

Still dust of potential

Yet unknown

Not yet grounded

in fertile earth

As a soul suspended

Awaiting birth

Not sapling love

With thread of root

Without anchor

Too young to bear fruit

unbaptized by

fire and storm

Yet a vision

still to take form

Time’s hand not traced

circles within

Untested by nature’s discipline

No leafy foliage

Offering cool shade

No scented flowers

random arrayed

This sweet love

is pollen

‘Tis not a tree

Not yet monument

to you

and me

6/9/95

A few years later I wrote another one similar titled ‘Old Leather Shoe Love’ but I can’t find that one in my files

 

HANDS

His hands which caressed

and comforted

stroked loving against trusting cheek

His hands which built and mended

Protected when she was weak

Hands which gave life to music

stirring wonder in the soul

Those hands

are purple painful fingers

Bruised into her thighs

Those hands have reduced, each word and deed

Into empty lies

Those hands

have shattered her safe world

Those hands have broken trust

Those hands created discord

and turned their dreams

to dust

19/1/97

 

 

The following was published in the POWA anthology ‘Dreaming of Living’, it meant a lot to me that they chose a line from the poem as the title for the book.  Because my home situation was stifling and at times fearful I wrote this from the viewpoint of an outsider.

ESCAPE

There’s a bottle of wine on the table

A woman is holding a glass

A man’s face is writhing in anger

It’s a tasteless picture – no class

She’s not a regular drinker

She knows that she’s breaking the rules

but this is no place for logic

and reason’s the realm of fools

The door is locked

There’s no way out

She’s dizzy and dazed trying to figure this out

The fruit of the vine, is the best escape

She’s slowly slipping away

Diving into red river

Releasing her feet of clay

Body becomes a vacant shell

Her mind now a shadow, at play

on the wall

Aiming at drowning

but dreaming of living

Wanting to sink

She finds herself swimming

The table cloth slips into 3D

Red flowers float above blue

The abstract – significantly silly

Making sense where no sense is due

Looking at his raging dead eyes

Seeing a stranger, she can’t recognise

A sudden half-smile

half lights, her face

Safe in the knowing, he can’t reach this place

Here he can’t touch her

Pain is not real

Here it’s a joy, not to feel

The bottle runs dry

Time trickles away

Tomorrow she’ll wake

to another day ……

12/8/98

 

Another one from near the end, publised in another POWA anthology

CIRCUS

Wild thought paces

The minds arena

Circling circumstantial trainer

Taunted by memory

Of a sense of space

Of dignity, and pride of place

Bewildered by the cracking whip

Respond with vacant eyes

and half curled lip

27/12/98

 

The last one was written after we parted, there were good days and bad days but each day took me further along a new path

I AM

I live unobserved now

no judgement, no have to explain, impress

– no expectations, no redress

I live unseen now, seeking out shadows

rubbing shoulders, blurring edges with vacuums

am I?

There is no fly on the wall

no fly, in the ointment

I heal slowly

I live unanswered for now

No expectations – no rebuttal – no consultation

am I?

I live uncovered now

without the blanket of Us-ness

I live unaccounted for

without eyes to mirror – I have no reflection

Am I nullified?

Am I ghost of December past?

am I?

After all the cancelling out

the cleaning of the slate

the ‘love’ –  the hate

am I? wiped out in the cross checking?

the adding and subtracting

I am

I breathe

I put real wonky toes on hard earth

I walk, one plodding foot

in front of another

In the fleshness

the full thinkness

clumsy stumblingness

I am!

I AM!!

21/5/99

 

 

6 comments

  1. Ursula, you really express so much with your poems and they really tell a journey. Hats off to you for taking a trauma and turning it into something that brings out so much feeling, we can feel it with you.

  2. Your poetry is so beautiful, but it is really terrible that it is based on a life you had to live and pain and abuse you had to endure to get to this point in your life. Well done on making the decision to post your poems now so close to 16 days of activism against gender based violence. Have you ever thought of writing a book on what you went through

    • Thank you Dianne. I don’t think I would write any more on the subject, happily other than what I wrote at the time I have forgotten a lot, and I sort of don’t like to ‘go there’

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