I come with a trigger warning


A tap on my shoulder can take me back
to plates smashing against walls and her eyes
ringed black and blue, like an off-coloured dart board.
One touch and I am shaken, transformed
from a level-headed woman to a young girl,
small and hiding in the closet, waiting.


The blame game was one she and I often played –
her first: face and arms a colour palette
of bruises, handprints, and mild burns;
her fault, he said.
Then me: making a fuss, making him hurt her;
my fault, she said.


A voice raised in drunken exclamation or a laugh
pitched just a little too high turns sour in my ears,
transforming into ugly screams and cries – his, hers, mine.
The sounds get louder and my chest gets tighter,
my shoulders tense and my limbs get heavy
as I wait for the tears to fall and the fists to fly.


The kitchen sink and I were intimate friends, it knew me;
my hands cleaned it, my tears rolled into it, her hand pushing my head against it.
For every scrap or bump I received, he gave back to her tenfold,
and so the wheel continued to turn – her, me, her, me…
so much yelling and crying, scream at me – to go, to stay.
So I sat in my closet and waited.

Raelee Lancaster



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