Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What she knows

There are things she knows that remain hidden in her body, rattling the cage she keeps them locked in, begging for a turn at the reins.  These things don’t haunt her, they merely sit in her body, bouncing around in her flesh like wandering, unnecessary organs.  As much a part of her body as her heart and lungs, the things she knows take on a life of their own: like the creatures in the nightmares of her childhood, they are begging to be tamed.  She keeps them caged, forcing them into unconscious awareness until they become indistinguishable from the flesh and blood she was born with, until they become part of the body she has always lived in, before she learned what she now knows.  With a way of being in the world that reveals her as old beyond her years, she knows that nothing is truly certain and yet she has no choice but to integrate what she knows.  The words are aching, breaking, silently before they reveal themselves as words with meanings, as words constructing lies and truth, as words making the reality she lives in. 
This is why there are no words. 

She hides the knowledge away behind the books she has ingested, behind the too big heart she has learned to hide: she knows it is easier to use her heart as a shield than it is to integrate what she knows into her body.
And yet, she knows.

There don’t have to be words, she tells herself.  She knows things like this.  She knows what to say.  She knows the rules.  She knows the ways of listening to the world and holding its stories, for this has been her job, her talent, her strength since she was old enough to listen.  She knows how to shoulder the knapsack of unwritten books handed to her by others, and she carries them until it is time.  She co-authors chapters, edits past paragraphs, witnesses writings of stories previously untold.  And yet, there are no words.  She sits holding her bleeding heart in her hand, begging a single word to come from its pulsing rhythm to give her a sign of what’s inside, and nothing comes.  Her meaning has always come from the holding and never the telling, so she knows: it’s easy to slip into being a holding vessel.  It’s why she’s a writer.  It’s why her closet holds 17 years of journals.  Even at age 8, she knew her words could only be held by the page. 
Let the feelings come, she tells herself.  That is supposed to help.  She knows how to ask the questions so women will tell their stories and purge themselves of an ounce of the poison paralyzing them.  She knows how to believe in children who leave her office with her skin in their teeth and her hair in their hands.  She knows how to love the 17-year-old who wets his bed, and the 5 year old slicing open the family cat.   She knows how to confront men so they find a moment of honesty and rare vulnerability without scaring them away.  Her heart hurts with the loving, and yet she thinks she knows better than to sit with her feelings, so she erects a wall between her heart and her self.  She knows there will be no one there to love her when the walls come down, so she knows better than to let the feelings come.  What she knows does not apply to her.  The lid is on so tight, it would take someone with just the right touch to untwist it.  She holds every drop of liquid as if it’s sacred: she knows the right vessel has not come along.

It’s the not knowing that frightens her.  This is something she knows for sure.  After squeezing these words out onto the page, which has been like trying to make orange juice from squeezing an orange rind, her heart is pounding and there’s a vague trembling in her body if she stops to listen. 
This is why there are no words.

Her heart is big enough for everyone but her.  The world stops to be heard, but never to listen.  She learned the rules of the game and is forced to play, but was never given a game piece.  There are parts of her that are as of yet untamed.  Pacing in their cages, waiting to be given a chance.
This, more than anything, is what she knows.


  1. You're right, there are no words. Because I have no words for this piece.

  2. I just read my own story... almost. And, as Jenn said, "There are no words for this piece."