My father built me a planter made out of cedar
and I wept
an act of love that might enable me to
tend to the seeds of hope and strength within myself
This is the cycle I find myself in
flooded with passion, I give all of myself
ears filled with the stores of those who have
been broken, body, mind and spirit
I sit helpless, my only offering – presence
And then there are the things in my control:
actions taken and words said
maybe they will lighten the load
maybe they will bring some semblance of order
into this chaos
And then there are the things outside of my control:
whether or not she might go back to him,
the words spoken to her by everyone else,
the medication prescribed, the job not given, the application denied
the letter not received, the debt piling, the sickness contracted
the paranoia or the depression or the bus showing up late.
The judge makes his judgment, the lawyer doesn’t call back,
the rooms are not cleaned, the car runs out of gas, the children wet the bed,
the addiction won’t relent.

My porous boundaries are the reason I am here at all,
and they may be the reason I will someday leave.
I’ve yet to determine the balanced way of being
when your daily moments constantly intersect with
the height of another’s trauma.
One thing I have learned
is that there is an end to placing blame
It is a road with no outlet
and I refuse to stay in the same place
Another notion that I cannot escape;
evil is to remove the value of another
because you cannot bear their pain
evil is to reduce the complexities of a life
so you can develop a label to ease your own

I believe evil is a manifestation,
a sign or a symptom of an ailment
often occurring without intent
I cannot deny that this system is sick
I travel between the details and the
birds eye view because the narrative is not isolated
yet there is power in the small parts too
There is freedom found in acknowledging your
small part in the whole
Freedom when one can retain their sense of agency despite the
unabating entropy
I am not here for shortsighted satiation
nor the embalming of humanity who still have a chance to live
What must I do to keep my name from being added to the list
of those who have grown fatigued by compassion?
Where is the path that I can take
that will not perpetuate the problems?
I remove a slim root from one small container
the shape of a cube, and I
place it into the soil held together by cedar walls
I tend to it with water and wait on the sun

New Client Accepted

I start my day learning answers to questions
questions that should never have to be asked
and simultaneously are not asked enough

Have they ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a weapon?
Have they threatened to kill you or your children?
Do you think they might try to kill you?
maybe, if he’s drinking
Have they ever tried to choke you?
yes, last night
Are they violently or constantly jealous or do they control most of your daily activities?
Have they ever tried to kill themselves?
no, I don’t know
Do they follow or spy on you or leave threatening messages?

The color coded rows and
separated columns
are familiar but still bring a sense
of panic
I scour the page to try to find inconsistencies
a remaining hope that maybe what’s being reported is not true
not for the sake of my work load, not because I doubt the words of a survivor
but because I’ve grown exhausted from this truth
The truth that the same people who are saying “I love you”
are wrapping their hands around necks,
are holding onto their rage, now taken the shape of a woman,
That’s filled out her silhouette like a new identity
the truth that anger and pain are more commonplace than contemplation
Once you’ve seen the statistics reflected in bruises, you cannot escape them

New client accepted
New client entered
New client placed
New client without transportation
New client pregnant
New client needs medical attention
New client considering returning home
New client without phone
New client has court
New client needs…

Unending “new’s”, but this is not new at all
It has been happening since the beginning of time
power not felt, so power is taken
The solution cannot be bigger shelters with better services
the solution cannot be boundaries and self-advocacy
these are parts but not the whole

I struggle to balance where to place my compassion
It pours out of me and runs through me, and overflows until I am empty
I waiver between trust and love for humanity
and disgust and anger against men entirely
How to reconcile what they have done
and what has been done to them?

I fight against the natural tendency to simplify by blame
no situation is exactly the same
though there are patterns and connections
Though there are cycles and repetition
I must choose to see each person as a
person, in their individuality and unique wholeness
I pray that I do not lose the capacity to feel
even when feeling deeply takes my breath away
I pray for the ability to self-regulate, to quiet my mind,
to let go of my fear
I pray for the strength to step into these spaces
again and again and again
to ask the questions again and again and again
even when I cannot bare to know the answers
again and again and again
I hold onto hope that these inadequate actions and efforts will
somehow contribute to the end of another’s abuse
so they do not come home to pain
again and again and again
so they might begin again
I cannot be a savior, but I can be a seer

Though we may want to look away, let us instead have the
courage to keep on seeing
please choose to see, with me
It is too much to bear alone

 Inspired by my daily work in a domestic violence emergency shelter and the work of Matt Brown, She’s Not Your Rehab, View the Ted Talk Here

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please call Fairfax County’s Domestic and Sexual Violence 24-Hour Hotline at 703-360-7273 for resources and information about domestic or sexual violence. If you are outside of Fairfax County, call the national hotline at 1-800-799-7233.