‘Lost’, Adele Gardner

Illustration © 2020 Toeken



 [ Lost © 2020, Toeken ] In marriage I lost myself
That’s what the therapist says
Ground away so even the mirror shows only
A blurred, faded ghost
I can’t look at in the eyes
Where the hope still lives,
Glaring at me with a feral cat’s trapped, beautiful eyes
Full of longing and regret and memories
The taste of blood in the mouth
The snap of teeth and bone
The little cries, swiftly ended
With a pounce, the satisfaction of skill and daring
All trapped behind the mirror now,
Like my dreams, forbidden,
Mocking me with their refusal to die.
My husband won’t let me speak of writing
Or of my own experience of my life.
He stops me, tells me I’m boring,
That I meander. Get to the point, he says,
Then summarizes what he thinks my point was:
But it wasn’t that at all. My meaning, lost
Like a thought when a male speaker
Continues too loudly, too long,
Not letting you contribute to a conversation,
Until, when it’s finally your turn,
The thought is gone.
Perhaps that was his intention all along.
The mirror sees as I climb into the shower, slicing,
“Worthless, worthless”—trying to pare myself away
Into something that resembles
The woman he says I was,
The one he thought he wanted.
I only exist as someone to recreate
According to his ideas.
According to what annoys him about me.
In the mirror, my own mouth mocks me with bitter knowledge.
You learned this lesson before. You never learn.
I can’t look at her. Can’t stand to see
Her beautiful long curly hair
That I might have had if my mother hadn’t always chopped it off
For being too thin, too ragged, not good enough,
Telling me I was incapable of having long hair.
The mirror-me, myself, my exact opposite, still sports
That tomboy look I loved, top hats and pin-striped suits,
Or simple geek-boy gear, specs and concert T-shirts and Steve Jobs jeans,
Androgyny I loved till boyfriends called me plain
And left me for women willing to wear makeup and showcase their “assets” in public
(=Liabilities that leave me vulnerable to every ogling eye).
When I wake at night and creep to the bathroom
I close my eyes when I turn on the light:
Afraid of the dark, afraid of what I’ll see there in dark glass:
My mocking double, her sad betrayal
Accusing me with a pointed finger
That reaches out—sharp touch to the breastbone—
A stab like an adrenaline shot to the heart:
I’m alive! I’m alive! I’m alive!
The woman of my dreams now waking in my numb brain
Like a zombie, trapped in my little life
Growing tinier by the second
This box built to crush my soul


© 2020, Adele Gardner

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