Atrium

by Adam Pearson

For the girl who tried to kill me. 

Tree Silhouette Against Starry Night Sky --- Image by © Robert Llewellyn/Corbis

how could those gentle hands that stroked my hair
with love and tenderness as soft as down–

(–I’ll keep you safe, and love you forever,
no matter what, we will have each other–)

–have tensed themselves like snakes around my neck
to strangle me with dark intent to kill?

(–you don’t listen to me, you hear me not,
do you hear me now, now that you are caught?–)

how could those fingers that once grazed my cheek
with gentleness that promised only love–

(–I’ve never loved a single one like you,
no one but you has ever loved me true–)

–have held a sharpened knife against my throat
only a baby’s breath away from death?

(–no one will love you if you ever leave,
no one will trust you, trust no one but me–)

how could those eyes that shone with light so bright,
when we first met and joy surged up in waves–

(–these eyes see all the beauty that’s in you,
it’s all reflected back from in their blue–)

—have clouded grey when you gripped hard my hand,
and tried to pull us both before the train?

(–we can’t be happy in a world insane,
I’ll free us both from this dark place of pain–)

how could those lips that kissed my own with warmth,
and whispered soothing words of comfort, love–

(–if I have you, of nothing I’m bereft,
if I lose you then I have nothing left–)

–have tensed into a snarl that brimmed with hate,
and shrieked harsh words that cut into my core?

(–you are so broken, bad, and selfish, see:
no girl would ever love a boy like you but me–)

stop.

that word I whispered, spoke, exclaimed and yelled,
held no power to stop the hate that grew,

you were hurt so deep that it sucked you dry,
and so you wanted me to hurt like you.

(–I love you so much, can’t you see I do?
how could you hurt me, if you only knew–)

that’s why you traced a line right through my heart,
a line of trauma in my sacred core,

and sliced into my basic sense of safe,
and love and trust, to scar them evermore.

(–I don’t want to hurt you, why don’t you see?
but look at how much you, my love, hurt me–)

you saw the world as hostile to your peace,
and me as saviour from its darkened tomb,

until your borderline mind turned on me,
and tried to kill me that night in your room.

(–are these the eyes you love so much to see?
what if I cut them out, who would I be?)

they tell me I should hate and judge you too,
that only through such hate can I be free,

but I know there was no evil in you
you just wanted safety and love, like me.

(–we’re alone here, alone but together,
please don’t leave me, please don’t leave me ever–)

and yet those spectral memories haunt me still,
of when you tried to hang yourself that night

with the shirt that I made you as a gift,
the red marks on your neck, the shirt so white..

(–why did you call the police here to see?
I hate you, never asked you to save me–)

that shirt, it held the picture of a tree,
to symbolize our love growing through fate,

and the date of our anniversary,
but you turned it into a noose of hate.

(–I gave you all of me, why don’t you see?
I wanted to give you a family–)

and that night I awoke and you weren’t there,
you weren’t inside the house–you’d gone outside.

I found you in the garden with your plants,
covering yourself with dirt, buried alive.

(–if you don’t love me, I don’t want to be,
I’ll rest in peace, just my flowers and me–)

those memories still haunt me to this day,
just like the throbbing numbness that I feel,

like ghosts, they linger and won’t go away–
lies and truth blur ‘til I don’t know what’s real.

(–just trust me when I tell you how to see,
the world’s not safe, you’re only safe with me–)

the atria, the vessels, and the valves,
that once pumped love to flow so free and smooth,

now feel as numb as stone and ice to me,
and everything I feel gets dimmed to blue.

(–remember how we laughed, just you and me?
you learned you loved me on that moonlit beach–)

my friends and family told me I should leave,
but this madness became the norm for me,

I wanted to save you from hurt through love,
so I numbed pain and sacrificed my needs.

(–remember I lit three hundred sixty-
five candles for you, our annivers’ry?)

some days, I feel like I could conquer all
of the darkness and pain in all I meet,

the light of joy shines through the cracks in me,
and I can offer rays of honest peace.

(–I made you happier than anyone,
happier than anyone, you made me–)

but some nights, brutal clouds storm strong in me,
and I wonder if I should continue,

or finish what you started those three times,
and end my life as you had wanted to.

(–I don’t want to kill you, but can’t you see?
you left me there, broke my heart, and killed me–)

I lived things I accept and try to heal,
but know I’ll never be the same again,

how can I now feel safe after the steel
pressed to my throat, by my lover and friend?

(–how did this go so wrong? we meant so well,
this heaven that we made turned to a hell–)

the echoes rebound through the atrium,
the echoes of abuse, the trauma scars,

the atrium is both a mind and heart,
the past, it echoes there, throughout the dark.

(–until you die, you’ll remember my name,
until you die, you’ll never be the same).

***

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End NoteThis is the most painful and personal poem I ever wrote. Although I wrote it for the girl who tried to kill me, I hope she never reads it because I think it would be painful for her to read. I hope that people’s response to this won’t be to hate her because I don’t hate her and she doesn’t deserve that. To this day, I maintain that, at her core, she was a sweet, kind and deeply loving person who lived through some horrible things and  loved as best she knew how. Some of my happiest memories were with her, as were my darkest and most traumatic memories.

This poem was written as a gesture of healing, not of war. I hope that you won’t judge me as weak for what I went through, as a man who suffered at the hands of a woman. I hope you will see that female abuse of men is a real phenomenon, even though our culture often denies it or even ridicules the men who go through it. In the past two years, I have grown more than I ever thought possible and found a strength in me I never could have imagined before. I do not see myself as a victim, so I hope you will not see me that way. The events described in this poem are true. They happened three years ago. 

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