The Altar of Trust – OctPoWriMo, Oct. 10

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The Altar of Trust

Don’t you trust us?” you asked on the phone,

Your voice dripping with ridicule and blame.

And I, the child who learned when small

To put your emotions ahead of my own needs

In order to feel somewhat safe, said, “Yes.”

But that was a lie constructed to appease you.

It was far, far from my own truth.

Yes, there was a time when I trusted you,

When I felt I had no other choice

Because I was your child

And my survival depended upon you.

I offered up my trust on the altar of

My outstretched and upturned hands

Trembling as I stood beside the china hutch

On the cool tiles of the kitchen floor

My gaze riveted on your face and your hand.

The Whippin’ Stick was lifted up over your head

Your face was twisted with effort, rage, glee

Your eyes feverhot with revenge as the instant froze -

And I wondered, as I shook and hoped it would never resume,

What was wrong with me to deserve the descent.

And then the Whippin’ Stick whooshed down

With a cheery, tricksome whistle, and slammed into

That tremulous, helpless altar of trust

Hot stinging pain redly jolted from my palms

And into my soul as your arm lifted again – and again-

And yet again.

Each time I was required to offer up the altar

To remain still, else risk fingers or knuckles

To allow the impact, the wounds unseen

To balance my sobs, because too many or too few

Meant more blows, more rage, more glee.

And, always, beside me as the Whippin Stick

battered my palms and the altar of trust

Was the gleaming china hutch, meticulously finished by hand

And the complete set of fragile dishware

Displayed, but never used.

Another altar was the plump innocence of my cheek

My lips that loved to smile, my mouth full of words

When you deemed one “disrespectful”, with no warning at all

Hard backhand slap pressing lips into teeth,

Rocking my head, shaking my trust, saying

In the scarlet print of your hand on that altar-cheek

That I could not trust my own voice and mind.

My father, whom you included in your scornful
“Don’t you trust us?”

That same father, once held a thin dowel clenched in

His white knuckled hand. It sang a high

And sinister song as it violated

The clenched altar of my shamefully bared behind

The red welts my only reward for the sacrifice of my flesh.

Years have passed since you asked, and I lied

I’ve been a woman far longer that I was a child.

And yet, still, that father felt that he had some right

To shove his finger into my face,

Pressing my lip against a sharp tooth

As though I was his property, and not

A living being belonging only to myself.

Do I trust you?
No, I do not.

I wish that it were not so, but there it is.

You had my trust for so many years

Offered up on my flesh and in my soul

With blows and hard words

Ridicule and manipulation

You chiseled and hammered at it

Until there was nothing left to attack

And I walked away.

It’s not that I don’t understand

That far worse happened to the two of you

Or that I blame you for being so broken

That you broke a child you loved.

You knew when you struck me how being hit felt

What it was to be attacked by those you so loved

And I believe it was they you were hitting

When you pounded away at my helpless trust.

And, each time you went for stick or dowel

Screamed, “I’ll smack you into next Sunday!”

Yanked my hair or raised weapon against me

You chose revenge over love.

And that china cupboard still sits

Upon that same bit of kitchen floor

Mute witness, unscuffed and unscratched

Each dish still perfect, pristine, unchipped

Never knowing anything but the gentlest touch.

Perhaps if I was a china dish painted in birds

Or a hand- stained and varnished hutch

Treasured and awarded a place of honor

In your lives, rather than being “just a kid”

You believe owes you unending trust,

Trust you have long since beaten out of me –

Perhaps then, I could trust you.

As I am, I cannot.

~Altar de Muertos~

~Altar de Muertos~ (Photo credit: uteart)

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