layers of loss

For a woman in prison, the layers of loss over a lifetime are thick and plentiful.

layers of loss

Layers of Nature
by imageseekertoo

The stories I hear in the writing circle convince me that nearly all incarcerated women have experienced not just one, but several traumatic losses as children or teens.

These usually include: loss of a beloved family member who held their world together, or the loss of physical safety, or the loss of innocence.

Almost universally, this intensive loss remains unresolved in heart and mind, and rears its ugly head at some later date.

Drug use occurs as a way to mask the erupting feelings.  And criminal activity begins as a way to fund the drug habit, or to survive, or to keep a dysfunctional male relationship intact.

This week, we used former U.S. poet-laureate Stanley Kunitz’s The Layers as our muse. 

Kunitz wrote this poem in his ’70s as a way to make sense of a series of personal losses he had suffered in quick succession.  Here’s an excerpt:

When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses? …

Jailed writer ED utilizes Kunitz’s line (above in bold) as the jumping off point for her own story of loss.  Read on.

May my heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses,
a
nd my mind learn acceptance.
Like everyone, I have had losses in life,
the death of a brother,
six months later, my dad.
The loss of innocence from a
brutal rape at 14.
The loss of a lover, friends,
my home and property,
the loss of freedom.
How do I stand to reconcile all this loss?
I guess we just do it
by moving forward day to day.
We wake up and we say,
“today is a new beginning,
get off your ass and plunge in.”
I have a theory that says
if you try hard enough,
you will succeed.
Maybe that theory is bullshit,
I have tried for 48 years
to succeed at something,
anything of value,
and I keep coming up short.
I don’t believe it’s for
lack of trying. It seems
to be more like bad timing.
I was given up at 3 months old,
already a failure in my
biological mother’s eyes.
It’s hard to reconcile yourself
to that when you’re a child.
Hell, it’s hard as an adult,
but as a baby,
I experienced loss,
loss of a mother’s love.
Of course, I didn’t know it
at the time.
Over many years, I have reconciled
my heart to losses, great and small.
But I wonder how much more loss
I can take?
It’s more than a feast,
it’s a gluttonous attack.
I feel these losses deeply,
and have to this day,
no idea how I’ve carried on.
I guess I have fed myself on loss,
and in some way devoured the pain,
there’s a never-ending supply.
So please, let my heart be
reconciled to its feast of losses,
and let my mind be accepting
of that–always.

. . . and you?

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