Child Welfare

child welfare

This poem was original published on Whisper and the Roar

I am in a child welfare class in graduate school
the room is full
Class starts at 4 pm
it is dim
my classmates and I are drowsy
we all could use a snack
some caffeine
our professor puts on a film
a surprisingly graphic
about child sexual abuse
I am fine
I am fine
I am fine
I am not fine
I am rushing out of the classroom
full fight or flight
heart thudding
hands shaking
I just make it to the ladies room
the privacy of a stall
before I vomit my lunch up
in white porcelain toilet
my knees sore on the cracked
black and white checkerboard tile
I have never used the words
sexual abuse
in relationship to myself before
But my body is telling me a different narrative
as I sit on the cold bathroom floor
I have had lovers
who are sexual abuse survivors
I have always told myself
that what happened to me, was not like
what happened to them
That drifting on the ceiling doing my grocery list my head
while having sex
was normal
That my constant need for control
was normal
That my inability to let anyone touch me
when I am feeling vulnerable
was normal
That I cannot look at pictures of myself from certain parts of my childhood
without wanting to be sick
was normal
That wanting  to die for the first time when I was 12 years old
was normal
As I fight my panic in the bathroom
praying that no one else will need to use it
I am finally forced to finally admit to myself that
“Hey, maybe this is not so normal”
I am surprisingly unnerved
as though I have never seen the young woman looking back at me in the mirror
It takes me some time
to regulate my heartbeat
calm my breathing
splash cold water on my face
school my expression into something
that resembles functioning adult
before returning to class
and watching the rest of that damn film

© 2016 Revised 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All Rights Reserved


5 thoughts on “Child Welfare

  1. It’s always hard to ‘like’ writing such as this, and to comment in the right way too, but I have to comment. This touched me so much. It is moving and powerful and incredibly well written.


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