Child Welfare

This poem was original published on Whisper and the Roar


I am in my child welfare class in graduate school
the room is full
class starts at 4 pm
it is dim
warm
my classmates and I are drowsy
longing for a snack
some caffeine
unexpectedly
the professor puts on a film
a surprisingly graphic film
about child sexual abuse
I am fine
I am fine
I am fine
I am not fine
I am rushing out of the classroom
heart thudding
hands shaking
I make it to the restroom
The privacy of the stall
before I vomit copiously
into the white porcelain bowl
knees sore on cracked
black and white checkerboard tile
I have never used the words
sexual abuse
in relation to myself
but my body is telling me
a different narrative
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
I told myself
that floating on the ceiling compiling my grocery list in my head
while having sex
was normal
that my constant need for control
was normal
that my inability to let anyone touch me while vulnerable
was normal
that feeling nauseous while looking at pictures of myself from elementary school
was normal
that wanting to die at 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 admit to myself
that I am feeling
anything but normal
I am surprisingly
unnerved
as though I have never seen
the young woman
looking back at me
in the mirror
it takes some time
to regulate my heartbeat
calm my breathing
splash cold water on my face
school my expression into something
cool
neutral
before returning to class
to watch the rest
of that damn film

© 2016 Revised 2017 & 2019 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All Rights Reserved

2 thoughts on “Child Welfare

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