there is a knocking in my chest.
splintered heart lives in a cage
without a key, spills through
the spaces; it yearns to be free
but there is a maze inside my
head that cannot be solved
my lungs coated in clingfilm
a buzzing behind my eyes
and the candle inside me
light a match, forget I was
here, hold me while I
convulse; I am trapped
inside a body, I am
trapped inside my body
as the wheels turn,
and the lights turn off
firecrackers light inside
my chest
let me forget that I was
ever here.

archive: the fractured skeleton (an excuse for metaphor).

Part of growth, for me, is rediscovering that which I once wrote privately and feeling comfortable enough to share it with the world. This was written February 19th, 2012.

Skeleton // Backbone
My childhood was broken;
the pieces don’t fit.
Here’s the thing about
emotional abuse (my
experience with
emotional abuse) –
It isn’t easily seen.
It hides in the cracks as
they slowly expand, not
unnoticed, but unknown.
It is, but it isn’t.

Skeleton // Shard
2007/8. I was a military child,
and we had just moved
back to the United States
following a six year tour in
Italy. The culture shock was
jarring upon our return, and
is with me sometimes still.
I was fourteen. I started high
school in Key West, Florida,
a tiny island sixty miles
from Cuba. The school was
spacious and open; during
lunch I would sit in the sun,
eat my sandwich, and call
my mother. Some made fun
of me, said I should have
friends more than the
few with whom I shared
sparse smiles. My
mother made me happy;
intermittent flight is not
a breeder of easy trust.

My father lived in the pool
house, entering the house
proper only for meals and
to criticize our television
preferences. It had always
been, this sordid separation.
The gap just grew greater.

In January, my mother
visited her mother, cared
for in a nursing home and
watched over by a cousin.
Alzheimer’s. She was a
World War II veteran;
she deserves more words.
Charlsa Lee died the very
morning her daughter
flew back to us.

In the spring, my mother
had major surgery, the kind
that requires bed rest for
long, long after. My father
threatened my sister and I,
said he would take my
phone from me if the kitchen
was not kept spotless. I
didn’t care about my phone –

(July 2009.
My sister and I
were forced to visit
our father for a month.
Always ready to gnash
against the said and
unsaid, once when we
were driving home from
the grocery store, he was
angered by my sister.
“Katie, can I see your
phone?” he asked.
I handed it to him.
“You can have this back

— the threat was really
to communication with my
mother. The anger in his
voice spun me tighter
than the threat itself.

My father was newly
eligible for retirement.
We spoke of the
possibility of change.
He wanted to live in
Colorado. We did not.
Ideas like dust motes
were, then weren’t.

The dinner table grew
large, awkward, quiet,

In May (maybe), the
silence was broken.
Separation, the word
was. My mother, sister
and I would move to
tiny town Texas, back
to a home that could
not be sold four moves
ago. My father would
move to Colorado, to
a home purchased with
my mother’s inheritance.
He had worked long
enough to support us,
he said. (He was
fifty-four years old,
and we were an

Skeleton // Shift
My father took my sister
and I to TGI Fridays. He
told us that we could have
whatever we wanted;
my sister, incredulous,
pointed to the most
expensive entrée and asked,
“even that?” “Anything,”
he said. It was the end,
a concession.
I don’t remember what
we said.

July 8th was the worst
night. Our belongings
packed, we spun ourselves
away from that threadbare
life, meant to weave a new one.
The house that never sold was
the house in which my sister
had spent her first moments
of life; it was the house in which
my mother had last hugged her
father before he died.
My mother was bereft as we
battled up and away on the road,
threading through the Florida
keys. (Name alone does not a
promise, nor a key, make.)
Night fell, and our hotel
could not be made out in
the dark. I remember the
tears and the sobs and
the yelling – a moment
of utter hopelessness,
anger and loss. It is still
my worst memory.

A week later, my father would
change our bank information,
leaving us petrified in midair
for many weeks more. A
pattern emerged, and with it
a sickening feeling of worry
mulching beneath my ribcage.

(Winter 2012. Now he
sporadically replies to her
emails, unapologetic smiley
faces noting his retrieval
of money from the account.
“Good luck finding a job!” he
will interject, a cheerful
middle finger.)

A prime difficulty was
manifested in being the only
adult-like entity my mother
could turn to. I know more
about finances and fear than I
should, and still now I feel
guilty for the sparse few
times that I have asked
to know less.

Skeleton // Break
My father blames my mother,
and maybe he blames me;
he purports that we left him.
He is wrong.
You would think I would
know better (not best, never
that), having lived it, but
there will always be those
who doubt my truths. Truths
I have constructed carefully,
oh so carefully. “Prepare
to forgive him, should he
approach you,” I have been
instructed. “This doesn’t
sound unusual,” I have been
told. (No longer will I apologize
for the unoriginality of my story.)

The promise of strength
upon going through
something difficult is
bullshit. There is more
craze than cogency;
there is no clear cut
division between then
and now.

I am unconvinced
that moving on
(healing, breathing)
at all
means letting go of
that which made me.

semblance of stasis; climbing the wall.

Four years have passed, and I write an email to my father. In spite of it all, I am still on his health insurance, and it desperately needs to be renewed. My health problems are a grocery list, nothing checked off. I ask him to send me the form I need (he has been asked several times, my mother the harbinger of peace), casting the silhouette of my life against the screen: “I graduated this past summer, a year early, and am working on my master’s. I have a wonderful partner and I am happy. I hope you are doing well.”

I do not sign off with love.

It is an act of bravery years in the making. He does not respond. When the form comes in the mail (I thank myself for having a private UPS mailbox), there is no note attached, not one word for me to cling to. The return name is not his, a made up name, nonsensical. He is living with my grandfather now, who lost my grandmother of cancer just months ago. They were married for over sixty years. I did not attend the funeral; I am a thousand miles away, struggling to make rent for the parking space where our travel trailer rests.

I have written my father a handful of letters over the years, none sent. As the memories slowly shift, it becomes a sort of meditation. My words are powerful, but the ones that mean anything are not for him. I have spent the last seven years worrying that he would return, turn my life upside down again; I built walls around me with words, tense with the anxiety of it, hoping desperately for some semblance of stasis.

My life is not easy now, but I have grown as ivy does, climbing slowly the walls I once built so that one day I may see the light. My partner tells me she is proud of me, and I take a breath. I am not alone in my fear, yet this journey belongs only to me. I will paint my life with words;

I will be happy;

I will allow myself this moment of grief for a father who will not know the wonderful things I am, and (perhaps) does not deserve to.


As per usual, this semester has been a whalloping mess thus far. It was only this week that I realized three of my seven classes are graduate level. This, coupled with work and chronic pain, is less than a picnic. Two weeks ago I found myself in the emergency room, a move four years in the making. Today, I’m a sneezing, exhausted mess. Presumably I am having pretty bad allergies, but part of me just thinks my body is continuing to give up. And who could blame it?

Frustrating though life as a university student may be, I am in a pretty good place. Generally speaking I am happy, albeit constantly tired. I am proud of where I am. Perhaps not proud enough, though: I never feel that I am doing enough. Amidst the drama of everyday living and despite the constant feeling that I am only just keeping afloat, I get by. I do well, even. It still astounds me.

The act of pushing my limits is ultimately rewarding, but incredibly draining.

Everything will be okay.

getting acquainted.

Let’s get it out in the open: I am pretty fucking gay. In short, the realization surprised me vastly more than it surprised anyone else in my life, with the exception of my mother, who has since come to support me and my partner. My life is pretty wonderful. Not only am I thrilled to have Marisa in my life, but being open has allowed me true happiness for the first time in many years. Even living in Texas, I feel accepted in most situations. My university has one of the most intensive nondiscrimination policies in the country. I am studying library and information science, have several minors (Women’s Studies and English! Feminism!), and write metadata for my university’s digital library. At home, I have cats to cuddle in addition to my human. I am lucky.

Only a few years ago, I felt trapped, anxious, and awful. Since then I have blossomed into a tattooed, vegetarian, and fairly atheist queer with a penchant for swearing and occasional travel to visit family adopted through the greatness of the internet. Let’s be clear here, too. Anxiety? It can be treated. Treatment has made my life so much easier on a personal level. I have learned that being able to function well – which I have almost always done – does not necessarily equate to feeling safe or stable.

This summer, I am taking classes and working. One of my classes, Sexual Behaviors, is taught by a straight, white male. He’s a great guy, too! I enjoy his lectures. Even more so, I appreciate his tact in handling conversations regarding feminist issues, queers, and trans* individuals. I understand, I think, why his lectures focus only on straight, cisgendered men and women. Our textbook, after all, is formatted so that many issues – such as queerness – are marginalized to separate chapters. As time has passed, my frustration has increased. I am happy to learn about straight relationships. The statistics remain interesting, if rather damning. But where am I in the complicated equation society has decided I must fit into? Intersectionality is expressed in small tidbits thrown in here and there, but still rather poorly. While no lifestyle (for lack of a better word) is put down in this class, necessarily, I am still disappointed. I am angry that in a class this thoroughly informative and forward thinking, there is still little space for me in everyday discussion.

In many of my classes, the following question has been posed: “Are any of you married?” I can’t say yes, but I don’t feel that no is an appropriate answer either. I would be if I could be.

Where are the statistics about people like me? I am more than a single PowerPoint slide. I am more than a single chapter in our textbook. I want a seat at the table, not a closet to be opened later. These discussions are important. Let’s talk about ups and downs in the lives of all now. It is a bold and complicated wish to want an immediate voice for all, but I certainly do want that. Let’s have a conversation. It is okay to be wrong at first. What matters is openness and flexibility.

I had minor surgery today, and am pretty damn ready for a nap. Feel free to borrow my soapbox while I force a cat to cuddle me and nom my human’s face a bit.

If I have touched a nerve or misspoken, please bring it up in the comments. I am a privileged and fallible individual. Interested in more? I wrote a guest post for my friend Lydia of Angry Feminist Killjoy you might find enjoyable. While you’re there, check out all her posts! She’s fantastic.

fear as fuel.

Look, truth is not always pretty. Truth does not contort to an ideal, nor is it a comfortable fit. But sometimes, to accept truth is to allow for freedom.

I will not say that I am underprivileged, but I will say this: I, like many human beings, came to become in a broken family. I was scared. Anxious, and debilitatingly so. Safety, to me, came close only in perceived perfection. In distance from that world have I come to understand the emotional abuse I faced. Healing has come slowly. Therapy saved me. These days, I save myself.

Words are not easy.

The last time I spoke to my father was over a year ago. He said: “I would love to help you buy a car when you need one, if I’m not starving in the street by then.” He said it with self pity. He had turned down a job, he said. The man who broke me had the audacity to look me in the eye and pretend his future was anything but golden. I’ll buy my own damn car; thanks for everything.

I don’t feel pity for myself any longer, but I do wish for understanding. I feel guilty for writing the previous paragraph. The perception I have of my abuser is personal. I think that if you met him, you would find him charming. My memories of him are no longer close to my heart, no longer pinch at my insides, and it feels unfair to recount them. Still, the memories make me feel uncomfortable. Why should unkept promises matter any longer? Fractures characterize the skeleton of my past; I want you to understand them as we move forward.

The past does not make me sad, nor does the present. I am happy now. I have held the brokenness close, organized my truths, and let them be. We all have stories. Here is mine.

We must embrace pain and use it as fuel for our journey.
– Kenji Miyazawa

the lift.

My name is Katherine, and sometimes I play with words.

For a very long time, words have eluded me. It is as though I lost them, or they lost me. Life is busy, you know. Words take time. Words require energy, emotion. Nurture. Words have not taken well to the constant anxiety I have faced for years.

As a child, I was moved a lot (I did not move myself; the roots I wished to plant were upturned continually and not at all by any choice of my own). I hated it with a passion, did not yet understand the abusive features caught within the net of my family unit, and was generally unhappy. Then I found words. Words danced across pages and lit up unknowingly aching spaces in my heart. Sometimes I wrote words of my own. Other times I just wished.

Today, I am a college student. Many pieces of my life are broken, and some things are not meant to be mended. I am at peace with parts of my past, and continually frustrated with others, but my present is a happy one.

I have a lot to tell you. Listen closely—can you hear the quiet rushing of air, the uplift of leaves into the wind? The words are coming.