battered wombs

December 29, 2012

As I read through my social media feeds on the recent events in New Delhi, India and the rape of the young woman who has become known as “Brave Heart,” I am overwhelmed with emotions that reopen old wounds. I have been looking up facts and numbers; trying to see if I can “enlighten” myself and others. Trying to find some “light” in this darkness. Only to feel less powerful.

So I turn to writing, my source of strength, to see if I can continue this life long healing process (the wound now almost thirty-years-old). I feel enough anger today to share a very personal story with you.

It took the death of a dear uncle of mine almost five years ago for me to tell my mother and the rest of my family what his brother had done to me when I was just five-years-old. My aunts asked why I didn’t say anything. I just told them that at that age you feared saying anything because somehow you actually believed you had done something wrong. That somehow, it was your fault or you asked for it.

In my head, I also feared that my family may “have the reason” for my queerness. That I was gay because this happened and so I never shared it, except behind the closed doors of therapy rooms or to close friends. I never wanted my family to feel like they had found the “cause” of my gayness. One has nothing to do with the other.

I share my story because my voice will not be silenced.

His name is Frank. I have no need to keep his name a secret, I refuse to give him any power today. When I was five he was a giant. And I feared him. Today, I stand at 5’4″ about two inches MUCH taller than him. He’s actually a pretty sad excuse of a man. Like somehow his creator ran out of everything needed to make a human and put together the scraps of hate-filled limbs and ugly together and called it to “life.” I mean really, raping a five-year-old? Any rape is horrific? But a fucking five-year-old? But you’re a sick bastard and I have no time for psychology.

No worries though. I am standing. Filled with Love and laughter and family and friendship. Fortunately, he was never able to have any offsprings. He lives in Puerto Rico now. He is the uncle of six of my cousins. Most who have kids and that is why I told them, to NOT leave your children with fuck face.

I wish I could tell you that I have healed entirely. Until I read about another woman who was raped and my anger erupts like a volcano. I have always been a patient person. I have always been forgiving. I have always tried to find peace. But for some reason this is one of those things I wish I could take into my own hands. I wish I could be in the room with Frank now. Me, him and a Louisville Slugger. Yes, there is that much anger. I’ve thought about it (I will omit the remainder of those details because my nieces and nephews read my work). Still, it would be a beautiful thing to line all these sons of bastards up and have a day.

I saw Frank at my uncle Tito’s funeral. My cousin Danny was with me and he knew the story. When Frank came out of his house and started walking towards me, my body grew strong and angry. And if it wasn’t for Danny reminding me that this wasn’t the time or the place (seeing that my uncle’s body was at the church across the street), I would’ve had my day. But I walked away; my grief and Love for my uncle Tito was stronger than my anger at that moment.

Some of us keep waiting on the law. Some of us keep praying, chanting, meditating… waiting for something to change. But fuck this man’s world filled with men who stand idle and don’t do shit about this. Since the beginning of time it has been the way to defeat us, to deflate us, to demoralize us. They whip out their hard rods and ram it inside of us, bashing up against our fragile walls, they tear down our internal structure… leaving us hollow. Empty. Confused. Guilty. Our voices silenced.

And the horrific event of the woman in New Delhi is something that happens every. fucking. day. in. every. part. of. this. fucked. up. world.

The men stand idle. And the women can’t do shit because every authority figure is male. And the men can’t go against their own, even if his dick ain’t feigning for the thrill of abuse.

And if she decides to take a stand her husband will kill her. If she decides to fight for her daughter, the governments have nothing in place to protect her. If she decides to try and make her way to a better life, six men will feel the need not only to rape her but the beat her senseless and leave her without life or Life.

For every man who rapes, let the sentence be castration -testicles and all. They value that more than they value their mother.

I want no mercy. That’s God’s job -and today, I don’t feel like God’s child.

**Brave Heart, may the Light of your Life shine on long enough so that history doesn’t repeat itself in the battered wombs of our daughters.

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reflection: year five

November 29, 2012

in a week it will be five years since my hysterectomy.

fact: i haven’t healed.

accepted truth: it will be a lifelong process.

renewed hope: i will still be a Mami.

the following is a part of a much longer monologue. i’ve learned that i can “give birth” in so many other ways. i write to heal myself and others who can connect to my story. this is my medicine. here’s to continued healing.

My Uterus used to live here.

Right around here.

The uterus is the major female reproductive organ.  The main function of the uterus is to accept a fertilized ovum which becomes implanted into the endometrium.  The fertilized ovum becomes an embryo, develops into a fetus and gestates until childbirth.

I miss my uterus.

I DO NOT miss my periods… but I do miss my uterus.

You see I had plans for it.  It was going to be the proud womb of two beautiful children.  Who already had names and would one day become artist, activists and writers.  And my womb was going to be a vehicle for change.

My girl was going to be named Sarahí Elis.

My boy, Diego Rafael.

I like strong Latino names.

They were both carried out full-term.  Fairly uncomplicated pregnancies; with the exception of morning sickness the first two months and my enormously huge breasts.  Sarahí Elis was tiny at birth.  She weighed almost 6 lbs.  But she was healthy.  And she slept soundly.  She loved to sleep on my chest.  We would fall asleep on the couch together watching Yankee games on mute.

She would be lulled by the rise and fall of my chest.  And I would sing to her, “Contigo Aprendí, a ver la luz del otro lado de la luna.  Contigo aprendí, que tu presencia no la cambio por ninguna.”  She loved when I sang to her.

Diego was strong on his way out.  The little guy was not so little.  He had a big head.  And he put me through some hours.  And when he came out, he came out roaring.  Screaming and yelling like he was mad at the world.  At home, he would only go to sleep if he was between both of his moms.

They would learn to speak Spanish first.  They would know their history and their herstory.   They would be culturally conscious humans.  My little boy was going to look just like his father (my friend Hamlet had already volunteered to help the cause) AND Diego would have my father’s heart: BIG with unconditional love pouring out of him.  My little girl was going to be JUST like me, in every single possible way.

And I was going to nurture their every minute-lasting dream of being a famous singer in the morning and changing that to a veterinarian by mid-day.

I had already seen their first Christmas.  I hoped Los Reyes were able to get them all the toys on their wish list.  I saw them open Tio David’s gift and say, “What the hell is this?”  I was their first kiss on New Year’s Day, their first hug on Valentines; they loved Easter chocolate bunnies but didn’t care much for egg hunts.  They made the BEST mother’s day cards.  They never forgot our anniversary or our birthdays.

I washed their little clothes in the gentle cycle.  I stood in awe when they grew two shoe sizes in less than 3-months.  I helped them clean their rooms, do their homework and tie their shoe laces.  We went on walks together.  We talked about everything.  We played hide-and-seek every day.

I wondered what our house would look like with their smiling faces hanging from picture frames in our living room and their report cards on the refrigerator with that oddly gigantic magnet they made for us in pre-school.  They loved when I made my famous Dominican chicken.  I saw them in their favorite torn-up sweatshirts and those tired jeans -that on their own could make it all the way home.

I told them to get off the phone ‘cause it was too late.  I told them to call their grandma every day.  I taught them about family; about keeping in touch and never forgetting to call each other.

I talked to Sarahi Elis’ teacher about her chattiness in class.  “She’s just very excited about life,” I would say in her defense.  I never got complaints about Diego; as much noise as he made on the way out, he was pretty quiet growing up.  I attended all of their activities.  Diego was into martial arts and playing the bass and Sarahi Elis was all about softball and writing poetry.

I wondered what their moods would be like… I could see them playing with each other one minute and then fighting the next.  I saw them play with our old dog and get excited about the new puppy.  I saw them with their cousins on vacations.  And listened to their countless stories about eve-ry-thing-they-did.

Diego was going to be strong …but gentle.  I was going to teach him how to be a true gentleman.  And Sarahi Elis, well… she was going to be very much like me. Stubbornness included. That is how life was going to show me what it was like to raise me.

I saw them off to their first day of school and cried with them.  I cried with them when they scraped their knees.  I cried with them when they fell off the monkey bars.  I cried with them when they lost their first tooth …when they lost their first love.

I tucked them in… snugged like little bugs in rugs. They jumped into our bed when it thundered.  We hung dream catchers on their windows to keep the nightmares away and left a night light on to keep “el cuco” out of the closet (yes, he too is gay).

I took them everywhere.  We did museums, amusement parks, beach trips, baseball games and movies.  I flew them to Dominican Republic to meet Papote.  I took them to Puerto Rico to meet abuela.  My mother was crazy about them… especially about Sarahi Elis.  And Diego was my sister’s favorite nephew.  My brothers were going to take them on the weekends to play with their kids (who am I kidding; I’d probably end up with all of them).

I saw them graduate from high school.

I helped them with their college applications and got excited with them when they were accepted to their first choice.  I balled my eyes out every time I brought them to their dorms.  We went to visit them when they studied abroad.

I knew they would grow up to want to save the world.  I saw them graduate college.  I saw them fall in love and surely one of them would make an abuela out of me.

I wanted to see my children grow up to be just like me.  I wanted them to be warriors.

…because only a warrior survives a hysterectomy at the age of 29.

On December 7th, 2007 between the hours of 8am and 3pm, Sarahí and Diego’s crib was removed.

The surgery took about seven hours.

They removed my uterus, my cervix and my ovaries.

Once the gynecologist was done… the urologist came in and reimplanted my ureters which had been damaged… he had to cut my bladder, extend it to the top part of the ureters and reconnect them.

I woke up around 4:30pm.

I remember waking up, moving my hands to touch my stomach.  And I felt the gauze pad covering my entire pelvic area.  And I asked if everything went ok and if I could see my gynecologist (who was also a friend of the family); but she had already left.

And I couldn’t see my family yet… so I was alone with an empty crib, thinking about Sarahí Elis and Diego Rafael and with a million questions for God or anyone who could answer them.

I rubbed my abdomen gently… and I talked to them as if they were there.  And I apologized,

I am sorry.  I am so sorry. 

I am sorry I didn’t have you sooner.  I am sorry I had set a date for your arrival.  I am sorry I was so selfish when I was younger and thought that waiting might have helped me provide a better life for you both.  I am sorry we never had the chance to meet, to play… to laugh.

I am sorry I won’t make it to your karate tournament or your softball game.  Sorry that I couldn’t make your recital, that I had to cancel the trip to DR, that the movie is sold out.  Sorry that your Christmas stockings won’t hang from our fireplace and that I am left with a memory that never took place.

But what I am most sorry for… is that I never got to hold you in my arms.

And still, you weigh so heavy in my heart.

The nurse walked in and saw me crying.  She asked on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 meaning no pain, 10 meaning it’s unbearable) how much pain are you in?  I looked at her and said, “100.”  She looked at me and said, “All you have to do is hit this button.  You can hit it every five minutes and it will give you a dose of morphine.  This will alleviate your pain.

I hit the button… and drifted.  Hoping I would forget everything… hoping this was all a dream.  The pain of not being able to see Sarahí Elis and Diego did not go away with Morphine.  In fact, five years later, time hasn’t healed it either… it is something that will be A PART of me and APART from me, for my lifetime.

And so all I can do now, is give birth to these words…

carmen

November 9, 2012

…y de la nada, te apareces.

like houdini, poof!

you just show up.
via email.

“hey, how you doing? how’s life? love?”

tal vez no entiendes. que esta no es la relación
que quiero contigo. pues para tener una amistad
se necesitan dos.

one should be available to the other.
at any time. no en secreto como si fuera
lo nuestro un pecado que lleve pena de muerte.

that’s what relationships are, no?
un toma y coge. a give and take.
an, i got yo’ back. estoy aquí pa’ cuando sea.

asi que, cuando quieras una amistad sincera,
show it. y no en un marrrrdito email
que luego borras para que no sepan que aun
te comunicas conmigo.

y no, esto no es poesía.
it’s a direct message to you.
yo estoy vieja ya,
to be playing hide-and-seek.

you dishonor the memory
of the relationship
y me insultas.

a tu “intento” le falta
corazón y coráje.

i just spent the weekend in nyc. i hadn’t been Home since sometime last summer. it’s been a while since i had spent time with family. and i got to do just that this weekend. i spent time with my cousins (who happen to be my brothers and sisters as well). we talked. a lot. caught up. reminisced (like we always do). laughed. a lot. and just enjoyed being in each other’s light and Love.

in conversation, we learned about certain things that are happening in our family. challenges that individuals and families are facing. among them alcoholism, depression, domestic violence and drug addiction (to name a few). i said to them that if we don’t talk about this as a family, we will continue to perpetuate the behavior. we will continue to sit around this big elephant in the room and not address the problem.

history will repeat itself in the womb of our children.

we need to talk.

we need to talk about the issues that are hard to talk about in order to grow stronger as individuals and as a family. we need to talk to each other past the point of being uncomfortable. it is in that space that we can truly evolve.

we need to talk because the silence is hurting all of us.

shadow & light

March 10, 2012

seeking clarity
i dive into the darkness
of my Self.

i find my way to the vastness
of these empty doubts.
the air is filled with worry.
i inhale deeply…
my lungs exhausted.

i breathe you in
like oxygen,
like you’re good for me.

i cannot recall a time without you
in my life. you’re like an appendage:
my arms. my legs…
but you have no function
except to make me heavy.
and sad. and disconnected.

i have to find a way out.

loneliness,
i am letting you go today…

so that i may emerge
out of this darkness.

this inner light is too bright
for you to keep dimmed in your shadow.

you must go now.

i had a meeting with a life coach last week. it was nothing like what i was expecting. but i will write about that at some other point. i want to share part of the homework i was given -or as she called it “soul work.”

the assignment was to write every day for ten minutes from the flow consciousness of little Sarahí (five-years-old to be exact). i couldn’t edit. i couldn’t go back and move anything. it was just ten minutes of non-stop writing as if little Sarahí had been given a crayon and told to go at the walls with confidence.

i’ve always been a good student. so i did my assignments. though i don’t have to submit it. this was just for me. this was tough. a lot harder than i thought. i mean, i am a writer. it’s what i do when i am not working for that job that pays the rent. so i thought this would be “simple.”

so i wrote. and i cried. and i wrote some more. and i cried. i was angry. i laughed. a lot. recalling and reliving moments that reminded me that i had a horrific and beautiful fifth year. and i laughed. and cried.

if we can look at a part of our life for ten minutes and put ourselves in that exact moment, you can savor bitter sweet events. you can smell the air of the times. hear the sounds like classics. you can see smiles. faces. clothes colors. but the only thing you can’t do is touch.

i couldn’t touch little Sarahí. that was the most difficult part of this assignment. i couldn’t hold her. i wanted to hug her. to tell her that everything would be so much different at thirty-three. that the moment was just a moment. but i couldn’t. and the truth is the moment isn’t just a moment. because little Sarahí remains a five-year-old in that time and space for an eternity.

so instead i did what i always do to heal… i wrote to her:

Dear Little Sarahí,

I am sorry that the first thing you think about in this five-year-old moment is that day. I am sorry you carry it in your backpack like it was essential for your walk. None of it was your fault. Not a single part. Let it go little Love. Set your Self free.

I wish you could see your brightness.

Your spirit shines much brighter than the darkness of that day. I wish you knew that when you walk into a room, darkness dissipates. What a beautiful brilliant child you are! Abuela always told you that your light would win the world over; she’s right. It’s your “golden ticket.”

Remember sunny days. Randall’s Island. Night pool. Handball. Softball. Best cousins ever. Church. Sleepovahs’. Central Park. Third Ave. Summers with Manny and David. Dinners with abuela. Christmas. Great Adventure. Action Park. Pigtails. Bofi. Castle Greyskull… surely these days weigh so much more than that day.

You have an amazing ability to recall so much and you will use it when you get older to heal and tell your story. But keep smiling and shining. You are so much light to the infinite power.

Love,
Big Sarahí

it is difficult to forgive a time and space you didn’t have control of. it is even more difficult when you feel at fault for that something. but to begin the healing process we must first give the event light, forgive the Self for being hard on the Self, and then let it go. often times we hold on to something so hard, we think it’s holding on to us. we think it’s holding us hostage. when the reality is, we’ve been holding it hostage.

there’s a freedom in freeing your Self from yourself.

…and so begins my process.

reflection: on anger

January 27, 2012

yesterday i posted my response to the east haven mayor bullshit here in the wonderful constitution state.

i struggled as i wrote it.

it is difficult to write from a place i don’t find myself at often: anger. i discussed it with two close friends prior to posting it because i kept saying, “i don’t know that people have seen this side of me… in fact, i don’t think close friends have seen this side of me.”

i am not an angry person. actually, whenever i get upset, one of two things happen almost instantly: i start laughing because i feel foolish or i start crying because anger doesn’t feel good at the center of my chest. but i did some self therapy yesterday. and i started to tell myself, that maybe some of the things i need to start letting go of are behaviors that i have had for the last thirty-four years. holding on to anger and not showing it is one of them.

there is nothing wrong with anger. so long at is doesn’t lead to hurting self or others. i think it’s perfectly healthy to be angry. to express a “FUCK YOU!” can feel so good or in my case, “tu maldita madre, hijo e’ puta.”  It actually feels liberating… a release of energy.

i let it go… and breathe out of it. almost instantly i feel better.

when my brothers and i were young, my oldest brother Manny was always known for being the “quiet one.” i mean, you couldn’t move this kid from his core (to this day, he is pretty much unfazed)… he has this amazing ability to just disconnect. he doesn’t even have to dust off his shoulders, ’cause the dust doesn’t even settle on him. it was something that frustrated me… i was a bit envious of his ability.

but one day, i have no idea what my two brothers decided to fight about… all i know is that Manny and David went at it like two caged animals and i witnessed the entire thing. Manny and David fought like men that day. but Manny fought like a man that was carrying his ancestors worth of anger inside of him. there was blood all over our living room. i was so scared, i called my uncle Tito Chan crying because this was not a typical fight between my brothers. that day (i think i was like ten) i remember looking at Manny’s eyes and i realized quickly that Manny had left. that something greater than Manny had shown up that day.

this is what happens when we hold on to anger. we either explode or implode. neither are healthy.

we cannot contain ANY emotion. in doing so we dishonor our human process. and the point is to go through the motions and the emotions. express what you need to, sit with it and then let it go.

do not tell people to not feel anger or to not express it. fuck!, we need more angry people. we’ve become so blah about everything. we just have to know the balance of healthy anger.

when i wrote the piece i was angry because my Latin@ community is constantly under attack. i express myself through writing. this is my outlet.

am i still angry today?

yes. because injustices are taking place and we are forced to stan idle and keep quiet. but i didn’t want to bite my tongue anymore. and i didn’t want my work to sound like pretty poetry because the situation that is happening in this country is NOT pretty.

be angry. let others be angry. cuss. spit. scream. punch a pillow.

then let it go…

but keep the fighting spirit.

i need to free my captive tongue.

let it break through the bars of my teeth
and grind out the words i’ve kept inside
for fear that i would offend someone,
i always edit my words.

see when brown and black folk
start screaming
they call us crazy. uneducated. disrespectful.
class-less…

so i swallow the spit.
creating phlegm,
my chest grows tighter
and i can’t breathe.
my bronchitis turns to pneumonia.

do not judge me
for coughing it all up.
’cause ya’ mutha’ fuckas’
do some shit like hold a public office
and tell an entire community
that the way you will heal them
for YOUR mistakes
is by having a fucking taco dinner.

you insensitive, ignorant, hijo e’ puta
you coward. you privileged… white bastard.

i dont’ want your apology.
keep your excuses
y te lo metes’ por el culo.

i want you to step down,
’cause you don’t have the balls to step up
and admit your truth.

when you think that a taco dinner and a trip to puerto rico
show diversity, YOU. ARE. A. FUCKING. RACIST.

(by the way, puerto rico was glad you left)

remember malik jones?
can i get the stats on Latinos arrested
in your community?

you are nothing
short of a cabron.

so i am left
to shove my middle finger
down my throat
and throw up everything i’ve kept inside
’cause i refuse
to keep shitting it out
into the sewers that run
through our cities and underneath us
like water under the bridge…

it’s easier to ignore what you don’t see.

i can easily see what you’ve ignored.

but you are just one of so many more.
who sit in churches . who hold office.
who run corporations and banks.
who speak out your ass…

while we bite our tongues
bleeding anger
onto our chapped lips,
we look rabid because we are
so fucking tired of your bullshit.

and what frustrates me even more
is that your brethren… your kind… your people….
they don’t even call you out on your own hatred.

1%

November 22, 2011

the toxicology report
shows your levels of “i care”
are dangerously low.

they’d inject you
with a double dose
and hook you up
to an IV bag,
but your body
temperature is so low,
it just might
freeze in your veins.

i’ve been next to corpses
that had more warmth
than you.

anger
is a disease.
it has become a
pandemic
it took over
your global body.

your vomit
contains feces.
the same shit
you swallowed
all these years
to make yourself
believe that somehow…

___________________

time of death:
0231 hours.

sentence

October 17, 2011

there was a crime
committed against you.
so horrible, its got you thinking
you are guilty.

you’ve locked yourself up
in a prison of silence.

don’t sentence yourself
to life behind fears.

i will stand here
until you realize
you are free.

and then,
…we can walk out together.

~Sarahí Yajaira, 2011