The day began with the familiar madness—the fists to flesh of self-harm.
How embarrassing, this urge to beat at myself, to hammer, to pummel my
against a wall, pushed by something small, my daughter’s refusals, my
withdrawn and walled face. This morning, after a long night, my daughter
medicine onto my chest sent me out of the room, slamming my hands
onto my head, ramming my fingers into my skin, out of earshot but for that
satisfying thunder against my skull—how it quiets the noise, soothing like a
My mother used to pull chunks of her hair out, fistfuls in her red hands. White
I too am a container that is over-full. I am a container for their wants and it is
over into the thirsty dirt. My family wants my attention as though I can make
at a glance, the medicine staining my hands pink as a lie, the medicine
spattered in fuchsia dots
across the ceiling, out of the reach of my sponge. I remember the hitting, how
it seemed to come
like a tiger from behind a tree, but the rage like white spit on freckled lips—I
know that now.
It lives with me, a sleeping cat that wakes to feed on occasion, wild with
hunger, teeth displayed.
And still, I am broken, a container holding the pent-up tears of my family and
bills like a flood
and the ancestral search for a piece of land to plant with sun-starved seeds
and my daughter’s
toddler fury and the poems festering like scratches left by dirty claws where
all I can do
is tear open a hole in my skin so that the whole vessel doesn’t explode.
Meghan Sterling lives and teaches workshops in Portland, Maine. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Rattle, The Night Heron Barks, Cider Press Review, Inflectionist Review, Westchester Review, Pine Hills Review, and others. She is Associate Poetry Editor of the Maine Review, winner of Sweet Lit's 2021 annual poetry contest, and a Hewnoaks Artist Colony Resident. Her collection These Few Seeds is out in 2021 from Terrapin Books. Read her work at meghansterling.com.
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