Revival

“Revival” was written after my grandmother told me about going to a snake-handling church when she was younger. This was probably in the 1930s, and the church was in the Appalachian mountains. She wanted me to write her life story, but I don’t think she gets what that entails. Still, I should have done it, and should still try to do it. I loved to listen to her talk to me about her life and the hardships she had endured, and I always wished I had recorded it but I never did. She’s very old now and I know she doesn’t have much time. When she goes it will tear me apart. My mother has been dead for a very long time, and my father is probably dead (and good riddance). Anyway, this poem was published in a magazine called “Penumbra” and collected in my chapbook “Psychoentropy”. I hope you enjoy it.

Revival

They share the taste of strychnine,

liquid faith like crystal purity,

bottled in a mason jar

scented with the ghost

of last year’s peaches.

 

Dusty boots thump,

and patterned skirts swirl,

keeping time with the choir

of shivering tambourines,

as they cry with broken voices

of the rapturous divine.

 

The Reverend handles serpents,

armed with shining words of God,

and preaches fervent sermons

with the cadence of

the hissing snakes,

sliding coils through grasping fingers

scarred with memory of sin.

 

He sways,

moves with strange conviction,

and teaches salvation

to the undulating devout,

singing in blind ecstasy

in obsolete tongues.

 

They dance,

caught in serpentine embrace,

anointed by the Spirit

with sacred revelations,

as the congregation burns,

wrapped in spiraling religion.

 

~Julie Shiel

Story

She sat in her room staring at her AC/DC blacklight poster, waiting for the inevitable. Her disassociation was wearing off, letting the sheer panic seep in to her consciousness. She had been caught smoking pot in the school bathroom and her father had picked her up at school. It hadn’t seemed real, sitting in the office with the silence broken by Dawn’s crying. She had worried more about Dawn than herself, and had taken all of the blame, telling them that it was hers and asking them to let Dawn go. In reality, Dawn had come to her at lunch in the school smoking lounge and asked her to get her high. That didn’t absolve her guilt, but Dawn was far from innocent. Regan had always been her best friend’s protector though, and she so had tried her hardest to protect her even then. Her father’s appearance in the principal’s office was like one of her night terrors, her altered consciousness trying to make sense of him in this setting, where he had never been and did not belong. Her mind tried to go away to shield her self and for a little while it worked. The drive home had been silent, Regan staring out the window as she dissociated further, none of it seeming to be real. It was 1986 and she had just started 11th grade. She wasn’t sure she’d make it to the 12th.

The front door slammed, shaking the house, and he came running up the stairs. As she stood and started backing up he shoved the bedroom door open and came for her.

“I am sick of this shit! You are going to straighten up. You are going to go to school and back and that is it, IF you don’t get expelled. ” Regan had backed up against the wall as he advanced. Her father cleared her desk with one angry swipe, strewing her things across the room.

“I am tired of all the black clothes and moody lights and the crap on the walls.” Regan had her room decorated in black light posters and psycho lights above her record player. She felt a pang but knew better than to speak. “You are going to get rid of all of it. You’re a fat slob and all this shit is going to go.” His voice had been rising to where he was almost screaming. Regan had seen this before, many times. He would start off angry and work himself up to violent fury.

When she had come in, she had dropped her belt on the floor. It was her favorite and she had saved up from her job washing dishes to buy it. It was thick leather with a double row of spikes, and the front of it hooked together with a pair of working handcuffs. He picked it up off the floor and doubled it. “You’re going to get rid of this bondage crap too! You’d better not let me catch you smoking cigarettes, let alone pot!” Never mind that he had smoked pot for as long as she could remember.

He advanced on her, beating her with the belt. The metal cuffs struck her arm as she tried to block him, making it go numb. Then he threw them at her, striking her in the chest before descending upon her.

He tossed her to the bedroom floor as she screamed, hitting her with his fists. Her world became broken snapshots of pain and terror as he grabbed her by the throat. Now he was on top of her and she wasn’t sure how exactly that happened, but he was strangling her, his fingers digging into her throat as she tried desperately to pull his hands away so she could breathe, terror infusing every part of her, no longer able to scream as tears ran down her face into her sweaty hair and she couldn’t breathe, eyes wide, the face of her father huge above her as he choked the life out of her.

He released one hand from her throat, but it didn’t help. She still could not breathe and now things were going black and her struggles had lost all strength. Her hands weakly fluttered at his iron grip on her throat, fingers digging into the soft flesh of her neck. He held his fist back, about to punch her in the face before she died, his fist shaking, face red, and suddenly her bladder let go. She was sixteen and she would later be mortified, but she was losing consciousness and she had no control over it.

He released her. She rolled over, choking, gasping for air, instinctively rolling into the fetal position before he could kick her. He did kick her, but it landed on her leg instead of her stomach. She was gulping air, harsh against her bruised throat, but so sweet. Her eyes closed as she sobbed, rolled into a ball on her bedroom floor with her father standing over her. She heard him leave.

“If I don’t get out of here he’s really going to kill me,” she thought as she crawled across the floor, shaking, beaten and in fear for her life.

 

Missing t

T has been on my mind a lot. I miss her badly and wish I could talk to her. I’m also seriously pissed off at her. She was the closest person in the world to me, including family. She was my family as far as that goes, and I would have done absolutely anything to help her. From the time we met I was looking out for her, whether she knew it or not. I have no idea how many times I had to stand up for her when we were teens-20s. When I was still scrappy, I suppose. Any time she needed anything I did it for her. I’m the one she called in the middle of the night when something was bothering her. I’m the one who would drop everything and come over if she needed me to. She always had two best friends, me and the other J, but I’m the one she talked to more, saw more, and who was always there. I was the only one at her first wedding, and I did everything I could to make her second special. That’s not putting down J in any way… she lived further away and had kids to deal with. But it remains that it was me that was always there. So when she said I had never done anything for her, I was stunned. I know she’s parroting some bullshit someone must be feeding her, but she should have given it some fucking thought before she repeated that shit. Besides being a damn good friend, I got her a job when she needed it, a place to stay when she needed it, lent her money when she needed it, brought her things she needed, and on and on…. And for her to forget or to dismiss all that I’ve done for her is just appalling.
I hate what alcohol turned her into. It broke my heart. When she started putting the kids in danger, enough was enough. Driving drunk with the kids in the car, leaving them to fend for themselves, leaving them at sleazy motels while she went chasing after her ex… Just not acceptable. When she decided she was going to try to get Jason back after what he did to R, I could not be a party to that in any way.
Still, I thought eventually we would work it out. I thought she’d sober up and realize how she had been behaving. That’s what other people thought too. I was the fourth person to call about the kids. I hated to do it. I cried for two weeks before I gave in and did it. That was after talking repeatedly about it to various people who encouraged me to do so. I know it was the right thing to do but I still felt bad about it. Still, we had been friends a lifetime. I didn’t think anything could break that.
Then damn if she didn’t move in with my ex, of all people. I know she has a problem being alone and God forbid she actually has to work or something, but that was really fucking low. He let her drink so she stayed, and in doing so, made it clear that she did not think we would reconcile. I was already pissed at her, but she still threw away our friendship for a place to drink.

Then to find out that she somehow thinks her fucked up life is somehow my fault, is just too much. She’s the one that ruined her relationship with her kids when she chose her child’s molester over her child. She’s the one that ruined her relationships with her friends over drink. Then her drunken ranting on facebook about how “I’m evil” and to “give her back her daughter” like Raven was a thing I had stolen. She did apologize for that and her excuse was that she was drunk. But I am sick of being blamed.

I was so angry over this the other day I started to log on just to say “fuck you, Tara, you broke my heart”. I managed to control myself, but I tell you, it took both hands to grab hold of myself. I’m so lonely I could die sometimes, and I miss talking to my friend. So many things remind me of her. The memories of 25+ years are wrapped up with her. When she messaged me recently I laid into her. I was still furious. I am still furious. But underneath that I’m just really hurt and I miss my sister. I keep telling myself that she has shown that her friendship is no longer worth having. She has shown how easily she will turn on someone if it is to her advantage. It makes me wonder if she was always such a shitty person or if it’s just the booze. I want to believe it’s the booze, but I honestly don’t know if there is any of her left in there.
I just wish I could go back in time and stop all of this.

family

The last few weeks I’ve been recovering from surgery. It was my knee, or right below it, I suppose, so the problem has been with getting around. I’m healing well and am ahead of schedule with that. However, I get to feeling better and tell myself I’m still healing, but then I go and do something excessive anyway and re-injure myself. I’ve always struggled with this. I feel guilty if I’m not up doing things and I get irritated at my body’s limitations. Even while I sit here, I’m having sharp pains run up into my hip that I’ve been studiously trying to ignore, but they seem to be getting worse.

I have too much time to think. I think I’m the most isolated person I know. No family and no friends.. I thought my husband would be both to me.  My mother died when I was young and my father was abusive. I took care of my brother, and apparently no one noticed the horror we were living. To be fair, I never told. I had no reason to trust anyone. All that’s in the past, but I see now that I’ve been trying to make a family all my life. There have only been a handful of people I’ve become close to, so when I let someone know me like that, they become my family. That would be ok with me except that people who are not blood related can leave any time. Meanwhile, the few blood relations I do have don’t know me. Tara knew me best, and she is my family, but we haven’t spoken in years, so that’s not much good. I can’t talk to her, or anyone, about the things I’m interested in or what’s on my mind. I see things all the time, even now, and think “Oh, Tara would like that…” but I can’t get it for her or tell her about it. I’ve always been a giving person.. too much so at times.

Enough.. I’m hurting and tired. I’m going to go watch a horror flick and cuddle my cats.

Sister

I had a friend, a friend like most people never get. We met when we were fourteen, and grew up together. She had children and I got to watch them grow as their Aunt. T. knows me better than anyone ever has. She understood me completely and I understood her. We trusted each other implicitly. We were supposed to grow old together, and we did for 26 years or so.

We don’t talk now. She is full of anger and blames me for things I’m not responsible for. I blame her for the things she did. What happened is alcohol. She became an alcoholic and I watched it destroy the person I loved. T was a wonderful mother when the kids were little, but they don’t remember it. I tell them about it and they say that she’s been like she is now as long as they can remember. That breaks my heart a little.

First went her personality. She’s a mean drunk, and she lost the things that made her such a wonderful person. She lost her intelligence and her sense of humor and her compassion. She became bitter and self centered. There were several incidents I won’t go into. I lived near her and had to go over there in the middle of the night multiple times. Then she started putting the kids in danger. She didn’t do it maliciously or anything, it’s just that her drinking took priority over everything else. There was an incident I won’t go into on here, but she had to make a choice. She chose badly. She chose someone else over her child and then decided she was going to stay with him. By this time she had become a terrible friend. She would call me up, cry about the situation, then hang up without ever, not once, asking about my life. This went on for over a year, until I finally asked her why. She came back with sarcasm, so I surely wasn’t going to talk to her then. She accused me of calling social services and called me all sorts of names, but I hadn’t. I knew of several people who had though, and I was thinking of it.

When she made that decision, I had to separate myself from her. I told the kids I’d be there for them, and found out they were putting themselves in danger every day, climbing a tree to get to the roof to climb in through a window to get in the house. Finally I talked to the kid’s father. I hated to do it, because I felt like a traitor, but I knew it was the right thing too. He asked me again to call social service, and told me three others had already called but the more people that called the better. I talked to T’s other friend, who said she had already called social services. She also encouraged me to do so, and finally I did.

Meanwhile, I had broken up with my bf and was dating my soon to be husband. There were other things going on, but to try to keep this somewhat short, she moved in with my ex. Now, you just don’t do that and she knew it. She had places to stay but no one was letting her drink. He let her drink so she chose the booze over her friendship with me.

It’s been about 6 years now. Her daughter moved in with me when she graduated and lived here a year. T would go on fb drunk and ranting that I was stealing her children, etc etc. It was awful. She did apologize, and we spoke over email a bit. Her daughter ultimately decided to go home and live with her grandmother. Her kids don’t want anything to do with her because  of everything they went through, but she acts like she’s clueless and that she didn’t do anything wrong

I miss her. I feel like piece of me is missing. She was my family as well as my best and pretty much only friend. I don’t have parents so for me, introducing a new guy to her was the equivalent of meeting the parents, as strange as that may sound. I want to forgive her, but I don’t know if she will even admit to all she’s done. I think she feels like she is the wronged one in this relationship. What I did I did for the kids, but I still understand her being upset with me about it. But the things she did had no reason other than her own desires.  I’m thinking of contacting her to see if we can salvage it, and I don’t know if I should. I don’t know if she’s changed. I hope so but I do have my doubts.

Forgiveness – nsfw

I haven’t written for a few days. I was supposed to write about forgiveness, and I’ve given it some thought, but I still don’t know what to say.

I know that being angry hurts me, not the person/people I’m angry with. Normally I don’t hold onto that sort of thing for long. I’ve never been one to hold a grudge. Either we talk it out or it fades. I don’t even have anger for my father any more.

However, there is an incident, or series of incidents that I haven’t been able to let go and I’m not sure why. It’s been years now, but it still makes me mad when I think of it. I guess part of it was surprise. My aunt has always claimed to be such a religious person and even though I’ve seen and heard that she doesn’t practice what she preaches, I didn’t know she was so malicious. Her daughter has always been a cunt, if you’ll excuse the language. That’s really the only way to describe her. And then there was the other daughter, who I was once friends with. To find that she had made up this story about my husband and I and then lied to the family about what happened during their discussion didn’t really shock me at that point, just added to it. It was the other two that I cannot forgive. I wouldn’t need to forgive them if I knew I’d never see them again, but unfortunately, they are related so I will see them around my grandmother at some point. If they start pretending to my face, I will call them out on it. I will not put up with their lies. I told my uncle the whole story, the only one who bothers talking to me. Everyone else believed the lies my bitch of an aunt and cunt of a cousin were telling. My aunt sent out my response to the cunt without what she wrote to me for reference, to try to make it look as if I attacked her out of the blue. And she never bothered telling anyone that I had apologized, but kept it going while accusing me of not dropping it. If there is a God, she will have a hell of a lot to answer for.

Ah damn it. This isn’t talking about forgiveness, this is just making me angry again. Apparently I just can’t, or I don’t know how. I think it’s because the  lies they came up with were so outrageous, so incredibly far from the truth, that I was stunned. I have never spread my business across the family, and that included my grandmother. I know how they gossip. So apparently they just made up their own. Damn it. I have to stop.

I’m sorry.