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Survivor Poetry

“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my eyes
and all is born again.” - Sylvia Plath

Will you be my friend?

There are so many reasons why you never should:

I’m sometimes sullen, often shy, acutely sensitive.

My fear erupts as anger, I find it hard to give.

I talk about myself when I’m afraid.

And often spend the day without anything to say.

But I will make you laugh

And hold you when you’re sad.

I cry a little almost every day

Because I’m more caring than strangers ever know.

And, if at times, I show my tender side

(The soft and warmer part I hide)

I wonder,

Will you be my friend?

A friend

Who far beyond the feebleness of any vow or tie

Will touch the secret place where I am really I,

To know the pain of lips that plead and eyes that weep,

Who will not run away when you find me in the street

Alone and lying mangled by my quota of defeats

But will stop and stay to tell me of another day

When I was beautiful.

Will you be my friend

There are so many reasons why you never should:

Often I’m too serious, seldom predictably the same,

Sometimes cold and distant, probably I’ll always change.

I bluster and brag, seek attention like a child,

I brood and pout, my anger can be wild. 

But I will make you laugh

And love you quite a bit

And be near when you’re afraid.

I shake a little almost every day

Because I’m more frightened than the strangers ever know

And if at times I show my trembling side

(the anxious, fearful part I hide)

I wonder,

Will you be my friend?

A friend

Who, when I fear your closeness, feels me push away

And stubbornly will stay to share what’s left on such a day,

Who, when no one knows my name or calls me on the phone,

When there’s no concern for me what I have or haven’t done

And those I’ve helped and counted on have, or so deftly, run,

Who, when there’s nothing left but me, stripped of charm and subtlety,

Will nonetheless remain.

Will you be my friend?

For no reason that I know

Except I want you so.

The Group

We are strangers,

But feelings were understood before words were spoken.

Our pasts had connected us decades ago.

Each different. Each the same. Each hidden.

You, the group, were a grave danger.

At times you were the abusers, the crowd, the humiliators…

And at times you were a greater threat: potential friend.

You could crush me.

You were the challenge, at least in part.

Trust, Fear, Secrets, Borders, Isolation.

This was the time.

Could I do it – or would I be crushed… again?

I cried inside when you talked of your past.

I cried inside of the cruelty. The lost childhoods.

I felt mountains of compassion.

I hoped you could break free of the past.

But I grew angry when things turned to me… got “too close”.

Focusing on others was easier.

I withdrew. I was quiet. Or I talked too much. I was frightened.

I struggled.

None of you quit.

And maybe because of that, I didn’t either.

We threw ice. We threw Koosh’s. We ate chocolate. We struggled.

We spoke of fear, frustration, and anger.

Weeks passed.

We wrote. We talked. We listened. We grew.

I listened to your letters, your affirmations, and your courage.

I listened to my own growing strength.

I garnered strength and support from your individually and collectively.

And I am reminded of a flock of proud soaring birds.

And I am a proud member of this flock.

I, We, are no longer alone.

As the song goes, there’s “no promise of sunshine, no slick guarantees.”

But together we have shared our past and bared our souls. We worked.

And in our own way, we have been building a growing resolve.

And that can never be taken from us.

There Is Nothing…

There is nothing so intrinsically beautiful as…

the soar of a hawk

the scurry of a mouse on the forest floor

the wag of a dog’s tail

the purple-orange of sunset

the wonder and innocence of a safe childhood…

… and the chance to reclaim a childhood lost.

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters

by Portia Nelson


I walk, down the street

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in

I am lost…. I am helpless

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it there.

I still fall in… it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.


I walk down another street.

The Mask

What is the mask you wear so well?

It is to keep you in, I hear tell.

Or is it to keep people away

At arm’s length I might say?

How did you mold the mask so clear?

Is it made of hate, anger and fear?

Or is it of sorrow and tears acquired over the years

That you hold on to it because of fears?

What will you do when it starts to crack

And you get tired of hiding and start to relax?

Will you let it crumble bit by bit

Or will you repair it chip by chip?

Can you find the strength to let it chip and fall?

It is scary to lose your mask.

If you need a helping hand, just ask.

I think you will like the new person inside.

Let yourself look at life from the outside-not the inside.

Take a look at the wonders around you

And maybe for the first time-just be you.

The Rape

By Cheryl Robinson-Reddish

I try to forget also escape,

The memories I have of the rape,

The bitter feelings that I have inside,

I cover them up, pretend, and hide.

Just as sure as a raisin is made from a grape,

And the government is full of red tape,

A woman will lose her shape,

I’ll never forger it; I’ll remember the rape

Can I forgive them for what they have done?

I suppose they were just “having fun”

I guess I can forgive. I hold no grudges.

God is the only one who judges.