Ode to the Ladies of the Teen Living Program
Do you know that I can see you?
No, not your hairstyle or your new sneakers.
Not your jeans or your freshly filled acrylic nails.
I see you.
I recognize the frustration and aggravation
caused by years of deprivation, so much alienation.
Always the one being turned back, shut down, and left behind.
Underneath that tough exterior and the
veneer of thinly veiled hostility I see fragility.
A brittle heart, a broken spirit, dreams crushed,
like oh so many robin‟s eggs…
I see you.
Do you realize I can see you?
Your eyes don’t lie, whether clear, sky blue or
turned earth brown, they tell it all.
Your eyes stand bare as un-curtained windows
to your soul. Ghosts of mistreatments past
flicker by the panes of your pupils as you suck your
teeth, fold your arms, roll your eyes and SIGH…
I can hear things too.
I hear the silence in the empty caves of your longing.
Places where too few kind words were spoken.
I can hear the echoing invective you could not escape.
SHUT UP! I HATE YOU! YOU’RE UGLY! LEAVE ME ALONE!
I see you.
Don’t think that I cannot see you.
Your skin comes in so many flavors; vanilla, caramel, chocolate,
espresso. Yet your stories all taste the same.
Bitter tales of trauma, terror, and woe left indelible stains upon your psyche.
I see your skin.
Untouched by thoughtful pats, no hugs or safe caresses.
Skin accustomed to bruises, welts, and tears.
I see your skin, stretched by children, pierced by jewelry, tattooed by ink.
Your skin is now an atlas, an owner‟s manual, an autobiography
Of things you dare not speak.
I watch you as you carry your babies, your burdens
your belongings in your arms until you fear
there is no room for anything else.
Holding on tighter to what you can see and letting go
of the things you cannot even imagine.
I SEE YOU
You are not invisible.
It’s not so easy being seen.
It is very difficult to be peeled back to the pulp of your need,
the core of your pain, the essence of your vulnerability.
It is grueling to see so much. So many things left undone and unattended.
It is tiresome to endlessly calculate the complex
equations of your situation and end up with no known solution.
Sometimes, I curse my eyes and I
long to be like those who live in
blissful ignorance, somehow untouched by these touching scenes.
There are times when I almost understand
their inexcusable blindness and I long to join them…
That is, until I see you again.
Tahji Mumford was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated from Massasoit Community College with an Associates of Science in Nursing. She is married with four adult children and one grandchild. Her interests are writing, cooking and the treatment of individuals with mental health disorders. “Ode to the girls of the teen living program” is her first published work.