trauma is a teacher

Wed, 08/01/2018 - 11:54 -- nukamax

trauma is a teacher

fired from catholic boarding school

its leather bound ruler raps your knuckles

“pay attention!” it barks

“the world will not rest for you, lazy girl!”

“the world is cruel and cold, a demon

waiting to eat you alive.

you will not survive

with your head

stuck in the



it didn’t.

she was right.

a sprint to catch up with the rest of the class,

sweat dripping from an unwashed tracksuit

laces dragging in the muddy field

trauma waits to tweet its whistle

and call out your foul plays.

“you’re behind! always behind!”

slinging dodgeballs at your

unguarded face and knees

“catch up or die,

lazy girl!”


visit friends

old high school lovers

their apartments on the edge of town,

with their partners and their cats and

a degree in their back pocket.

“they made it,” she hisses.

“and what of you?"


trauma is a teacher.

you learn its ticks and likes.

underneath the habit and shroud

it dons leather and chains,

heavy masks and latex suits,

accentuating skinny limbs

you’ll never possess again,

a golden apple on its desk

unpolished and mealy

beneath its paint.


trauma makes you judge your work,

your status,

your friendships,

your loved ones,

your peers, and

your place among them,

always in question


“what makes you think you belong with them?”


“what makes you think it won’t happen again?”


befriend potential murderers.

make sweet love to your rapist.

let your friends attack you.

let your family leave you.

they were never there

not really

not at all


if trauma is a teacher

recovery is the textbook,

worn out on the shelf, pages tattered. 

the lesson plan pulled from six editions ago,

cruel antiquated practice makes you its lab monkey,

a dog writhing on electrocuting floorboards

when the door just needs a simple push.

learned helplessness, psych 101,

the only class i didn’t need to

study hard to pass.


trauma drags you by your matted fur to some safe place,

to hide your shame and lick your wounds until they scab,

then tears them open once again

to teach you not to trust a thing,

not even your very own skin.


you survive.

you maintain.

she rings the church bells

calls you home from work

to reflect and remember,

to pray for your sins

and your future.


you stare at the books on the shelf,

lost in the library, seeking.

you need to know why your brain is on fire.

you need to know what can put it back out.

wet blankets and vodka won’t work.

carving your flesh doesn’t help

and makes bad water cooler small talk

at your office job you despise.

staring blankly at screens works for a moment,

a blissful second,

until trauma catches you being Unproductive

and breaks welts on your neck to chastise you.

“sloth is a sin,” she hisses.


you find recovery on that shelf,

but it’s far out of your price range.

you reach to put it back

leave it for the sinless

the ones who have earned it —

and before you can blink,

you’re shoving it in your backpack,

you’re sprinting from the store


trauma howls,

you have broken the laws of the universe

not to mention the barnes and noble


you begin to read again.

you remember strength in your limbs.

you remember the taste of butter.

you remember love and clean air.

you remember joy.


with every page Trauma quiets,

never silent, quite, but dulled.

somewhere behind your headphones and your focus

she shrieks and slaps her desk, stamps her booted feet,

a child in adult skin just like you.


in your tired eyes and weak moments you still see her sometimes.

she whispers all the secret thoughts of everyone who’s wronged you.

“come back to me,” she coos. “i made you stronger, i made you whole.”


trauma is a teacher

in the same way a hurricane is.

it teaches you pain and loss —

and the wellspring of humanity it beckons.

teams sweeping aside the wreckage and building upon the fresh earth.

families gathering in support of their neighbors,

searching for the missing, cooking for the hungry,

nursing each other back to health as one whole.

you learn to assemble your rescue team.

you learn red flags from abuse.

you learn to say “no” louder.

you learn what hurts and how badly.

you learn what it is to be alive.


but you must also learn

when you are done learning,

and when the bell has rung

you may excuse yourself.

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