MYSELF

MYSELF

You were holding something of mine,
Something in a closed, grey box,
And I couldn’t see what was inside until
I took it from you and
Laid it on the table.

The light from the window
Illuminated the box on the
Dark wood table–

I opened the lid.
I saw the child.
Burned.
A baby, as long as the inside of the box–
Crisp, dead, like petrified wood.

I didn’t want to believe.

I didn’t want to take the lid all the way off
And I didn’t want to touch the baby
And I didn’t know how to look at her.
But I didn’t want to give her away.

I handed the baby to
My father
And knew the lid needed to stay on.
He mustn’t see it–
This burned child;
He would only turn away in disgust.

I didn’t want him to be ashamed
Of me,
So I took it back.
I took her away from him
Because he really didn’t want her anyway.

I blew a small patch of skin onto her face,
And another by her ear,
Near the jawbone.
And I covered her body with a soft blanket.
A grey-blue blanket.

I picked her up
Out of the box,
Inside the blanket,
So I didn’t have to touch her burned skin
And I held her
And I knew I didn’t want you to have her, either.

I knew you wouldn’t know what to do with her.
You made sure she remained burned.
I made sure you kept her like petrified wood.

Where else could she go?
If she wasn’t burned,
If you didn’t hold her,
If the lid didn’t stay on the box,
If you didn’t keep her burned body inside the box
Where could she go?

Would it be all right if I held her?
Would the two of us have to remain alone
Forever?

What else,
My husbands,
My lovers,
What else can I give you
Besides custody of my burned self?

–Jessie Close, “MYSELF,” From Resilience:  Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness

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