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Jun 2020 · 179
a key to a broken lock
bess Jun 2020
I grew up believing that making myself small
was the key to fixing my broken family.

I broke my bones and cut off my limbs
So I could squeeze inside their box.
I made myself into something I never was,
Manageable, bite-sized pieces.
I made myself easy to digest.

If I was able to be less of myself,
I would make others whole.

I believe I was the key to a mangled, unfixable lock.
And all I had were bruised knuckles
And black eyes
And a butchered body lacking love.
Jun 2020 · 169
a key to a broken lock
bess Jun 2020
I grew up believing that making myself small
was the key to fixing my broken family.

I broke my bones and cut off my limbs
So I could squeeze inside their box.
I made myself into something I never was,
Manageable, bite-sized pieces.
I made myself easy to digest.

If I was able to be less of myself,
I would make others whole.

I believe I was the key to a mangled, unfixable lock.
And all I had were bruised knuckles
And black eyes
And a butchered body lacking love.
Jun 2020 · 410
where i'm from
bess Jun 2020
I am from glowing, late night campfires, from Coppertone sunscreen and colorful thread bracelets that rested across my thin wrists.

I am from the winding pavement of Riford Road, but that home isn’t what made me. I was made by the ceaseless games of capture the flag and the smoky haze of fireworks on the 4th of July, the sleepless slumber parties and the heart shaped waffles that followed the next morning.  

I am from the beaches of Lake Michigan and the sand that sparkles like millions of jewels in the sun. With our sticky hands covered in chocolate ice cream and the melodic cadence of waves crashing into shore, erasing our names that we wrote in the sand with our chubby fingers.

I am from ultra competitive poolside games of Uno, and generations of people who either can’t say no or refuse to say yes. From Betsy and the black and white pictures that cover the walls of her home to her age-old family recipe for chocolate chip cookies. From Cullen’s bookshelf that towers over even the tallest of men, each novel packed next to each other like a can of sardines. From Jack, who’s childhood torment turned me into the person I am today, a little bit tougher and a little bit stronger.

I am from the family reunions which are less of a reunion and more of a debate, every one of us desperately trying to speak the last word. From the tough, stone cold stubbornness that each of us possess like a small voice in the back of our minds egging us on.

From mantras of “It could be worse” and the “It will always get betters.”

I am from sugary cinnamon buns on Christmas morning, muddled by the laughter of all my cousins and the cheesy carols playing over the radio.

I'm from the quaint, colorful streets of Charlevoix and the shops full of salt water taffy and their wax paper wrappers that litter the ground. A melting *** of freckled Scots and dark-haired Dutchman, all with the same wide, toothy grin. From the gooey gobs of marshmallow that stain our hands late at night, mixing with a crackling fire and waves slamming against the shore, the stars above us gleaming even brighter than the light radiating from our smiles.

From jumping into ice cold swimming pools in the middle of October, my brother by my side. With our skin freckled with goosebumps and our bones chilled to the core, we splashed and laughed until our bodies were numb and our parents forced us to get out. From the lazy summer afternoons that turned into starry nights. From jumping shoulder to shoulder into the deep rivers of Montana, our laughs suffocated by the frigid water as we ricocheted downwards.

I am from the small cardboard box sitting on the musty floor of our basement, teeming with memories captured at the other end of a  camera. Sepia pictures of my grandmother when she was no more than three years old with her white parka and oil black hair, looking into the lens like she was seeing the entire world. Photographs of my mother at the same age as me, her eyes overflowing with optimism and a smile made of gold, all too similar to my own.
a longer piece.
Jun 2020 · 233
when the smoke clears
bess Jun 2020
America has never been great.
Built on the backs of stolen people on stolen land.
We’re a melting ***, they say, a conglomeration of cultures and ethnicities,
But words mean nothing, when time and time again our neighborhoods are filled with injustice,
Our streets only know carnage.
Our protectors unleash violence upon civilians and our leaders continue to justify acts of brutality.

America is on fire
And the smoke clears and dawn breaks,
We will continue to fight for a new beginning.
i stand in solidarity. black lives matter.
bess May 2020
You never said anything
because it was him.

He was the one
all of the other girls
dreamed of.

He had the kind smile and the curly hair
and you had drank too much and you had been reckless
and you had acted like you wanted it.

"You'll ruin him,"
they said.
He was good kid.
He had a good future.
He had plans.
What about him?

What about his finger tips
that left bruises across my hipbones?
Or the way he shoved his tongue
down my throat?
What about all the other girls before me?
And the girls after?

What about me?

So you keep your mouth shut.
You listen to your friends
talk about him in passing.

And you never say anything.
Because he is him
and you are you.
bess Mar 2020
You cannot heal in the same space that broke you.
Leave behind your shattered pieces
and your lonely mind.

You are the only one
who can put yourself
back together again,
free from the confines of your pain .

So take your mix of brokenness,
and feel yourself begin to heal.
To accept.
To become whole again,
away from where you where fractured
in the first place.
Mar 2020 · 154
becoming, again
bess Mar 2020
I am becoming me again.
With every breath I take,
I feel my body expand with joy.

I am learning
to take myself
just as I am.

Just as I am.
Feb 2020 · 168
perfect places
bess Feb 2020
We spend our nights
searching for perfection.

In places, in people, in things
we can never have.

Through the cityscapes
and sunsets
and the crashing waves
and the ache
of being alone.

We chase the feelings,
lost in our memories,
hoping to find wholeness
in places and people
that don't exist.
inspired by perfect places by lorde
Feb 2020 · 333
i am whole
bess Feb 2020
I am whole.

My worth
is not constructed
from the love he gave me,
or took away.

I am whole,
based off of
what I give
to the world.

I am whole,
or without
Jan 2020 · 79
what i lost
bess Jan 2020
The dreams i had
For myself
Are so diluted,
So clouded
By the mess inside my
Own brain.

I am not happy.
I am not whole.
And I look back
At everything I lost,
Begging for another change.
For one more do-over.

Maybe if I could do it again
I would be happy.
Jan 2020 · 142
boiling water
bess Jan 2020
They say,
if you throw a frog
in boiling water
it will hop right out.

But, if you turn
up the heat
it will boil to death. 

I did not realize
that the heat
was inching
and upwards.

I was swimming
in burning water,
in blissful ignorance
of when
it would all come
crash down.

I did not know
that I was boiling.
bess Jan 2020
The universe and I
Do not get along.
We are shards of glass from the same broken mirror,
Smashed beyond repair.

I am not made for shaking grounds
And harsh winds.  
I am made for green grass
And blue skies
And sunsets that melt into watercolor paintings.
I was made soft
But the universe is unrelenting.

The earth was born in battle.
Each day she prepares for war.
Each day she starts again

I was raised by whiskey,
Memories tainted by liquor
By no fault of my own.

I’d like to think that
I do not owe the universe a thing
For the pain it has caused me.
For the sleepless nights,
For my faulty brain,
For the family turned foes.

The universe does not owe me
A thing.
It is filled with billions of faces,
Each one begging,
For solace.

The universe and I,
We are one and the same.
We are shards of glass,
From the same broken mirror.
Jan 2020 · 103
how to live
bess Jan 2020
Don’t wear shoes
Wear lots of sunscreen
Remember to take the long way home
Go down the unbeaten path
Don’t beat around the bush
Live naturally

Smile more
Apologize less
Cook dinner with your mom
And help clean up after
Cover your friends’ coffee
Pay for gas money
Ask for forgiveness, not permission
Jan 2020 · 147
when traditions fade
bess Jan 2020
It was slow at first.

“We’ll still be a
is what they told us.

And for the first
few years
we were.

Our Christmases
we’re spent together.
We watched the same movies,
followed the same traditions.

And then one Christmas,
my stocking was empty.
For years my dad had given
me the same chocolate.

It wasn’t much,
but it was reliable.

I knew, despite
the broken family tree,
and years of fighting,
and countless holes
in our living room walls,
that every Christmas morning
i’d find the same bit of chocolate
that was always there.

Did he forget?
Did he not have time?
Or was I watching everything
knew, slip through
my finger tips?

And the next year
came along.
And there was no chocolate.

We still watched the movies,
and sang the songs.
but I saw the cracks
beginning to form.

At first, it was the chocolate.
And then it was the movies,
and then it was everything.

“We’re still
a family,” they said.

But I knew the truth.
I knew we weren’t.
bess Jan 2020
I have learned to live
without you.

I'll watch  
a game of football
and say
school is fine
and talk about
the weather
and tell you
that I am doing well.

But you don’t care
and I tell you exactly
what you want to hear.

You never want to hear
about the hard things,
about the tough stuff.
You never want to hear
about the things dads
are supposed to care about.

So I keep it short
and I keep it clean
and I cut out all of the fat.

That way
you only know
the part of me
that you didn’t ruin.
bess Jan 2020
You will never see
the woman I was supposed to

You crushed her with your words
and drowned her in your alcohol.
You killed her.
You ruined her.
And she rose.
Again and
and again.

But she could have been special.
She could have been loved.
She could have been more
than the girl
who was shattered
and left ****** and
by you.

Just because I got
back up after being
pushed down
didn’t make me strong.

It made me afraid.
It made me a coward.
It made me selfish.

I am not forged from iron,
or steel.

I am not grateful for your torment.
The pain you crafted was not beautiful.
My trauma is not art.

I was a child
and I was scared.

You were my father
and you were
my worst nightmare.
Nov 2019 · 250
i learned it from my father
bess Nov 2019
My dad taught me
how to ride my bike.

And I rode
far, far away.

I peddled away from
the screaming,
away from the fists,
and the bruises,
and harsh words.

I learned from my father
that a house is not a home.

I learned from my father
that love is not
a given.

I learned from my father
that family
is not unbreakable.
Nov 2019 · 812
grief comes in waves
bess Nov 2019
Grief comes in waves,
lingering at the shore of my mind
before ebbing back out to sea.

There are hours before the tide
rises again.
and for those brief moments,
I am free.

I am free of loss.
I am free of pain.
I am free of the emptiness.

And then i hear something,
or see something,
or do something,
and the memories of you
come rushing back.
bess Sep 2019
When I was a child

I thought
all my pain
would fade away
with age.

They say,
“you once dreamed
of being where you are now.”

And I did. I prayed
for time that
would take away my hurt.
I ached for identity
in the form of adulthood.

I once dreamed
of being where I am now,
but my dreams
were nothing like
Sep 2019 · 280
i don’t yell anymore
bess Sep 2019
I’ve only yelled at you once
In the pouring rain
Under the light of the moon

I remember screaming so loud I thou
But you don’t even remember
How could you?

You were blinded by a bottle
That you cared about more than me
Sep 2019 · 933
growth is a process
bess Sep 2019
Everyone tells me
that growth is a process.

And I believe them.
I do.

But I have been waiting,
pleading with whatever god exists
to help me bloom.

I am growing.
but not upwards.
I am twisted and
wretched and ugly.

I am not growing.

I am rotting.
Sep 2019 · 132
in a full room, i ache
bess Sep 2019
How far gone
do I have to be
if laughter
makes me stomach sink?

I sit alone,
for silence.

At least then,
in quiet arms,
I find the only stillness
I can.
Sep 2019 · 291
oh the places you'll go
bess Sep 2019
I struggle to find a place.
I have no place
in a home,
or room, or

No person,
no feeling to call my own.

I am on the run
from what I need the most.
inspired by my globalization reading lol
Aug 2019 · 241
a hateful man
bess Aug 2019
My father was a hateful man.

The words he spewed
were alcohol on open wounds.

Behind his eyes
raged the fire
that burned down a home.

Night and night again
he'd say he's sorry.
And he was.

Until it happened again.

My father was a hateful man.
And that made me kind.
for all the girls with ****** dads
Aug 2019 · 1.2k
it's perfect
bess Aug 2019
It's perfect

He threw compliments at you
until they stung.

He kissed you
until there were violet bruises
blooming across your arms.

The fingers he traced
up and down your back
turned into thorns.

His words morphed into

It's perfect.
Until it's not.
Aug 2019 · 467
about my father
bess Aug 2019
Whiskey drips from his lips
like an endless stream of lies.

It's bitter, you think.
Like black coffee,
like harsh asphalt,
like the bleach you use
to clean up the mess that
isn't yours.

Are you thinking about the drink
or his lies?

But it doesn't matter;
they both leave the same taste
on your tongue.
Aug 2019 · 478
bess Aug 2019
i'm clean, i tell them
they smile
they tell me they're proud
they tell me that i'm a fighter

but when i say i'm clean
it implies that the rest of me has always been

that the girl with faded scars
and an empty heart
and a full head
was filthy
Jul 2019 · 306
tell me i'm beautiful
bess Jul 2019
I hope that when you looked at me and told me I was beautiful,

You didn't just look at my face.

I want you to look into me;

Into eyes that watch wildfires burn,

I want you to study the scars and stories that mark my skin.

At the wrinkles and creases from years of scrunched noses,

Furrowed brows,

And unceasable laughter.

But maybe all you did was look.

Look at the way my hips curve
And my hair curls,
The length of my legs,
The width of my chest.

But I hope that you know

That my body is not what makes me beautiful.
an anthem
Jul 2019 · 234
my garden
bess Jul 2019
i am a garden

but among the bubblegum peonies  
and golden lilies
are the weeds

a gloved hand yanks them from their roots
but time and time again
they grow back
they sliver through the dirt
and emerge into the sunlight

so i wait

i wait for the weeds to grow
i wait for them to overtake me
i wait for them to vanquish

and then i wait for my flowers to be planted

i am a garden
Nov 2018 · 548
bess Nov 2018
I have began to have so many good days that I forget the bad.
But when the bad days begin to ebb and flow back to shore,
I can feel the currents of a tsunami.

I stand on top of the tallest building
as I watch the wave rush in,
the force nature taking demolishing my sanctuary.
My progress.
My safety.
My recovery.
I watch as all of it fades away.

And then it recedes,
leaving a broken, ****** mess in it's wake .

It's a mess
that I will have to clean up.
Aug 2018 · 530
chasing stars
bess Aug 2018
there will be nights where you chase stars
and follow them through galaxies and supernovas
waiting for them to slow down

and on those nights you need to land
let your feet rest in the craters of the moon
and learn that you
are the sun
Aug 2018 · 233
be free
bess Aug 2018
sometimes you have to say goodbye to be completely gone
and once those words leave your mouth
you will be free
you will be free
you will be free

you will soar over mountain tops
and look down from the crest of the horizon

say goodbye
and be free
bess Aug 2018
you cannot heal in the same place you were broken
and once you leave
you will understand

understand that the broken floorboards glued your feet down
and the floral curtains bound your wrists
and the familiar hallways were just mazes
created to keep you lost

but someday you will leave
and destroy the floorboards
the floral curtains
and the hallways that kept you in

you will find peace somewhere else
maybe within the trees
or the bustle of the city

and then you will heal
Jul 2018 · 692
to the girl i used to be
bess Jul 2018
To the bright-eyed girl who didn't understand a thing
Not because she didn't care,
But because she didn't need to

Instead of perfume,
her mother covered herself in whiskey.
Instead of cologne,
her dad wore *****.

And it wasn't a tragedy,
it was simply normal.

Until she realized that ****** fists and slamming doors
had no place in a home.
And that maybe
just maybe
her house was never really a home.

Because ignorance is bliss.
And if you don't understand
that some things are right
and some are wrong
everything is still just okay

To the bright-eyed girl who didn't know
that her childhood was ripped away
until it was too late
May 2018 · 556
strong women
bess May 2018
To the women who dismantled the world
with their bare hands
just to build it up again.

May we know them.
To the Eleanor Roosevelts,
to the Marilyn Monroes.
To our mothers
and our grandmothers

May we be them.
Women who speak with fire
and revel in the flame,
who shatter the glass ceiling
and dance around the broken shards.

May we raise them.
To our sisters
and our daughters.
To the women who came before me
and all of the girls who will come after.

Here’s to strong women.
for all my ladies out there :)
Apr 2018 · 616
how to exist
bess Apr 2018
Existing in a house with an alcoholic isn't quite existing. It's tiptoeing around corners and walking on broken glass. It's waiting for the bomb to drop with the closest shelter miles out of reach.

I try to shed my skin but it sticks like glue. It covers me in shame and pain and the irreversible smell of ***** and *****.

I don't exist. I just simply am.

I am the daughter of a drunkard.

I am covered in guilt.

I am.

I mold myself to fit into a box that's half my size. I rip my own words out of my own mouth so I don't hurt the feeling of the people who have mutilated mine.  

I haven't existed yet, but someday I will.
Apr 2018 · 509
my garden
bess Apr 2018
My life has been a garden
For flowers than seeds
And more weeds that that

I grow
And I climb
And I begin to wither when the sunlight fades

You should know all of this
But maybe you don't
Maybe you were so blinded by the sun
That you forgot to water me

I pulled the weeds out myself
Thorns and burs and splinters
But I planted my own seeds

My hands may be filthy with dirt
But yours are covered in demons

And maybe that's okay
Because I will be able to wash mine off
to my father
Feb 2018 · 557
forgetting is a tragedy
bess Feb 2018
I forget about it most of the time
But then I hear a door slam
Or a glass break
And I'm thrown back into the tidal wave
To make it back to shore
Jan 2018 · 881
cleaning up broken glass
bess Jan 2018
I'm surrounded by pieces of myself
Shards of glass so sharp it hurts
The memories that you ruined
The childhood you dictated
The love that was  lost

I cannot repair what you broke
I cannot mend what is already bent out of shape
I cannot forget the memories etched on my skin

When glass breaks
It cannot be put back together
No matter the amount of glue or tape
Or how many times you've begged for my forgiveness

I take out a broom
I sweep up the pieces
I throw them away
Not for you
But for myself
i don't forgive you, but i'm learning to forgive myself
Jan 2018 · 371
eight kids and a train
bess Jan 2018
Eight of us
A train
And the blinding light of stars
For that moment
As we laid together under the sky
Shoulder against shoulder
And watched as the blinding light inched towards us
Waiting for the onrush of wind
The split second of weightlessness
And a sign that this is where we needed to be
a note to my friends
bess Jan 2018
There is nothing beautiful about wanting to die  
There is no peace
There is no calm

It is not like in the movies
Where someone comes and sweeps you off your feet
And suddenly
You're cured

Death is an unstoppable, untameable wave
It floods towards the shore and recedes back again
Ebbing gently at the back of your brain
Death is not beautiful
It is anything but
for those recovering
Jan 2018 · 1.3k
fighting the good fight
bess Jan 2018
I fight for my sisters
The ones whose own voice was ripped away

I fight for my daughters
The little girls who risk their lives for knowledge

I fight for my mothers
The women who gave up everything

I fight for my grandmothers
The ones who fought for me
Dec 2017 · 1.3k
do not apologize
bess Dec 2017
Why do you feel the need to apologize for taking up space in the world?

Stop saying you are sorry

For existing

For living

For being human
Dec 2017 · 972
bess Dec 2017
I always thought I knew what cologne smelled like.
It was harsh and made my eyes water and nose burn.
All I knew is that my dad wore it religiously.
I always thought my dad wore cologne.
I was ten years old when I learned what whiskey smelt like.

I was sixteen years old when I took my first sip of whiskey.
It was weak, mixed with diet coke, but it still left my throat burning.
I never liked the taste, but when I brought the cup to my nose and smelt the bitterness and I saw the eyes of my father, I knew that the smell was so much worse.
It was that moment when I understood why people drank to forget.

That night I closed my eyes and I saw the black label of Jack Daniels Whiskey, I saw the long brown paper bags that my dad hid in the cupboards, I saw the coke cans littered around our trash can.

I was too young to understand, but with whiskey running through my own veins I connected each individual dot like each sign a constellation.

I set the cup down and winced.
My friends laughed, of course.
They didn’t know.
They’d never even guess.
They probably thought I was a lightweight, a girl who couldn’t even handle a sip of whiskey.
I smiled, too.

I don’t think I’ll ever drink whiskey again.
Dec 2017 · 389
somedays i ache
bess Dec 2017
somedays i ache with such ferocity
i am ready to rip my skin off my bones
and scream until my lungs empty
Dec 2017 · 593
understanding alcohol
bess Dec 2017
I never understood how someone could drink

How someone could throw away their life for a single sip of whiskey

How they consumed what they knew could **** them

But then I'd lay in bed for hours on end

And those hours became days

Days became months

Months became years

A never-ending cycle of torment

And some way


I understood
Dec 2017 · 1.4k
thinking about drinking
bess Dec 2017
When my friends think about drinking they see parties, and wild nights, and crazy hangovers

And when I tell them I never plan on letting a sip of alcohol touch my lips, they're scandalized

Because they don't understand

How could they ever?

When I think of drinking, I think of my mom passed out underneath our Christmas tree

Or my dad swerving down side streets with the smell of whiskey wafting off of him like smoke from a campfire

I see my childhood that came crashing down in front of my eyes

I see something that they will never understand
Dec 2017 · 691
saving a dance for you
bess Dec 2017
We have a special dance
You ask a question
I give the answer you're waiting to hear
Like a play rehearsed again and again and again
Each line is memorized
The responses flow out of my mouth as easy as a breath of air
You ask about my day
I ask about yours
So the cycle continues
And when you step to the right, I follow your lead
Because tiptoeing around broken glass is easier than cleaning up the mess in front of us
Dec 2017 · 592
why i won't forgive
bess Dec 2017
Everyone told me to forgive and forget

But how can I forgive you for the way you altered my existence

I don't think or talk or act the way I used to because of you

So before you expect me to forgive you

Maybe you should say you're sorry
Nov 2017 · 893
tell me i'm beautiful
bess Nov 2017
I hope that when you looked at me and told me I'm beautiful

You didn't just look at my face

I hope you looked not just at me, but in me

Into my eyes which saw wildfires burn

Or the marks on my skin which tell my story

Or the wrinkles by my mouth from endless laughs and smiles

Or maybe you really did just look at me

The way my hips curve and my hair curls, the length of my legs and width of my chest

And I hope that you know

That my body is not what makes me beautiful
love yourself :-)
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