My jaw has welded itself shut in an iron grip,
Teeth straining under the load as they are compressed
And ground together,
Aching joint failing to remind me to unclench.
What little sleep I have gotten has also sought to seal my mouth,
Until morning brings with it the sharp pain and popping I am now accustomed to.
Sores line my inner lip,
Pale, stinging pits reminding me how close I am teetering on the edge,
Body clinging to its composure amidst sleepless nights
And adrenaline baths.
A feeling like fire alternately surges up my sternum and over my shoulder,
The taste of stomach acid hot on my burning tongue.
I wonder how long I can keep this up
Until the shoulders , taut with paranoia and effort to keep me safe
Pull my very bones apart with aching muscles.
Perhaps I will be consumed from the inside,
Cracking open the same way my chest already feels.
What am I doing here,
Amongst the memories, the mournings, borrowed time?
I am trying desperately to save her from her certain fate
With love and worry and prayers to her God, the one I don't believe in.
I am also trying to save me, the little girl I used to be,
From the torment I know she will experience anyway,
Wishing fervently I could pull her through time and space
Into a world that isn't trying so hard to **** her for who she is,
The space she occupies unknowingly.
I'm haunted by the mouths of children, the words and hands of grown adults
Who did a thorough job of reducing her to mere mud and human filth.
That girl, young, wide-eyed, desperately lonely and confused,
Burning with self-loathing and pain no one will admit to causing,
Haunts me, climbs into bed and warms her frigid form with my body heat.
I can't save her,
The same way I can't save dying grandmothers or dead friends,
Yet my body is tormented because my mind is tormented.
I am cracking, slowly,
Pieces at a time.
But I'm not so easily bested now.
That little girl built armor and walls and weapons to guard herself,
So I down another cup of coffee,
Pour salt into the sores,
Crack my jaw,
And get back to work.
I have to save myself, too.