Muscle Memory Never Lies
and Goddess of Self-Destruction

First published in Mental

Two more poems about mental health—one about trauma responses from domestic abuse, and the other about the intersections of body image and mental health—included the collaborative zine Mental.

Muscle Memory Never Lies

It’s so easy to forget
when you’re no longer afraid.

Out of sight, out of mind
and replaced with what everyone else
is telling me:

that everything is fine, there’s nothing
to be scared of, nothing
to remember

after all. But if I’ve forgotten the past,
then I’m doomed to repeat it, doomed
to become the thing I feared.

The person I feared.
The voice I feared shrieking through my mind
even after its echoes faded from between the walls.

The thing about fear
is that your body remembers long after
your mind forgets and

my body still remembers the shape
of fear shrinking my bones, the sound
of venom in his voice

the sting of venom poisoning my blood,
seeping from my pores until I confused it
with tears.

Now I can’t cry
without feeling it burn valleys
down my cheeks,

can’t scream
without wanting to collapse
in on myself and

lock it inside
where no one can hear
or get hurt.

I let myself be convinced
that my reality
was artificial,

but my body never released
the tension in my muscles, never
unclenched my jaw.

My teeth ground their way through my plastic retainer
and I bit down so hard while I slept
that I had to pry my jaw open with my fingers.

My overbite is proof.
My bad posture is proof.
My tendency to flinch

whenever someone speaks
without using
their indoor voice—even outdoors

—is proof.
And I’m finding it harder to forget
where my fear of the dark originated:

not from monsters under
my bed, but from the monster
in my DNA that might finally feel brave

beneath the dark of a new moon
when I can’t see myself clearly,
can only see

the color of my eyes
glowing back at me
in the mirror,

my eyes
the same brown
as his.

Goddess of Self-Destruction

My body has never been a temple
Cannot be entered at will
By anyone searching for themselves
Even if the sight of me makes them fall to their knees
Worship me as a goddess if you wish
But I am not a place to give you shelter
Am not a thing to help you find your way

Besides, lately the only one falling
Is me, more a crumbling building
With a foundation no one bothered to dig deep
Enough and pillars that have stood for far too long
With the weight on me on their shoulders
Chipping away at the stone with my fists
Every time they dared quake

What kind of goddess
causes her own self-destruction anyway?

Give me a chisel and axe
And I’ll show you how to carve
Pieces of lost bone
Into statues of imitation marble
Flecks of blood dried brown enough
To convince you they’re remnants
Of long-ago faded paint made
From berries squeezed dry

I never meant this façade of
Nothing lost
To become a place for you to find
There is none here except what I shaped
Out of the things falling out of me
To distract from the fact
That I’m being hollowed out