This poem came out of the October 2-3, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from janetmiles and westrider. It has been sponsored by janetmiles. It follows the poems "Thunder Without Rain" and "Whatever We Feed," so you should read those first. The discussions following those poems contributed significantly to this one, so thanks also to the_vulture, jenny_evergreen, rhodielady_47, aldersprig, kelkyag, rix_scaedu, siege, and e_scapism101 for the thought-provoking conversations. This poem belongs to the series Monster House, and you can read more about that on the Serial Poetry page.
WARNING: This poem is psychological horror and it features unhealthy mental states, dysfunctional family dynamics, childhood trauma, and assorted violence. If you've been reading the series for suburban fantasy humor, this may not be to your taste. If you have issues with child abuse or disturbed children, think twice before reading it. And yet nothing is ever entirely what we think it is, looking at it from the outside ...
I'm not the kind of person that people like,
but I've found out how to deal with that.
When I was a little boy I had no armor,
nothing to protect me from the world,
from my father's quick fists
and my mother's cutting tongue.
As I grew, I learned ways
of wrapping the air around myself
to pad the blows and the bitter words
at least a bit, and not care
about anyone as much as
everyone would not care about me.
I can't quite recall when I first noticed
that the air had thickened into a cloud,
whether I had called it to me
or created it somehow;
but there it was, hovering
protectively above my head.
I felt a little tired, a little cold;
but I was always tired and cold,
so a little more was no matter.
I also felt numb,
and that was wonderful,
not to feel the bruises
on the outside or on the inside.
We grew together, my cloud and I.
I shared my dark chocolate with it;
I'd never had anyone to share with before,
only the older bullies who took what they wanted.
The cloud curled low around my shoulders,
sometimes, timid as a stray cat
that was used to getting kicked away.
There was a poem in reading class
called "Arrows" that almost made me cry,
thinking about losing my cloud.
Who else did either of us have
but each other?
People don't like clouds.
I figured that out pretty fast.
Used to be, if people didn't know me,
they were nice at least at first,
though it was never safe to rely on that.
Now they shy away from me,
but they don't make promises they can't keep
or get me into trouble with my parents.
There's a girl, though,
a blind girl with eyes so sharp
they go through me like knives.
That I still feel.
Whenever she's around,
I feel naked, too,
like she can see everything.
I've tried to scare her away,
make her afraid of us
so she'll leave us alone.
She doesn't scare easily, though,
and one day I followed her too far,
touched the first grass of her haunted lawn --
and some thing pounced on my cloud,
clawing it up and almost killing it.
We managed to escape, but still,
we're bleeding light in all the wrong places.
We're tired and cold
and not so numb anymore,
and if either of us dies, what's left for the other?
I don't want to live
like a bundle of bones and nerves
with no skin,
don't want to imagine
my cloud like a shed skin
with no bones to hold it up anymore.
We curl close in the narrow bed
and wait, like always, for the bleeding to stop.
Science teacher says broken bones knit stronger
and scars are tougher than untouched skin.
So we'll get stronger, my cloud and I. We always do.
* * *
"Arrows" was written by Shel Silverstein.