WARNING: This poem includes content that many readers may find disturbing. Highlight to read more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. Graphic depiction of psychological abuse to the extent of empathic mindrape. Also cutting someone else's (admittedly toxic) emotional ties without first asking permission. But it has a basically happy ending. If theses are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether you want to read this one.
At first she is flattered when he proposes
that they move in together so soon
after meeting, that it must be
love at first sight.
It is wonderful for a month.
Then he begins to draw her away
from her friends and family.
It's fate, he tells her,
his almond eyes intense
as he relates the legend
of the red thread.
Soon each kiss feels like
the sting of a needle, and
her throat bears the bruises
of his harsh mouth upon her.
She tries to lie to him,
but he always discovers it
and punishes her for the deception.
Before long each little fib feels like
thick yarn dragged through her cheeks.
When he speaks of the red thread now,
she can sense it digging into her,
spiraling around her collarbone
to stitch a collar into her skin.
He tells her that she is a bad girl,
that she is broken, that everything
goes in one ear and out the other.
He tells her that he can fix it, if only
she will let him connect the dots.
She can feel his attention pricking
and pulling at her, drawing her shoulders
up and back, her spine straight.
But her head is bowed.
He tells her that the tender space
between her legs belongs to him alone,
punctuating it with piercing remarks
about her thighs and ankles and shins.
After he beats her, he brings her roses,
and she feels as if she is drowning
in a sea of red petals and green thorns.
She is choking to death on the red thread.
But worst of all is when he tells her
that she is doing this all to herself,
that it is her fault if she is unhappy
instead of because he hurts her.
She imagines her own hand
holding the needle, pushing it through
the soft spongy bumps where her spine
used to be, and it is then that she
begins to want to die.
Then one day his car breaks down
in a ghetto, and while they're walking
toward a distant gas station to get help,
a black boy brushes against her
and says, "Don't cry, lady."
She feels a sharp snip of pain,
and then the red thread is unraveling
itself from her body, burning as it slides
through her cheeks chest head back legs
throat spine, out and away and gone.
For the first time in ages,
she is alone within herself,
and she stumbles a little as she
continues down the sidewalk that way.
Behind her, the man who had been
controlling her is caught like a fish on a line,
as if the red thread had snapped loose from her
and snubbed him to something else -- or someone,
she realizes as she sees the policeman approaching.
She smiles, and lifts her chin, and keeps walking.
* * *
Here are the rather disturbing pictures that go with this poem: cheeks, collarbone, back, elbows, legs, throat, spine.
The red thread is said to connect fated lovers. However, it can be overplayed or otherwise go wrong.
(These links have some ugly stuff.) When most people think of domestic violence, they think of physical abuse. However, emotional abuse is just as damaging. It has multiples types and signs. Know how to get help for abuse, or help someone else being abused.
(More awfulness in these links.) As a superpower, empathy lends itself to particularly disturbing applications of abuse such as mindrape. This essay discusses some ramifications of that.