On Being Molested

How’s that for a title?

Over the past decade, so much of my life has been about healing. About learning how to trust after a lifetime (really, truly – a lifetime) spent in the trust abyss. I have done it for me, but even more for my daughter, who deserves a mother who can be present and in herself all the time. That’s been my wish for myself. My hope. My prayer.

I’ve decided to post some of the poems (loosely speaking) from my first book, Arms Akimbo: A Journey of Healing, over the next week or so. Writing this book was an act of self-care. Publishing it was an act of love for myself. The most amazing thing to me is that other survivors who  read it often tell me that they don’t feel alone afterwards. That’s my hope – that we know we’re not alone.

Tonight’s poem is “Kaddish.” I wrote it on the 22nd anniversary of my father’s death – in the Jewish calendar – after I stood at synagogue and intoned the mourner’s prayer (Kaddish) to honor him. The last line of each stanza is a line from the prayer.


Twenty-two years
and yet there is no resting in peace
not for you
not for me.
Yit’gadal v’yit’kadash sh’mei raba

Is it 22 years already?
Or 47?
I have not rested in peace.
Your ghost is with me
you are with me
within me.
b’al’ma di v’ra khir’utei v’yam’likh mal’khutei

Eyes in the dark
not seeing.
Haunted, haunting, ghostly
Hers? Mine? Yours?
b’chayeikhon uv’yomeikhon uv’chayei d’khol beit yis’ra’eil

Grief or relief?
What Kaddish did we say
twenty-two years ago?
Thank you God for killing him.
Thank you God for letting us live
in peace.
ba’agala uviz’man kariv v’im’ru: Amein.

But do we?
Twenty-two years ago I spoke your eulogy
lauded you
showered you with love
Talked of all you meant to me
how much we had resolved
how much love and happiness you brought to others.
Y’hei sh’mei raba m’varakh l’alam ul’al’mei al’maya

It haunts me
Daddy, you loved unconditionally
that’s what I said.
But there was a condition
wasn’t there—
a price to pay for love?
Yit’barakh v’yish’tabach v’yit’pa’ar v’yit’romam v’yit’nasei

My soul
yours too?
What price did you pay since that dark night?
Was it the price you paid for your mother’s suffering?
Is that what gnawed at your soul
destroyed you?
Why you tortured yourself every year at her yarzheit?
v’yit’hadar v’yit’aleh v’yit’halal sh’mei d’kud’sha B’rikh hu.

It did not destroy me
I am strong
I am resilient
you were not, I fear.
Your pain, your loathing
of self, of us
that night, it overcame your love
it became your love.
What snapped inside you?
Why did you commit the ultimate act of hatred
on a child?
Did you die that night?
You did for me
some part of you did.
l’eila min kol bir’khata v’shirata

We—none of us—
have ever been the same.
Forty-seven years
we have never been the same
we will never be the same.
You live inside us
the next generation
in unspeakable pain.
Surely this was not your intent
it could not have been
you loved us, did you not?
toosh’b’chatah v’nechematah, da’ameeran b’al’mah, v’eemru: Amein.

My daughter is named for you
for the best in you.
She will never know the worst.
Your ghost cannot touch her
I will not let it—you—hurt her.
Y’hei sh’lama raba min sh’maya

She will know the parts that I treasure
through me.
Through the parts of you that I choose to give her
love and warmth
the parts that touched countless others
that changed lives for the better.
But not ours.
v’chayim aleinu v’al kol yis’ra’eil v’im’ru: Amein

And ours
I admit it, and do not want to.
I scream NO
leave us alone
leave her alone
leave me in peace.
Yet I need you
yet I love you.
Oseh shalom bim’romav

The parts of you that are also me sob.
The parts of me that are also you sob.
Let’s cry together, Daddy
for all we lost that night
hu ya’aseh shalom

Let us embrace the darkness
you and I
and let it heal
instead of hurt.
Let us let in the peace.
aleinu v’al kol Yis’ra’eil

Let us both rest in peace
each in our own way.
v’im’ru Amein.

About armsakimbobook

I'm a mother, a lawyer, a feminist, a writer, a potter, and an inveterate and unapologetic New Yorker. My book, Arms Akimbo: A Journey of Healing, tells of my journey of healing over a number of years, learning to live a full life after I was molested by my father at a very young age. I live in Maynard, MA, with my wife and and our two moose-cats, Samson and Hercules. My daughter used to live with me part-time, but she's all grown up now and in her junior year of college, which I can't quite fathom, since she was born about five minutes ago...
This entry was posted in Grieving, Healing, Incest, Poems, Trauma, violation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On Being Molested

  1. Dear friend,
    I have no words to convey the love and respect I have for you, for your ability to speak these words, to give space to the horror of what was committed upon you and yet, somehow find the grace that has allowed you, and continues to allow you, to live. That allows you to make the choice of passing on only light to your own daughter. From those of us who bear witness to your pain, to your grace, and to your beauty…

    Liked by 1 person

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