Suicide Survivor Notes

my first haiku 

September 1986,





I do most of my writing with my hands folded behind my head. Staring at the ceiling, lounging on my bed. It never seemed right to put my forbidden thoughts on paper, much less that others would read them. Would want to read them. I've always thought of myself as such a useless human being that I figured people would ridicule and pity me if I asked to be taken seriously. And what about the soft touches that would read my prose? I'd never get the truth out of them! Sure, they'd say something nice and want to mean it, but secretly they'd be confused and horrified that someone as nice as they are would dare to give voice to such mean, forbidden themes. And perhaps worried about the emotional stability of anyone who would open themself up such as this. Well there's no need to worry about my emotional stability, I lost that years ago when I misplaced my mood ring. Lately though I've been reading these little Do It Yourself poetry 'zines that circulate the country...I Can't Explain, Closest Penguins, The Sweet Ride among others. I guess I've been inspired by the simple uncompromising honesty the publishers bring to their work and it makes me wonder if I could try it too. I don't know. If I can write or not. But I sure have a lot on my mind and way down deep I do think it's worth sharing. I don't know if I can write or if I will look back on this undertaking as just a lot of pretentious bullshit on my part. I don't know if I can write things to remember and think about or if my work will be seen as nothing more than the therapeutic outpourings of a troubled woman. I stole that line by the way. From the introduction to the Jean Rhys anthology. I don't know if I can write without doing that, plundering but paraphrasing the works of all the great authors I've read over the years. I have allowed books to mold me so much that I've lost track of where they end and I begin. I have no idea if this is what "plagiarism" means, and if so what I should do about it. So I just don't know. If I can write or not. But I want to real bad.All I know is you are reading this right now. Thank you. It seems like a step in the right direction.


my daddy gOt ReAl MAd when my MomMy MovED away FroM Him. sO he BusTED into hER place onE NigHt. pUt a SinGlE buLLet iNtO hIS siXSHooTeRt spun THe chAmBer ANd pLacED tHe guN AgaINsT Mama's tEmPle aND PuLLed tHE trIgGeR thREe tiMeS. cLicK.CLicK.cLiCK. HE MisseD. sO hE RapED HeR. i wAS cOnceiVEd THAT night. sHE dIDn'T KnoW aBOUt aborTioNs. i gUEsS tHat'S Why YeaRs LateR MamA wOulD cOMe HomE aLL lIQuorEd Up aNd DraG me FrOm my bED anD BEAT me WITH beLTs anD bRoOmsTIcKs. aND thAT's wHY She PuT mE In ThE hOspiTaL oNCe AnD i Had tO gO aRoUnd with a sTUPiD eYe-pATcH oN foR TWO WEEKs 'cAuSE she KickeD me iN ThE face WhILe wEARinG hER wHitE PlaSTic go-Go BoOTs. And ThaT's WHY She MaDe me COOK aND cLEan WheN aLL tHe OTheR Kids WerE Out hAviNG FuN. aND Why SHe LeT my BIg BrOTheRs Do wHATever they WAnteD To me (AnD YOu know WHAT THAT mEAnS, aND Why ShE NevER ProTECteD me FROM The BAD MEn whO WouLD ComE IntO mY room aT NigHT. lIKe The mAN From The dl sTAtioN wHO paid mE a viSIt wHIle MOm waS OuT BuyIng BoOzE AnD He rUbbEd It REAL hArD anD iT hURt SO i SqUEeZed My 1EGS toGETher tO HidE My teNdER buTToN buT hE pUSHeD ThEm aPArt aND WhisPErED "Be qUiET, you'LL EnjoY ThiS ALL lADIes Do YOUR mOMmY dOeS" anD mY LIttLE SiSTEr wAS 1AYinG nExT To me ThE whoLE TiMe THIS Was GoInG On. WHEN mOMmY CAME HomE i ToOk Her INTO hEr BEDroOm aND 1OCKeD THe DOOR anD TolD heR WhAt tHE mAn FROM The DX stATIoN hAd dONe tO me ANd She sAId "THAT soN-oF-a-BitCH" anD aLl AlOng He HAd BEEN At ThE DoOr, LIsteNIng In. mAmA YeLlED Her HEAD OFf ANd tHreW hiS asS oUT bUT tHe nEXt dAY She SAID i mADe iT aLL uP 'cAUSe HoW cOUlD mY SiStEr hAVe SLEPT tHROuGh It, aND my BroTHEr wAS iN ThE LivINg room WAtcHIng MissIOn ImpossiBlE sO hOw COme He DiDN't KNOW ABouT iT YOu LiTtLE sLUt?! fROm THEN ON sHE nEVer PROteCTed Me from aNY bAD mAn tHAt WoUlD CoMe into mY room aT niGhT. in ThiS wAY i PAID fOr My dADdY's CRimES. YOU know A WomAnS WoRk Is nEVEr DoNe. aNd THat'S whY i CrY aLMOst EvERy DaY. buT fOR most Of ThE tImE i Am o.K.


People have to put so much energy into me. That's the way I am. Marcia says you can get close to me but there always has to be a fight first.

My therapist wants me to remember the beatings, remember how mother and I related to each other immediately afterwards. I just draw a blank. I remember she'd usually end up pushing me out the door and I'd take off for a few days. But I don't remember our words or gestures or attitudes toward one another upon my return. Or even whose idea it was for me to come back or how all that would come about. So Andy wants me to work on remembering how I responded to her afterwards cause I guess I could be relating to people today like they had just got done beating me.



FOR WORDS but today 

Andy's going on and on about my fixation with the loner 

sitting on the toilet seat in the dark scarfing a bottle 

of Vicks Formula D and he concluded that going after hoods 

is my way of proving a point to Mom. "I can be drunk just 

like you, and I can hook up with tough guys just like you, but 

I can hold onto myself, I can remain my own woman, I can 

dominate the relationship, instead of turning into a sniveling 

submissive dishrag like you."

This analysis upset me. He's saying I'm still living in the 

past, still under her thumb. I was fuming when I came home 

and related the day's session to Jeff. He thought there might 

be some truth to it, since, after all, I am obsessed with my 

mother, he reminded me. I am?! News to me!!


The earliest, most frequent, most memorable.

Once a week she'd wash my hair. 

I'd stand on a chair, bent from the waist, head hanging over the 

sink in a pose of abject submission. Nice touch, that. 

The water would be steaming searing boiling unbearably hot. You 

know how kids exaggerate. 

She dug her claws into my scalp. 

It hurt. 

I kept my mouth shut and my eyes open.

I was afraid to close my eyes, afraid I'd lose what little sense of 

realness I had left. I kept my eyes open to keep my mind working.

If I closed my eyes everything would turn black and I'd disappear.

If I closed my eyes I couldn't see the stainless steel sink. 

The sink was real, so that meant I was real too. Seven years old 

and the kid's a philosopher. 

Stubbornly I let the bubbles flow and sting into my eyes. It was 

defiance, not masochism. 

That came later. 

She wouldn't let me complain, but she couldn't make me close my 


I wanted them open and burning, so I could watch my feelings go 

down the drain. 

Once I protested. 

It's too hot and your fingernails hurt I said. 

This is how we get the dirt out she answered.

How stupid of me. 

Then she'd wrap my head in a towel. Squeezing, wring, pulling, 

twisting, tearing, ripping, snarling angrily to herself with 

a vicious sense of purpose she took a metallic rat-tail wig comb 

to my foot long hair. It would fall in clumps. Once when challenged 

by an especially dauntless tangle she took the scissors and 

hacked if off. 

This is all true stuff but not so bad. You never mention the bad 

things, you just walk around in them for the rest of your life. 

I just couldn't figure it. I figured I must be evil. Figured I would 

never be forgiven, never be loved. But I might have figured 

out a solution. 

She tells a story about how one day I took from my Flintstones 

paper doll kit the tiny pale scissors with rounded edges (Why 

are the ends round Mommy? So little girls don't hurt themselves...). 

I took the Flintstones scissors and cut off my ponytail. Handed 

it to her. A love offering, then. How touching. A truce-worthy 

dare I was probably not capable of.

Because I have no recollection of this at all. But she swears it 


I figure I must not remember cutting off my ponytail because I 

don't want to remember what came afterwards.


Now my favorite father has kind blue eyes that twinkle like they should. Ever affable, my dad wears polyester suits and sells clean cool Chrysler Plymouths. Always has and always will. That's fine. 

I was just a kid when he adopted me. I was still a kid when he abandoned me. I write him letters but he doesn't write back. That's fine too. Because he's still my dad. And everything that implies, right? That's what "adopted" means. He's my best and most true dad and that's why every few years I drop in for a visit. We visit in the same office that we visited in when I was a little kid. He sits, sprawled in the old squeaky chair behind the same plastic name plate atop the worn leather blotter that rests on the old metal desk. He fields the usual phone interruptions with the usual brisk jocularity. A jocularity as familiar and oddly comforting to me as the fake brick wall that holds the dirty beige telephone with the row of blinking yellow squares across the bottom. The same row of lights that has never gone two minutes without disrupting a single visit in this, my dad's private office. Little plexiglass cubes flashing secret dollar signs only he can see. I stare at the phone, transfixed by its power. Flooded with wordless sorrow, an insane jealousy at its shrill demanding, endless winking triumph. Relentless. It will not be denied. My rival, my soul-mate, this dirty beige telephone. Between calls he tells me I'm beautiful. 

The way I choose to dress isn't his "bag," but it looks like I'm trying to take care of myself, and that's what counts. He calls me a princess and says I'm beautiful. I want to tell him something but I don't know what. I tell him I can't make sense of the instrument panel on my new Chevette. That tricky little panel, he says, is my car's base of operations. As such, it is imperative that I, as commanding officer of the car, comprehend what it wishes to communicate to me. Those gauges and indicator lights grouped conveniently in the instrument cluster are designed to tell me at a glance all the important details about the performance of my vehicle. Lights, turn indicator, odometer, speedometer, fuel gauge, rear window defogger, vent-heat-defroster system ... it's all spelled out for your kitten, plain as the nose on my face.... Here, let me draw you a diagram. 

And then car-talk begins to roll. We are drowning in an ocean of fuels, fluids, coolants, lubricants, methanol, ethanol, cosolvents, octane (Go with the highest grade available, screw the price). Next comes the lesson on jumper cables and cold starts, plastic coated flip charts of a maintenance free Delco battery called Freedom. (The Delco Freedom Bat-tree, got that Princess? Once again it may cost you, but it's worth every cent.) He shows me pictures of tires — whitesalls, sidewalls, bias-belted vs. steel-belted radials. (Never, but NEVER combine the two. Lose control and end up in a ditch, every time.) Tread, traction, bumps, bulges and splits. The Spare. We watch a short filmstrip showing the mounting configuration, tire inspection, proper inflation, wheel rotation. I sit politely watching the screen, although I've already seen the film at least a half a dozen times. He cautions me to be wary of mechanics who will take a woman to the cleaners every time, get all the warranties in writing, and have the seat belts removed from the car. (Unless you want to get trapped inside and burn up. Happens every day Kitten, happened to a couple of my buddies.) Keep an Emergency Road Kit in the Glove Box, don't forget the flashlight. (How they ever came up with the name "Glove Box" beats the hell out of me. Can you name one person who keeps their gloves in the glove compartment?) 

Chuckling ruefully he reaches into a desk drawer and hands me a jug of Preservatone Road Oil Remover. But to tell the truth, it's really a multipurpose polish and cleaner, he confides. Use it once a month to prevent corrosion and rust rot, to remove tar, and to maintain the gloss on the exterior paint finish. 

Did you say something, Dad? Paint finish. Finish. Finished. Well that's fine. Thirty minutes of car-man-talk and now he's guiding me to the exit and I haven't a clear thought in my head. Cartalk. Something to say. Fatherly advice. It's all right. I give him a bear hug. He turns, reaches into his pocket, whips out a piece of paper and crumples it into my palm. Too shy to look at it now, my heart races in wild anticipation. At last my favorite father with the twinkling blue eyes are looking right into mine, fine as they should. "Robin," he says, "I want you to stay out of trouble," adding pointedly, "you know what I mean, kiddo." I nod my head, wondering what he means. But it's okay. That's what I tell myself minutes later as I reboard the airline. He loves me, sure he's a little nuts but not as much as the rest of them. Besides he loves me and is showing it the best way he can. It's okay, after all he did adopt me, didn't he, and so what if he never writes back.... It's then I remember the note my sweaty hand still clutches. I open it, see a wrinkled bill. Twenty bucks. That's fine. With it I buy a bottle of revenge in the big green bottle; his brand. Of course it tastes awful, but tonight I'm a sentimental fool. I sit up til sunrise, in the dark, sipping Cutty Sark, with a twist of bitters. You know what I mean, kiddo. I stay up til the break of day, drinking to my dad. I feel fine.



Dropped by the Seven Eleven for a Coke today. Said they didn't have any. Right. No coke, no diet coke, no caffeine free coke, no caffeine free diet coke. Right. Must be hiding it. Don't ask me what, but something's going on here. A grocery store that doesn't carry Coca Cola products? They must think I'm stupid. So I shot the place up. Blew away the store. Made them get down on their knees and sing together "I'd like to teach the world to die in perfect harmony." Then I shot each one in the back of the neck, gangland style. Twelve of them. All bitches. Two were nuns. Or dressed up to look like nuns, ha ha. I don't like it when people play tricks on me.

























rick. he killed people, raped 

stabbed, tore apart women,

    lots of stuff to me when I was

    little, robbed houses, sodomized

    little boys, held up 

    banks and post offices — the usual.

    but he always used his turn signal

and would freak out if you 

failed to do the same. 

not using your turn signal 


do you think it's FOR you stupid

fuck? poor rick. surrounded by stupid

    fucks. someday he'll teach us 

    a lesson.


As Vicki would say, I was IN IT last night. And I stayed with friends the whole time, knowing I was IN IT. I tried to pretend I was okay, but that never works with Marcia. She sees things and tries to help you out. Nothing so amazingly sweet has ever happened like this before, and I've been going IN IT for a long time. I'm going to write the whole thing down.

First of all I must admit, I went in it because I got high. I don't usually do this, much less publicly since I can't come out of it once it starts — I have to let it run its course. You know how it is. You've smoked pot ... it tends to amplify your inner process in a real stupid way. That's why I usually steer clear of substances known to trigger my private shit. It's intense. Last night I forgot this because I was feeling my oats. Just goofing off, everyone's loaded, free, secure, going with the flow, fitting in, getting loose with my new friends because funazapoppin' and we're so goddamn young. I took a couple hits off a bowl and settled back to watch Virgin Witch on the VCR. And I was IN IT — just like that. Flip a switch and I'm terrified. I thought my friends were being mean to each other and deliberately ignoring me. That's because they're just warming up for the kill. Any second now and they'll be on me like a wolf-pack. It's happened before with "friends." I know the score. 

A lamp fell to the floor and I wondered if I was next. When Marcia picked up a meat cleaver I thought I had ten seconds to live. She used the cleaver to quarter a kiwi and I wondered if I was next. The numbness crept in. Spooky-watchful, sitting perfectly still, my eyes scanning the place for possible escape routes. They were all giggly drunk and acting like everything was okay so I knew it wasn't just like the other times and I'm not about to hang around waiting for the blood to flow. Get out or get hurt, fight or flight, say goodnight Gracie. 

I have to slip out the door without arousing their suspicion. Just be aloof and calm and bide my time before they realize I know what they're up to. Because then the game's over. Once I let on how scared I am they'll make a kickball out of me and have themselves a field day oh yes. Hold me down and take turns punching me, and all just for being scared. They'll make it hurt too, make me pay for revealing their intrinsic wickedness, their craziness, their bad intentions. No, I'm the crazy one, thinking this way. I'm IN IT all right, so why don't I go home, where I can me in it alone without needing to jolt myself back to the present? My head hurts. I think I'm thinking too much, why do I have to be so screwy? Aren't these people my friends? I'm sitting here amidst wine-soaked women -- laughing and playfully involved with each other. Swaying wiggling jiggling girlishly good and here I sit like a total fucking psycho asshole thinking they hate me. No one wants to hurt me — that's behind me now. These are my friends aren't they? 

And I was IN IT again, remembering how SHE would act before erupting. Animated. Bigger than life. Sillyjokingaffectionate. Flamboyant flashy all candyass and kissyface. Funzapoppin'. That's what she'd say. Funzapoppin' kids. Let 'er rip. And she'd be on me. Something funny would happen in her head and she'd be instantly insane. You'd see it first in her eyes which would go all red and small and menacing. Devil eyes the neighbors called them. Sometimes she'd just have those eyes and nothing would happen and I'd think oh it's just my imagination, what a bad girl I must be to think such things of my mother. But in another drink or two she'd be chasing me around the yard brandishing the hedge clippers and shouting gleefully the order in which she'd dismember my body parts if she ever gets ahold of me. 

Now wait. Did that REALLY happen? Nowreally. Robin, think. Did that really happen or did you see it on MTV? This is my mother's voice. Right inside my head, right inside Marcia's kitchen. This is known as Denial and you go back and forth in it. I should go home and sit this out. Must be making a hell of an impression, some guest, har har, but I want to stay I want to stay. And no one's yelling at me or anything so maybe I will. Besides I'm afraid to go home and fight with my mother inside my head all night. I'm so sick of it. I don't even know if she did that exact scenario or not. It's hard to recall these events it really is. Maybe they were scissors instead of hedge clippers, and maybe she was after not me, but my brother. It's hard to remember it really is, cause at the time it's occurring you go somewhere else or pretend it's just a movie. 

You just fall apart, as half of you is negating the experience while the other half is absorbing it and your mind crumbles. You even forget your name, it's so bizarre you blank out at the time and it doesn't register til years later. And then all of a sudden it comes back and hits me like this and I don't even remember if it happened like this or what. But I do know she did a lot of things just like this. Violence in our house was a staple, like pepper in the kitchen. And how would she act before a vicious attack? Just like my friends here, that's how. Savor that. Oh I was IN IT, my pretty face had gone to hell and I was in it. Strung up, hypervigilant, scared of everything, especially myself and I started whimpsighing because my friends were all around me but I was alone and going insane. 

Sensing my distress Marcia began talking to me. Trying to engage me, asking how I was doing and stuff. I knew it was hopeless, ex- plaining all this, she'd think I was nuts, take back my necklace and make me go home. But no, she understood very well and we discussed it and then I understood it better myself and got it under control. Just barely, but better than before. We talked about Vietnam Vets standing aloft their suburban roof- tops shooting down phantom Cong. We spoke of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and reliving it years after the fact. And if there's no escape you must conform to your environment, no matter how perverse or else go stark raving mad. You don't know who's nuts, you or them you don't allow yourself to even ponder this really, because there's no way out — you're a kid so you're fucked. Anyway you're too caught up in daily survival to put your energies into much else. It's constant mindfucking and it does violence to your head, halfway ir- revocable. It scrambles your brains to be molded into something so contrary to your nature. Eventually you give in and go insane, or fight back and go insane. 

And that's what we're doing in Marcia's kitchen last night. Discussing my delusions as if they were innocent but perplexing, little knick-knacks sitting on the table in front of us. Strange as hell, but she made it seem like an ordinary every day occurrence which is just what it is. She could see that and was letting me be open with someone about it for once and it was amazing. I've put a lot of time into trying to sort these things out. It's like an old shrink of mine used to say, it's like untangling a plate of spaghetti strand by strand (he was Italian). All of those years were spent in isolation, because people don't understand; you can't expect them to, it's unrealistic to expect them to understand. But that's changing now, how much it's changing was brought home to me last night. People will listen and try to understand, all I have to do is tell them what's going on. But I thought she would be afraid of me. No, she said. The difference between me and my family is that their lunacy is real and mine is ersatz. They will be like that the rest of their lives, they'll never change; but I will. I am. She made me feel it was okay to get stuck in the past and my weird behavior was weird, but that's all right she said it was adaptive. That's how I handled it back then in order to survive, and when I get scared again I do it again. 

And that I'll probably do it for the rest of my life. It's nothing to be ashamed of, it's ridiculous to feel ashamed, it's not my fault. It's just a matter of learning to turn it on and off so that it doesn't happen automatically and throw me into a panic. And to be upfront about it. I like that part the best. To be upfront about it. She said that she would never abandon me no matter how fucked up or incapacitated I was. And whenever her behavior frightens me I can talk to her about that too. All this and more she said last night, drunk and slightly lurching from side to side, slurring occasionally, but her authority came through, soft but penetrating. And she's eight years younger than me — she's a kid. It was too much. 

She looked so beautiful it was all I could do to sit silently pondering her when she said the most unbelievable thing of all. 

"Michael," she said to her boyfriend, "Robin is a little scared and disoriented tonight and it would make her feel better if we could reassure her every now and then that everything's all right." 

He said that would be just fine. And it was. 

It was.

































[note: this one is Jeff's. if found it on the floor, next to the kitchen trash. it made me smile; how he always discards his best work. this time I couldn't resist.]

Clang time after a heap of sleep I swim out of 

sickbed and hose off the slime and scales and

I get the percolator going o.k. so far. The 

stupid phone shrieks so I throw it against the 

wall because I figure it's her



We went to Wisconsin to see a parade. Mom's new boyfriend drove. His name was Vern and he was a fence. He decked her out in furs made of mock Sable and Sealskin. Tart-gowns, baubles, bangles and rhinestone glitter that made her look like a Princess. He lasted two months. Tracie was six years old. The parade was fun. We spent the day in a turn of the century greasy-spoon tavern run by a grizzled old couple who had been married fifty years. They served homemade ribs, fries, kraut, cornbread and dark beer. Mom insisted they sit down and relax with us while we feasted on their down home cooking. 'Hillbilly vittles' she called them, just like the old South. The proprietors got sentimental over her. Of course. Strangers always did. That's because my mother was a charmer. She had charisma. Down pat. I was worried. Don't ask me why, but it felt wrong. Like some- thing was going to happen. Nameless dread. I hated myself for it. I'd get a sense of impending doom; something bad would follow, and I'd blame] myself for causing it. I had this feeling that day, very strong, so I withdrew into my self for the duration. It would piss her off to see me shut down like that — she'd call me a zombie and I suppose that's how it looked. But really my adrenaline would be rushing into overkill. I was aware all right — too aware; monitoring. She was drinking alot. And that's another thing! How all these memories revolve around liquor, but how could that be when she never touched a drop in her life. That's what she'd say: "I don't drink Robin. My friends do but I don't. I can't stand the taste, never touch the stuff.' 

We had fun that day, this much is true. We were a family again. Mom, her fence, me, my sister, my brother Mark and even Rick was there. Busted out of Redwing, he was on the run again, we were stashing him again, so we were all together again. A family of lawbreakers. We were so happy. On the drive home mom and Tracie were horsing around. Foolish fake fun fighting, a common diversion, nothing to get worked up about. I wanted it to stopstopstop. I was panicking inside I didn't say a word I didn't know why but I wanted it to stopstopstop. Stop. Now. Before it's too late Stop before — I know somethings going to happen. Can't anyone see? Something's coming oh god stop stop please Tracie stop — And then she accidentally knocked my mom's wig crooked. Sparks flew fist frenzy mom beating Tracie to a pulp jesus she's bleeding can't someone stop this — Vern pulled into a Pizza Hut, mom kept right on slamming Tracie. She promised to stop hitting her if we'd just all get out of the car oh god she looked so insane she was so insane I'll stop when we get out of the car let's go get out of the car and I'll stop. So we got out of the car and she snapped down the locks on all the doors and resumed beating my sister. Vern rushed the rest of us into the restaurant and went back to the car. THIS IS WHEN ME AND MY BROTHERS SHOULD HAVE STARTED TALKING TO EACH OTHER ABOUT WHAT WAS GOING ON. We ordered a pizza instead. When the three of them came in we ate a large pepperoni and drank Pepsi Cola from clear plastic pitchers like a good family should. My sister remembers none of this. Today she is a working girl whole niggersoul jivebeat pimpass boyfriend handles her just like his predecessor. Nice work mom. Her exoneration has freed them both, mother and daughter are very close.

When we were little my mom would take me and my sister to J.J.'s Bar and Grill where she would set an example on tabletops. I thrilled to see her like that — you would too — dancing, flirting, bursting with joy and cleavage, no boundaries, wild, generous laughter, sexy, sophisticated, a femme fatale and she was MY MOM!! It was meant to be a magnificent statement of post modern womanhood but it was just something she saw on TV. Pretending she was Diana Ross. A consummate actress, very convincing, at first. All the men adored her and that's why she did it. Until she'd forget her lines and ruin everything. She'd turn on them, accusing them of treating her like a piece of MEAT all they wanted was to get in her PANTS and the men would disperse and then she'd face her daughters and it would be our turn.

Five years ago Traci told me that when she was seven Mom took her to J.J.s to celebrate her First Communion. Everything was going swell — Mom doing her "I'm so untameable don't you want to fuck me" routine, Traci seated at a table sipping a Shirley Temple and taking in the sights. Mom didn't like that. She would not stand for composure in her children, she demanded unmitigated hysteria from us we had to be like her. "Dance Traci Dance!" she hollered. "Get over here and dance with your old lady. Loosen up kid, join in, why don't you celebrate, have fun let's dance!" Poor Traci was too shy and seven to do anything but demure. Affronted by what she considered disobedience, Mom grabbed Traci by the back of her neck and marched her into the ladies room. Where she slapped her silly. "How DARE you embarrass me, you little bitch. You think your mothers a whore, don't you? Admit it Traci, you think I'm a whore, you think I'm a bad mother. Well I'm still your mother little girl and don't you forget it. Look at me when I'm talking to you!" Shaking her by the shoulders, crying now, both of them crying. They hugged each other and wiped their eyes and Traci agreed to dance but it was no good after that. Mother's flamboyance had gone right into the toilet, her performance fell flat, so they went to Perkins for a late supper. I don't know why but these escapades only made us love her more.

To this day I find nothing so beautiful as a confused woman in a long dress.

Did she train us or what.

She could move to a big city, sure. But who notices anyone in Los Angeles? She could drink herself to death in Los Angeles and the only one who'd give a fuck is her stupid fag ass landlord. Pass out in the middle of the street and no one blinks an eye. At least around here people notice things like that. Around here people take notice when you fall down in the middle of the goddamn street for crying out loud. They notice her and she notices them. She notices the sound of their laughter, as it pulls her back to her feet reminds her of the jabbering zoo monkeys they so unselfconsciously imitate. At least she's rattling her cage, assholes, at least she knows she's locked in, which is more than I can say for you. "You're all crazy," she thinks to herself. "You're crazy, ignorant, dangerous fucks and you're all over the place. And there's only one of me." She drinks. Alone.


I went to hear Timothy Leary speak the other night. I was all set to write about it on this page but I just don't want to now. I'm too tired. I'm pretty sure he represents everything that's wrong with the world and I'm tired of looking at it. I'm so damn tired of his kind that they don't get much of a rise out of me anymore. Another sign of aging I suppose. All I know is I don't have any more time for conventional, misogynist, reactionary, dried up, quasi-visionary, fake hipstervangelists. OK? But the crowd liked him I gathered. He's persuasive and influential of course. That type always is Of Course. It disturbed me. I wasn't amused or entertained or anything. He wasn't the least bit sexy. I hated his guts and I felt all alone. That disturbed me too. I was a lot more upset than I'm letting on to tell the truth. I wasn't crying or anything but I needed to talk about it fast. I talked to my pals Biffy and Peter. Biffy said he was "ludicrous" and I liked that. Peter said his standard cynical cool-boy stuff, and for once I was delighted to hear it. So delighted I gave him a little hug. How refreshing it is to hear a man call another man an ass-hole. I wore a beautiful floor length strapless gown with matching hat and shawl so the night wasn't a total loss.

[This exercise comes from ADULT CHILDERN OF ABUSIVE PARENTS by Steven Farmer it's about integration, bringing together disparate parts it helped me]

i am my good mother. i come and go. i am trying to be a good parent but it's hard. i don't know what to do. i just give up robin doesn't believe in me. i'm pretty inconsistent, but i'm learning. i encourage her to make lots of friends and take her vitamins every day. i help her to take care of herself. she goes for bikerides and walks every day. she sees the dentist. i try to be nurturing in these ways. i know when she's getting off course. then i take over and reduce the chaos. i make her see the damage, without letting her wallow in it. it's a thankless job and i feel most unwelcome by her. i remain loving and gentle with her at all times. she is beginning to trust that i won't go away and leave her. i have directed her toward self-help books, therapy, and a support group. other than that i stay in the background. she won't let me cook for her she eats garbage. i don't push her i nudge, whisper and suggest. i am very aware, intuitive, all knowing. i see all sides. i give her perspective. she rarely asks for my help. i have been in the background for too long and am beginning to make my loving self known. i want to be there for robin, she deserves a mother. i am 30 years old.

i am my good father. i am fairminded. i am instructive. i am ethical, one hundred percent principled. i have a strong moral sense. i am courageous. i am confident and purposeful. i get the job done. if robin wants something i'll tell her how to go about getting it. i am directive. i don't mince words. my mind is organized and logical. i believe in getting to the bottom of things. if i disagree with someone i say so. i am protective. i help robin stand up for herself. i'm supportive but not coddling. if she falls on her face i tell her to pick herself up and start over. i tell robin to think about the difference between right and wrong and then trust her own judgement. thanks to me she knows when to stick to her guns and when to compromise. i teach her about values. i make robin very strong and proud. i'm 40 years old.

i am my controlling child. everything i do has to be perfect and i have to be perfect all the time or i get very upset. people should live up to my expectations and i constantly test them to make sure they don't. that's right, don't. i don't trust people so i drive them away. i see things in black & white all or nothing now or never. i am very rigid and demanding. i control conversations. when someone walks down the street towards me i stiffen, prepared to fight. i scare people because they're scarin me. i always need to know just what the hell is going on around here. i try to be perfect all the time. when i make a mistake i feel like a loser. no one cares everyone is inadequate possibly crazy, at least traitors. i am scared of people because they are unpredictable. i always want to have it all figured out in advance and no hope or illusions. if i have everything figured out in advance, just so, then i can be prepared for it. i try to trick people into being bad so we can get on with it. when i can't control people everything becomes distorted and out of proportion like a funhouse mirror. i hold all my feelings inside until i can't anymore then i do stupid things and go overboard and act out. i am afraid of affection of being trapped with no way out. if i'm not in charge anything can happen. anything is always horrible and scary. i need to have control. i'm very intimidating. i'm also egotistical and always right. i am 19 years old.

i am my hurting child. i am lost and i am small. no one loves me, not my family or the kids at school. everyone makes fun of me. sometimes my mommy likes me but mostly she doesn't. my brother does things to me. everything he does to me is terrible. he doesn't do things to anyone else but me. i can't tell anyone. sometimes i hide but he always finds me and then it is worse because i tried to hide. he hurts me over and over again on purpose. everyone knows i'm no good. that's what he says. i don't look at peoples faces i keep my eyes on the floor. i keep to myself. i cry all the time. it makes everyone mad but i can't stop. i play with my dog, Countess, sometimes i pretend she is my mommy. i am all alone in a world of make-believe. sometimes i hurt myself to make my mom pay attention to me. i try to be good but it doesn't stick. i am sad all the time but no one notices not at school or nothing. i am stoic all the time. that's one way to get them to notice. sometimes i don't talk for days at a time. then i get attention but it's mad attention, my mom says what's wrong with you christ you're a spooky kid. i never throw fits i take everything, like Jesus. i read the bible and spend lots of time at church, the forest, ravine and swimming pool. nobody misses me and i'm just in the way. i drop things and trip over my own two feet because i'm clumsy and retarded. i cry all the time but i never say why cause i don't know what to say. nobody understands or wants to hear it. when a grown up talks to me i stutter and start to cry. i feel all right when i'm alone. other people scare me so much. when i grow up i want to be an alcoholic just like my mom and then everyone will be sorry for ruining my life. i am seven years old.

i am my psychotic child. i go crazy when i don't get my way. i like going crazy because then i don't care about anything and i can't think and it's all out of control both scary and fun. i imagine things are happening when they really aren't. some things that really are happening i refuse to look at. i don't care. sometimes i think i am turning into my mother. i like to stir things up and am very disruptive and make people nervous. sometimes i give everyone a hard time and act crazy out of spite. i am the mad cackle inside robin. i throw fits all the time. i'm self destructive too. i like the thrill of taking life threatening risks. it makes me come to life and feel wild and special and dangerous like elvis king of rock-n-roll. i have imaginary friends that i talk to and play with. i turn off the lights and dance around the room until i bounce off the walls. then i throw up. sometimes i hurt myself on purpose to see how much i can stand. i can frighten people by acting crazy and i think it's funny. i am not afraid of crazy people. i understand their feelings i know how to reason with lunatics. my thinking is all twisted up for this world but i don't care because i can't help it. i have gone into trances, hallucinated, blacked out, lost time, left my body, talked word salad, set fires, ate my buggers, talked on the phone for hours when it was just a busy signal, pretended i was bonnie raitt and believed it, performed for the neighbors with the curtains open, did strip teases in front of the picture window, pretended i was mainlining heroin, let the mailman come into the house and have sex with me, wore nothing but blankets wrapped around my body like an indian for over a year, screamed my head off at waitresses, busdrivers, cabbies storeclerks. i was a jesus freak, kept 40 bibles in my bottom drawer, i put objects in my vagina to make it bleed, i chose a name from the phonebook and had a total stranger deflower me, i walked two blocks barefoot in the snow and lots of other punishments. i surfaced in robin at age fourteen. she has tried to forget me. i am her greatest shame. she'd like to banish me but i still resurface occasionally. i saved her life. i will not go away. because of me she could become a great and beloved novelist someday. i taught her everything she knows. i know how the world works. i am ageless.

i am my natural child. i want to come out. it's so crowded in here. i am not like any of the other kids in here. i am afraid of the other kids. they are stronger than me. i am very shy and tentative. i am slow and plodding and thoughtful. i like to take my time. i am easy to please. i like to please and i like being pleased by people. when this works out i have fun all the time. i am the sweetest kid. I could pick flowers all day. this is my favorite hobby. i also prefer popsicles, acting like a lady and playing with bugs. i like to watch ants building their sandcircles. i never step on them. autumn is my favorite time of the year when i can roll in the leaves and get the smell all over me. i am curious and i ask questions i'm also bossy but not in a mean way. i enjoy watching grown-ups make out every chance i get. it makes my stomach tingle like rollercoasters and elevators. i can't wait til i grow up so i can make out all day with my husband. i like my new dad Gordy better than any grown-up ever. i behave for him. i am his young lady. he calls me donkey but i know he means Princess. i like when he rips the towel off me after i take a bath and then i run up the stairs squealing. i made a cake in my Easy Bake oven and he was the only one who took a bite because it came out in the color blue. if he tickles me too hard i start crying and he stops. my favorite song is Wild Thing by the Troggs. i love to dance around with my family to rock-n-roll. we each play an instrument. i play the tambourine. i like school. and the elephant ears my mom has cooling for me when i come home after a hard day with a bunch of purple lilacs i picked for her on the way home. i know i'm smart because i think a lot of things are stupid. especially television, boys and nuns. i like doing whatever i feel like and getting away with it. i don't like playing with kids my own age because i have trouble acting right. i like animals and old people. my favorite animal is the sea--horse. i like rainy days better than sunny ones because they are a treat. the only shows i watch are The Monkees and Honey West. when i grow up i plan to be a very sexy lady with a mole on my face just like her. I even have a Honey West doll and she wears a black leather jumpsuit. i like to draw. this is my favorite design:

i make it twenty times bigger and use all fifty colors from my Crayola box. it comes out different every time. i love halloween because it's dressing up and it's in the autumn. i want to hurry and get big fast so i can wear whatever i like. my favorite food is chocolate pudding. i get scared easy and need plenty of reassurance. sometimes i'm whiny and clingy and want to be comforted. i'm not a spoiled brat like so many kids these days. the school says i'm rebellious but i know i'm a good girl. i am eight years old

Talked to ma. Rick quit smoking. He's chewing tobacco now same brand as the Minnesota Twins'. I called it a right sportin thing to do. The news is he's back in the hole for two years this time. Called her from the hospital he was crying and he never cries. He swallowed a balloon filled with crack that he talked Traci into gluing into the bottom of a pair of tennis shoes she delivered to him. A guard saw it all and put his hand in Ricks mouth and you should never do that to my brother so he bit the finger in half and all these other guards fell on him and now he's in the hospital calling mom crying he said just bring Mark and Traci to the hospital to say goodbye he's going to kill himself. But the watchers have a 24 hour guard on him to make sure he doesn't. Your tax dollars at work. When he gets out of the hospital he'll sit in a 9 by 5 cell for two years where he can do no wrong. Course all that will change in 2006 when he expects to get out for good if he's savvy enough to do so then he'll blow away a shopping mall and go out in flames. Or so he thinks. Poor Rick, imagines himself another Chicago gangster Al Capone but all he's ever been is overwhelmed. That's why he tortured me and played with drugs and guns, just sad and overwhelmed and kept it all inside too long til one day coked up went haywire and has been in prison ever since and will most likely die there. Still, I'm glad he quit smoking.

I said Mom, take a lesson. Your three pack a day habit is killing you. Throughout our call she was wracked with spasms of uncontrollable coughing. I felt panicky. I won't let her go til everything is resolved. But. Let her die my mind advised, it's all she has to hold onto. I'm dying Rob she says and I say Mom. No. Come on now. But I want to she responds and I say "yes" knowing it's the right answer it's where she is now. She doesn't want to live to see Mark, Rick or Traci kill themselves she says. It's just a matter of time til one of them does. Of course it never OCCURS to her that I might give up it never crosses ANYONES mind that I too struggle with suicide urges oh no I have to be friggin Oprah I'm not permitted to have a drinking problem or any problems at all but theirs I'm the "survivor" and that's all I'm allowed to be they don't want to hear anything out of me except other-directed comfort, advice and understanding. The family tit. I am the only one who can do this for them because I'm the one they hurt the most so I have to prove it left no aftermath. No gaping psychic wounds or they might have to account for their actions. Seeing me hurt and vulnerable makes them abuse me all over again. Guilt's a funny thing. She tells me Mark is trying to get custody of my nephew, Chris, because he was found half naked knocking on neighborhood doors trying to get some food and it was cold outside and Chris weighing thirty pounds less than a five year old should. Mark got temporary custody because Jeanette, his ex-wife had a baby last summer and it was born addicted to heroin. I say "Ma, how is Traci?" All weekend I listened to this song on the new Swans album the Burning World. It's called "I Remember Who You Are" and it is a song for my sister if there ever was one. All weekend I played the song over and over and bawled my head off wishing for Traci but she hasn't returned my calls. Not once in four years. So how is she ma, and mom says She's FAT. She dyed her hair that awful orange again and gained twenty pounds in less than a month and I asked her if she's pregnant, she's on the pill to GET pregnant, some women do that you know and Traci says she's not pregnant, she got her period but you know Rob I bled for three months when I was carrying her, so who knows? So she's fat, eating you know, UN-happy, working at the sauna again, David's out of prison 6 months now and beating her once a week.

a few things to keep me going

The first and most important thing -- when there's nothing to be done pick up a pen. Find an empty notebook and you've found your best friend.

This Tuesday I turn thirty. Once I sober up I'm going to UCM to give a talk on child abuse. It's breaking the biggest taboo and I've never done anything like it before so there's every chance I could flip out. I'll just keep my eyes on friendly faces and hope they don't all turn into my mother or something.

Anita is coming to Oxford tomorrow and she's holding an impromptu Women's Circle at the flower shop. I can't wait to see her. She'll be in town to give Sting a massage. Good, he can use one. We can all use one. A brush with greatness to be sure. Not for her of course but for him.

Must keep an eye on Misun. She's acting strangely these days. Don't know if it's serious pain or growing pains or if it's a new magic all her own. She's busy writing songs so it looks as if she might get her band off the ground after all. She gave me a list of possible names for it. I like "Sonia Says" the best.

Stacey, the trailer court kid is coming out of her shell at last. Getting better all the time and partly due to me. Nowadays she runs around and gets into things and stamps her foot and giggles and everything just like any ten year old.

I am letting men into my life bit by bit but only if they're married. Sometimes that gets in the way but it's worth the trouble.

And Jeff. Ruined by Hemingway? I don't know. A Thing For Troubled Women so long as they stay that way? I don't know.

I'm learning new things. Like how to build friendship with others. First rule is to slow down. Restraint is a beautiful thing. So I'm working on going slow, meanwhile emotional involvement is practically falling into my lap with practically everyone around me I'm serious I have all these RELATIONSHIPS now with people who have deep feelings and complex emotions and idiosyncrasies. We're all needy and blameless and more or less screwed up. That's a given; we don't have to pretend otherwise. We don't put on airs or act like we have all the answers still we try to watch out for each other. Sometimes we push each other around because we need parenting. It works on trust, equality, unconditional acceptance and a sense of responsibility. dust all those virtues and values that have been linked with women for centuries. John Lennon called it the wave of the future, Sonia says it is women who are leading us back to that and rightly so. I hope she's right, it's something I want to be a part of.

I don't go to White Castle for crying jags anymore and there hasn't been a nightmare in weeks. Maybe this will stick but if not I can always drink myself to death. That's Plan B. Used to be Plan A so give me a break. In any case I will always remember this new felicity as the utmost experience of my twenties. That someone like me is able to feel this good ever is you know a lucky thing.

Of course there will always be days to set aside for the contemplation of loss. Some days you can't get out of bed for wondering. But every day I feed on it a little less. You have to say so fuck this shit so I finally found my real dad eighteen months ago so I'd tell you all about it but I gotta do my nails.

Write "Ellavon" at
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Released: July 21, 1998