No motion carries here without my final vote
for the meddler in my head, he sounds a lot like me;
I hear no snake’s hiss, no gravel in his throat.
My will is not a raindrop carried mindless to the sea;
and yet, it is my self I can’t control
and the devil of my conscience will not quit.
Carrying guilt in my pocket like a coal,
I cannot let it sit; instead I finger it.
I press it in my palm to quench this sun in skin
and as the searing flesh is cauterized
my jaw is carved into a liar’s grin
to claim this triumph is the thing I prized.
With self-inflicted punishments I charge the scroll.
What is the cost of my unconquerable soul?
I’ve stolen the final two lines from William Ernest Henley‘s poem, Invictus, though I have used them to convey quite a different meaning than Henley.
The subtitle of this poem is drawn from a dark and rather embarrassing time in my personal history. I did cut on rare occasion as a young man but the damage was never more than superficial scratches—only one instance left a scar. Because of this, I hesitate to number myself among those who have struggled far more profoundly with the urge to harm themselves. I do, however, understand why someone might be tempted to do so. The title of the poem is meant to convey the reason for my personal episodes of self-harm; that being, the attempt to absolve myself of guilt by punishment. I thought pain could absorb and somehow dissolve the feelings of shame, could cancel the weight of debt I had accrued. Ultimately, I found that such self-punishment could not silence my internal demands for justice. The pain could not undo the evil things I had said, and thought, and done, nor could it change my inclination to do such things again.