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Friday, July 9, 2010

Such Wild Wild

I was cleaning out a closet and found a box on a high shelf that held my past. It's a box that's been moved with me from place to place, without my opening it, for decades. 
On the top were love-letters written by my husband more than 30 years ago, ticket stubs for concerts and amusement parks and campgrounds and baseball games. There were birthday cards from long-gone grandparents and notes passed in school from a best friend who has been missing since 1989.

Near the bottom of the box were drawings and poetry I created when I was very young. There were many - far too many to even read, much less post - but I chose a few to put up here and share. Most of the drawings I chose were self-portraits that I either remembered or could identify by a date on the back. I think all the poems are also self-portraits... but then, maybe poetry always is?

Age 12

I had a velvet day
Forever my day smiled
And then you took my day away
And the whole world became wild
Poor child
Poor child
Living in such wild wild

What strikes me about this self-portrait
- dated from just after my twelfth birthday -
 is the cloth she is holding.
It seems like a small portion of what it could be
when it is compared to the large cloth hanging next to her.

Age 13

Like a leafless flower
He reached in for the heart
And took only certain parts
Broken away
He left me only the three selves
And threw out the ones he didn’t like
He forced me to deny three parts
And killed them
In the process
I’ve been murdered
Piece by piece
Self by self
He’s destroyed three important people that hid in me
And they will never be for anyone to see
I’ve lost myself in this death
And I will never be whole
And alive
And all these things I have him to blame for
But still there is no blame
The part of me that blames is gone
With all the other feelings

When I was fourteen, I had a hard time seeing myself in the mirror. I never looked quite like I expected and often parts seemed to be missing. I remember doing this drawing when I was in a particularly strange state of mind. I really felt that I was a freak and often told people I was from another planet.
I think I believed it.

Age 14

To us all
Two sides must be
And through us all
Dimensions three
We can't be just one self
Although there is one body
There are always at least two consciousnesses
And me and my reflection
We walk around the land
And we see the denied other selves
We see the slower hand
Me and my idealist
My freedom self
And my bound self
We see all of the flat ones walking everywhere
We wonder how they can be
So alone
To all of us there have to be
Two sides and dimensions, three

I was very fond of drawing and painting roads that led nowhere,
 stairs that ended at nothing and empty corners.

Age 15

Leaving Them Behind

Old songs and memories
Playing on the shore
Naked in the sunlight
Diapered on the floor

Now you see the children
Aren’t you anymore
The children naked on the beach
Are on the other side of the door

As you pass the brightest days
The kids you were come through
You remember what you thought of them
And how it was when they were you

Age 15

Cut Deep

The answers are only temporary
And that was me tonight
Temporary solutions cut deep and bleed
Sometimes when I'm alone
Within myself
Without myself
And sometimes I have to cry
Beyond myself
About myself
And when I leave my home
And when I am alone
And when he’s gone to work
And I feel so uncertain
I find a tear that’s falling
And the answer’s still not calling
And I'm lost
So lost
Denied myself
Outside myself
And now I lost the fight
For the answer is only temporary

I remember showing this drawing to a school counselor, in high school. She asked me, doubtfully, if I really thought this is how I looked. I said yes, and wondered why she asked. Then I decided it was probably my lack of skill that was the problem.
I really saw nothing odd about this drawing at all.

Age 16 (? I remember writing this but it isn't dated)

Little Girl

The shouts get louder in the other room
Little girl doesn’t cry
She sits by the window, holding a doll
In one hand
She sits in a daydream, holding off the world
With the other
And no hand left to hold the future.

The shouts climax and finish in a sudden silence.
Little girl doesn’t cry
She lies in her bed, biting her lip
With lies in her head, biding her time
With both hands full of things she can’t use
And her mouth so full with more than she will ever chew

The silence is muffled behind the door
Little girl can’t cry
She waits in the darkness for nothing, for everything
Living less life than she thought she would
Giving less love that it takes to live

The silent world screams obscenities
Little girl doesn’t cry
She stands, awake, smiling sadly to herself
Living only for herself
Giving less of herself every day
Getting less in return than it takes to live
Nothing for nothing is all she can give

Age 16

I came out for a while and looked around
I didn't like what I found.
I’m fading back into the dream again
I’m backing up over the blue-jean den
The cigarettes, the gold corvettes
The thumb-out imitation of the girl
Who is me
Or maybe only wants to be

And I know I must live it
And I know I can’t top it
And I can’t hold it off
And there's no way to stop it
The smoke from the tube
Will fill me
And with any luck at all
It may kill me
But for now,
The change overcomes, overwhelms me
And I am only an illustration of the girl
Who is me
Or maybe doesn't want to be

This one is dated from shortly before my seventeenth birthday.
No doubt about this one... it's a little cracked.
It was one in a series of four, all self-portraits, and all broken in some way.
I never finished the fourth one.

Age 17

The reality appears again
Dragging in with it the cold air
And cold words of February

Hiding in a book
Sneaking a look every so often
Just to keep her head ready
She scurries through her life
Another slice of deprivation
Piled high with the pangs
Of emotion, kept alive
As she strives
To continue through this continuity
To finish this finality
To sever this severity

Now there's a word
Like cutting off a leg to save a body
She slices into her limbs and cuts the world from her reality

I began to draw in a more free style by the end of high-school. (It was the '70s, after all)
This self-portrait was one I did my junior year for art class. That was the year I went to the catholic school (where I was sent as a punishment since things weren't going very well in public school.) I only stayed one year - they kind of invited me not to come back.
I remember my teacher was not impressed. She told me this was not a self-portrait. I still disagree.

Age 18

Freedom’s child
Dressed in white
The premonition of birds in flight
Standing in the waters of good and light
Reflecting the day and the starry night

Frightened child
Dressed in black
Demolition and dead birds stacked
In piles of left debris and facts
That lead us from the proper track

Somber child
Dressed in gray
Can’t tell me the time of day
Combined night and starry day
Child of light who’s lead astray

Tell me children
Good and bad
Tell me of the lives you’ve had
Let me feel the brave and sad
Don’t let the sorrow drive you mad
And drop the cloth in which you’re clad

I was very fond of putting hands, cages and eyes in my artwork.
This represents many like it.

Age 19

It's clear, now, that those inside
Must remain and always hide
Nobody wants to know the madness
Horrific fear, horrendous sadness

Close the door, and lock the cage
Keep the world safe from rage
That has no boudaries, never ends
Just smile sweetly and pretend
Until it all begins again

I think I did this one the summer between high-school and college. I'm gauging that by the style, level of skill and also the paper it's drawn on, which is cheap paper my father always had in the house. Once I started at the Art Institute in Chicago, I learned what it was like to draw on decent paper, and I did so whenever I could afford it.
On the back, it says only, "Me".


  1. Oh my-

    these words and paintings are so potent. The stories they tell..and may I add, that these could, should be their own exhibit at an art museum.

    Love to you
    peace and hope

  2. Even at age 12 your writings were so clear that I could understand each phrase. Each word, in fact. And the self-portraits were a perfect mirror. Your counselor (high school) wasn't very bright. If there were something I could do for you, I would. You are beautiful.

  3. Wow. These are amazing. Very powerful. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Thank you all. I'm remembering things each time I read over these. It never occurred to me until a few months ago that it is probably unusual to remember so much, in so much detail. Each drawing and powm I touched, that day in my closet, I remembered everything about creating these pieces. I remembered where I was, how I felt, even things that were going on in the background. I wonder why that is, when my memory seems so spotty in my every day life.

  5. I just finished reading and viewing. So you started the work long ago.

    I have the same memory thing. I put pencil to paper and the memories come to me. Crayons even more so.

    It was pretty acute for a while I did not want to use a pencil at all. I wrote in ink.

    I have none of my writing or art. I destroyed it all over the years.

    I don't do that any more. I have my therapist keep it.

  6. I think I always knew I was different and that it was not usual to have so much going on inside. I didn't know what it was called, and I didn't understand why I was the way I was. For a long time, I thought my father's treatment of me was because I was different. I kept it all hidden, very carefully, until I dissociated right in front of my fist therapist three summers ago. He is the first person who saw it for what it was - and called me on it.
    Of all the things I've disclosed and owned up to, that may have been the hardest. Maybe the first is always the hardest.

    So - yes, i guess I have been doing the work for a long time - without really thinking of it in that way.

  7. Wow Shen, it was so obvious you were suffering. I feel angry at how overlooked and misunderstood you were. It's as though no one even tried. These drawings and poems are amazing. So powerful. Such insight. I'm glad you had art and yourself all these years. I'm so glad you learned to love and care for yourself. And all the ones inside are finally getting to speak and be cared for.

  8. Thank you Katiem for your compassion. It is amazing to me when I think about how many things I did say and show people and how often they chose not to see it. Maybe they just didn't know what to do, I don't know, but even school counselors seemed to skip right over some very obvious warning signs.


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Co Creation

Co Creation
We create the life we live

Love your inner child...

...for she holds the key...

...to your personal power.
A lesson is woven into each day.
Together they make up the tapestries of our lives.