Let Me Live
By Danae Schanbacher
A poem about religious isolation
I am a Christian and my faith belongs to me,
Trapped are my dead ancestors, can you not hear their plea?
The war between us to ceases to forgive,
But I am a Christian, so let me live,
I am a Muslim and we’re just alike,
We believe in one God too, why the dark strike?
My people don't want this constant strife,
I plea to you, just let me live my life,
You can't end the war, but tame the heart,
Let us not live forever apart.
By Danae Schanbacher
A poem about religious isolation
Death and its misery dominate our lands,
Bloodshed and loss claim our guilty hands,
A wall has formed to divide us apart,
As we war with each other to steal a sinful heart,
But we are one in the same, all the Lord’s creations,
Our war is feared by all of the other nations,
What a difference all can make, if acceptance was granted,
It only takes one step and the vow is implanted,
Muslim or Christian, they're of the same universe,
Move forward and accept, so we all can converse,
Wash the sinful hands of our ancestor’s remains,
And on with the future and all it contains,
Because with the wall still standing, tall and high,
Even a purple bird ceases to fly.
By Danae Schanbacher
A poem about gender isolation
The heart of a woman pumps, when she is no longer alone,
The call to duty awaits her, the children and the dust,
Her womanism isolates her, but it's all she's ever known,
To live and not be seen is a woman's unjust,
Body is property and violence is merely oppression,
Red...red...red, the feeling of fear traps the soul,
Skin on skin, head kisses the wall, mind dancing in depression,
Never to be free or completely feeling whole,
Outspoken, women should never be,
Only the art of cooking...cleaning is ever right,
Red...red...red, the fear she'll never be free,
Her life’s as caged in as a dark Nigerian night,
Fly free, fly free for a feeling of purple,
But imprisoned, she is, her world is but a circle.
Seen and Not Heard
A hero's journey by Zoe Mendlowitz
Don’t cry! Don't cry! Don’t cry! I was curled up in a ball, trying to protect my head from his kicks.
“Father please! No! Don’t do this! I promise I will be good I wil--”
“Shut up!” Father screamed down to me. With two final kicks to my stomach he turned towards the living room.
Slowly uncurling myself from my ball on the floor, he turns and looks at me, eyes burning with disappointment.
“I hope you learned your lesson boy. Now go clean yourself up Mobo. Dinner will be ready soon.”
“Yes sir.” I clutched my throbbing stomach and slowly walked up the stairs. Once I got to the top of the stairs I locked eyes with my twin sister, Juba.
“He did it again, didn't he? Big brother, you can't let him do that! Why don’t you do anything!” She whispered in a harsh tone.
“Juba...” I said in a warning tone, hinting at her to drop the subject. She wasn't supposed to know. It was father’s and my little secret. It was either me or her.
“Just because you are 12 minutes older than me doesn't mean you can tell me what to do!” She called as I brushed past her.
I walked past her and pulled open the door to my room. I looked around the small room. Pushed against the far wall was a small cot that I sleep on with a small pillow and a few dirty blankets that were coming undone at the seams. Across from it, there was a small desk with a mirror. I walked in, remembering to close the door, and stood in front of the small mirror. Tentatively, I pulled the shirt off, careful not to jostle my bruises. I had bruise and cuts covering every inch of my torso. I turned to look at the marks on my back even though I already knew what was there. I had old and new scars, covering every inch of my back. Why don’t you do anything. Juba’s comment echoes in my head. Because it is my fault. Is is my fault mother left 12 years ago. She left because I was never good. It is all my fault she left. I deserve everything I get. I was ripped from my thoughts when I Juba called my name.
“Mobo! Dinner is ready!” Juba called up to me. I knew (from experience) that if I didn't call back or wasn't down stairs, she would come up. That is something I truly did not want. I quickly put my shirt on, ignoring the pain that came from my torso. With a final glance in the mirror I went down for dinner.
When I got down to the table, everything was already set up. Juba was standing behind the seat on the left and I took my place standing behind the seat on the right. A few minutes later, father walked in and took his place at the head of the table. Father led us in a small prayer before we sat down for dinner. My stomach rumbled as I looked at the dinner that was spread out on the table. Once we were done, we sat down and began to eat.
The tension was so thick that it covered the dinner table like a thick cloud.
“Juba, is there something you would like to say?” The irritation was loud and clear in his voice. I prayed she wouldn't say anything and just go back to eating dinner. If she upset him, I would pay the price. I looked at her, hoping she would read my mind and keep her mouth shut.
“Why?” She spoke in a whisper. NO! She knew she couldn't bring up that topic. Father said she was to never know!
“Do speak up. You know how much I hate it when you mumble.” Father didn't even look up from his plate.
“Why do you--”
I kicked her hard in the shins, hoping she would stop talking. She was going to make everything worse!
“Daughter, would you finish your sentence?”
“Nothing.” Venom dripped from her voice.
Father raised an eyebrow at her and then he looked at me. We both knew what she was talking about. I put my head down and continued to eat.
“Hurry up and eat. You know we always pray together before I have to get ready for mass. Oh and son? Don't take too long; you and I have some things to discuss before we leave.” Father’s eyes burned into my skull.
“Why do you let him do it?” Juba says from the doorway of my room. She says it quietly enough, so he doesn't hear from downstairs. I looked up from tying my shoes. She always asked me this after father hits me. I was about to answer, when I heard my father shouting for me downstairs. Uh oh, this can't be good! I slowly walked out of my room and headed down stairs. I tried to calm my breathing as I got to the bottom of the stairs.
“Son. I'm very disappointed in you.”
That was all I heard before the abuse started to rain down on me.
“Father! He has to go to the hospital!”
“I--I-- I don’t--wh--”
“Ja--Fath--” I tried to speak, but my tongue felt heavy and my mouth was dry. Every part of my body was on fire. It felt like I was dropped from a ten story building.
Black dots danced across my vision before everything went dark.
Lights. Bright lights. I had to squint my eyes from the burning white light. That was the first thing I saw. Why? The lights at home were very dim. That was my first clue that I was not at home. Also, why am I in a comfortable bed? What is going on?
“Mrs! He is waking up! Quick! Get the doctor!”
The voice sounded far away, like I had cotton in my ears. I struggled to pinpoint where the voice and all the lights were coming from. I tried to sit up, but strong hands pushed me down, making me want to sit up even more. What was going on? My heart rate started to increase. The lights were getting brighter and the noise was getting louder. I could feel my breath quicken.
“Shhhh. It's okay big brother. You are safe. He can't get you here. It's okay. Calm down Mobo. Breathe. You are okay.” A voice said, sounding like Juba. My breathing calmed and then everything went back to normal, so it seemed. I fully opened my eyes and looked around. Many faces were around me, most I did not recognize. However, I am with Juba and I calmed down even more, entrusting that she is safe.
“Clear out the room. I don’t want him to get overwhelmed again,” a voice called. I was unable to tell who had spoke.
“Mobo,” a soft, sweet voice called. I glanced around, searching for the voice. My eyes fell on a woman that looked to be in her late 40s. She had bright blue eyes and light brown hair. Her hair was pulled in a ponytail that hit her shoulder.
“My name is Kurla and I am here to help you.”
“Water,” I choked out. A plastic cup was placed in my hands. With shaking hands, I brought the cup to my lips. The cool water helped my parched mouth.
“What is going on?” I said, looking at the woman, wanting answers.
“Well,” she replied, “how much do you remember?”
“I was talking to my Father.” My voice shaking, as I said the name, “We were getting ready to go to church.” I told her, fiddling with the edge of the blanket spread across my lap.
“Good. You remember things. Do you remember what you and your father were talking about?”
I looked down, embarrassed. That's when I realized that I wasn't wearing a shirt. A thick, white bandage covered the top of my chest. Cuts and bruises littered my arms and chest, where the bandage didn't cover. I said the first thing that came to mind, which was my excuse for when anyone ever asked what happened to me.
“I fell down the stairs. I am really clumsy,” I blurted out. I locked my eyes on a piece of thread, on the blanket.
“Sweetheart, I know what is going on. But I can't help you until you say. You have to say it aloud.” She spoke softly, like I was a horse and she would spook me.
“My father hit me.” I whispered. In all my 17 years of life, I have never said those words out loud.
Then, everything fell into place. The bright things, the comfortable bed, the many worried faces, the bandages, I was in a hospital. That can't be. Father would never take me to a hospital.
“What happened to me?” I looked up at Kurla and Juba, tears streaming down my face. I could no longer hold it in. They exchanged nervous looks as they stared down at me. Juba was the first to talk, speaking in a soft tone.
“You have a broken leg, three bruised ribs, two broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a concussion. I walked down stairs because I heard screaming, and I saw father leaning over you, screaming. You were coughing up blood. You were not in good shape.” She took a breath and let everything sink in, but she wasn't done.
“I forced him to take you to the hospital,” she whispered this next part. “You were dead for three minutes, but the doctors revived you. Father is going to jail for a long time.”
I broke down, sobbing, unable to handle it anymore. Everything came crashing down. All the walls I built up, and the lies I told people about the mysterious bruises, it was too much.
“It is okay. You are safe. Nobody is ever going to do that again to you. You are safe. You and your sister are going to be safe. That man is going in a locked cage and the key will be thrown away.”
I continued to sob into her arms, with Juba rubbing small circles on my back.
“Mobo, there is something I need to tell you. It's about Mama.”
“What?!” I asked in a panic.
I haven't seen Mama since she went to the store and she never came back. Come to think of it, she left the day before father started hitting me, But I didn’t dare tell that to Juba.
“Mama went to an organization to receive help with the effects of being hit by father.” Juba spoke so fast that I could not understand a word she said. I stared at her, hoping she would understand and repeat the question. Juba looked at me with sad eyes, then repeated her statement.
“Mama was hit by father too. She had to go get help. Seeing father would have been horrible for her. She had to stay away.” Juba fiddled with the charm bracelet on her wrist.
“Juba, how do you know all of this?”
“Because she is here. After she heard what happened, she had to come back. She said we can stay with her. We will be safe.”
I sat up in the hospital bed, wincing from the sharp pain that was caused by my sudden movement.
“How did she find out?”
“Well the whole town knows what happened. The police dragged father from the house. Everyone saw. But Mama is here. She wants to see you. Can I let her in? She is really worried.”
I nodded, slowly. Before long, a woman rushed into the room. She had dark, brown hair like me and the same bright, blue eyes like Juba. This woman was my mother.
“Oh, my baby! I am so sorry! I would have come back sooner if I knew what that despicable man was doing to you. I never thought he would turn on you, my beautiful boy! I am so sorry. Can you ever forgive me? Both of you?” She looked at me in the bed and Juba, who is leaning against the wall with silent tears streaming down her face. We both nodded. We did it. We are free. For the fourth time in 17 years, I smiled, a genuine smile. Everything was going to be okay.