Phantom Kangaroo is a beautiful journal, and I have two pieces in it today! The first is “I Bruise My Knuckles Shadow-Boxing,” which I honestly wasn’t sure would ever get published as it’s…a bit harsh. The second is an untitled found poem I crafted many years ago, using the English-French dictionary in the back of a book I got from the free room at Seward Café in Minneapolis.
I’d like to explain how “Shadow-Boxing” came to be. The rage I felt at the time of writing has cool as I’ve healed, but I still love the piece dearly. It’s worth noting that part of the reason I’m no longer so angry is a therapist from the Iron Range of Minnesota who guided me through the grieving process, who when I said that I wanted to smash something told me to do it.
The day I stopped getting angrier about my best friend’s death was the day I took a box of religious knickknacks from the Savers on Lake Street (alas, closed now) and smashed them with a hammer while I listened to her favorite song from high school and sobbed.
I was still angry, but the rage stopped building, and slowly, slowly, it began to recede and I began to scar where the amputation of the person I loved most was. It took time and love and patience. It took nights with my friend Lee where we did nothing but smoke joints and be sad together, it took sobbing on the bathroom floor and in my car and everywhere else, it took a tattoo and a turtle necklace and visiting an urn.
And it’s not over, and it won’t be until I’m in the ground as well, because grief doesn’t end. It is a burden you can never put down, only learn to carry with more ease over the years. And blessedly, I have had help.
There’s a reason I raged at god and not the other driver or fate or the smart car airbag that didn’t deploy. There’s a reason “Shadow-Boxing” is so blasphemous, or rather, a lot of reasons, and I’ll explain them now.
So here is the story of “Shadow-Boxing.” Here are some of the moments that bore that poem, some of them many, many years old.
When I was 8 and first started showing signs of an anxiety disorder, my father laid hands on me, then when that didn’t help, told me it was my fault for fighting god’s help.
When I was 12 and my father pressured me to speak in tongues, even though his god had never bade me to, even though the silence from that god frightened me, even though I felt like a failure, a hell-bound sinner, a disappointment, so I faked it.
When I was 14 and began to feel my bisexuality, I was terrified and shoved it far away, a self-hate that would grow, marinate, stop me from going to senior prom with the person who asked because I was afraid of what my parents would say, even though I’d long since come out to everyone except my oldest friend, who to this day does not know, because I am afraid her faith would make her love me less.
When I was 22 and approaching the coffin, for the first time, of the person I felt closest to in the world, the person whose soul was made from the same stuff as mine, and a woman who I knew well, took me into her arms and wouldn’t let me go (the same as the man who’d assaulted me in a nightclub a month before, by the way, and god was silent then too), and told me that she wasn’t sure where Madison stood, but she wanted me to go to heaven, taking the worst moment of my life and using it to proselytize the faith that had hurt me so much in the past and insinuate that the woman I grieved for might be in hell.
Every single night of feeling sinful and wrong and undeserving of god’s love, fearful of becoming a sacrifice like Isaac, dreading hell for myself and the ones I love, and shame, shame, shame.
All of that is over now. I am an atheist who’s dated and loved and fucked men and woman and people in between or none of the above. Every morning, I take 40mg of Prozac because laying hands on me never would have worked anyway, and that’s not my fault. I carry my grief as well as I can and my loved ones support me when the burden is heavy. And “Shadow-Boxing” is published in a wonderful journal alongside a found poem, and I am still here.
To quote the immortal Green Day, I’ll sign off with this salutation, which honors both things this poem is about:
Rage & Love,