Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Body as Home: A Creative Writing Prompt from an Incest Survivor

I was wandering around Nothampton, MA lately, trying to de-stress, thinking about bodies. I'm not sure if, at that point, "forcible rape" had been temporarily pushed into the HR-3 document, but I know I was definitely thinking of pro-choice arguments. I was thinking of generic trauma and recovery, the body's psychosomatic memories. How important, at the end of the day, all our bodies are - that we respect and encourage them to grow as part of our own wholeness. It's a concept I struggle with on a personal level, so maybe that's why I can't get the subject of "body" dislodged from my head yet. Bodies: it stuck, and continues to stick there as an undercurrent. Bodies - and so, (bodies), as I was walking around Northampton, (bodies) I stumbled across this quote: "we may leave a house, but never its memories, its voices," and thought to myself "BODIES! What if we were to view our bodies as houses? Homes for all our memories? If our bodies were homes, what would the story of their life be? How would our bodies be represented as homes? How would we treat our homes (bodies)? Are we treating our bodies as dearly as we are treating the concept of "home"?

And I took that big, whopping (redundant enthusiasm!) idea and I ran with it (notably my whole passage is tinted at and addressed towards my experiences as an incest survivor). So, down below, I'm going to show you what I came up with as "my house as body that can never leave its memories or voices," the natural trauma state.

BODIES! What if we were to view our bodies as houses? Homes for all our memories? If our bodies were homes, what would the story of their life be? How would our bodies be represented as homes? How would we treat our homes (bodies)? Are we treating our bodies as dear to us as we are treating the concept of "home"?
"we may leave a house, but never its memories, its voices" - Stoneheart and Company (Dianne Hanna)

I catch the precipice of my falling at every windowsill, my unspoken screams reverberating against the white walls of my youth, voice shrinking, cluttered, caught stammering beneath the taut barriers of my skin. The beams are cracked and bleeding, falling apart: these are the vessels of the house, the circulatory system, the things that help it stand. Everything overflows here: the grief doesn’t stop for any plumber (nor any contracted relationship trying to clear it out), no matter how genuine and honest. People come and go, and I remain – and my body remains – and we will be at odds with each other until I can see the floors again, when I stop getting splintered from trying to fix the beams of me: Splintering at the touch – is this what it feels like to continue to renovate a house for years with little to no progress? Useless, the voices hang around me: the criticism creaks up at me as I press against the floorboards – “stupid bitch,” it says – and it used to be louder. It fills up the corridors of my house like a great phantom. Like this, I am haunted, with my past on me no matter where I go, strangling the method of breathing... I feel the tremors in my body, the earthquake lying sporadically alive beneath the foundation of my house: every memory surfacing at its own capricious, haphazard leisure. The fires of my youth pop up and spill as if candles licking curtains, the anger unleashes itself over all the furniture, the places I might sit or rest: my body agitated with the persistent burning and dousing: the cooling and reigniting of self. Never dormant: the house continually echoes. There are animals resting in the crevices of all my thoughts, chewing away slowly, scurrying up the brave limits of my sanity. These voices I know are not my own: but they are inside me, they consume me. I am only a person with walls: walls, walls, walls meant to be knocked down and built up again – but I am so much thicker than walls, so easily plastered in the moment: phrases tacked upon me, feelings framed on my very surface. Age grows on me decadently, carving out my features, decaying the connections. I am regal in all the stories I have grown to tell, every limb slung tiredly over another: my body collapsing into bone. An artifact, a testament: I know the damages of my livelihood and the need for redemption, healing, renovation. I seek the carpenter who knows, by vicarious intuition, the thrum of my body’s honesty as vibrantly as I know my foundation.

So, although my experiences with my "body as home" were written from the perspective of an incest survivor, I know everyone has their own unique relationship with their bodies, and therefore, what they write could radically deviate from what I've written, and address topics such as weight, pain, disability, violence, society judgements, or even aging (see "Crossroads," a beautiful poem on this by Louise Gluck), ETC. And I encourage (mainly because I would love to read) everyone to give this prompt a try - and while you don't have to show anyone (and you can keep it as private and confidential as you want), I know I'd love to read some of your responses. Consider all this, please. In the meantime...

Thank you for treating your body as a home, tenderly and with consideration. Thank you for building up your body strong and unique, soft and considerate. Thank you for living in your body at this time in your life, thank you for considering other bodies. Thank your body for being a beacon of self, an extension of who you naturally are.


  1. I really like this blog and I like the way you relate our bodies to our homes THANKS

  2. Parental abuse is so hard to overcome. Using your metaphor, they (parents) seem to belong in our "house." They were there the day it was built. They left their voices in it long before we had language. Gaining the strength to exorcise that type of ghost takes years of empowerment and the realization that your body was a gift to you and has nothing to do with them.

  3. Victoria, You are on to something here.

    You may be interested in studying the Theology of the Body.

    Peace be with you as you continue your journey.