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The Way Of Reckoning
by Joyce Collins

ã2009 Truthteller Publishing
12807 Aqua Valley, Helotes, TX 78023

All rights reserved

1st Edition, 1st Printing July 2009

ISBN 0-9743024-3-0

Cover by Johnny Dallahan

Illustrations by Joyce Collins


I am an incest survivor. My father first raped me when I was six years old and continued to well into my adolescence. My psyche coped with this trauma by splitting in two – a child who experienced every moment of the abuse and another child who knew nothing of it. In her book, Miss America By Day, Marilyn Van Derbur, who is also an incest survivor, calls these personas the night child and day child. Neither my night child nor day child knew the other existed until my repressed memories surfaced at the age of 37 - some twenty years after the abuse ended.

I have been writing poetry since I was 15, most of it sad, much of it philosophical - all of it insightful even though I didn’t yet have the ability to understand the insight. In retrospect, it is as if I were writing for a future me whose task was to re-integrate my night child and day child into a whole person. The title of this book, The Way of Reckoning, is the title of the first poem I wrote after my memories surfaced. It is the quintessential example of a poem written for the future me, describing both the violent upheaval I was beginning and the revelation of truth that would result.

If you are a sexual abuse survivor, I hope this book helps you. I hope the poems give words to the feelings you haven’t been able to express. I hope the poems let you know you are not alone in having those feelings. Lastly, I hope this book gives you hope that your wound will heal as mine has. If you have not experienced sexual abuse, I offer this book as insight into the mind and soul of someone who has walked that path and come out on the other side.


How to Find a Poem

About half of my poems are titled. The others are numbered, and I list them in the table of contents with the first line of the poem.


I want to thank my sister for believing me, and I want to thank my mother being my rock through all the remembering. I also want to thank my therapist, Susan Hartman, for guiding me on this journey and my psychiatrist, Luz Stark, for prescribing me medications that saved me from taking my own life. Lastly, I want to thank Marilyn Van Derbur for writing her book. It was a lifeline to hope that healing was possible.

Table of Contents

Titled Poems

The Way of Reckoning.


Reptiles drop their tales in fright
and live to grow another.
Humans split the limb alike,
but bind it with a tether,
so long and thin as time goes by,
we think of it as other.
But memory grows its tendrils out
from wounded limb to well,
and bides its time 'til boundary thins
and tendrils' touch is felt.
Then all hell breaks loose –
or that's the way it seems
as tendrils hook, then pull apart
the self I know as me.
A foulness spills out my bowels
and takes my life-force with it.
Where food once fed is nauseous dread.
My stomach yields its content.
My head is wracked with migraine pain
and fear is strong for madness.
All these confuse and mis'ry bring,
but none compare the sadness.
Illness say doctors - Nay! 
I know the past is beckoning.
I am not sick from bug or germ. 
It is the way of reckoning –
to tell the tale and tell it whole,
each unto the other, until they realize
 they are we and we are the survivor.

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Letting Go


To cling to what I treasure,
and shun what I fear,
is not in itself the vice.
That lies within the blind I wear,
and the will to pay its price-
To never know the value
in the consequence I fear,
Or the detriment to life itself
of that which I hold dear

Letting Go
See my visualization of this poem

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I feel the strength in my arms
shooting out my fists
Pummeling, Pummeling, Pummeling
until exhaustion relinquishes my mind
back to reason
My eyes open and I see
what I have done

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Sharing Tree


The Giving Tree I thought was good
Now I see unhealthy wood
It gave of self in rarest form,
yet reaped no love in return
It gave and gave ‘til none was left,
save a stump – its one last gift
And still the boy does not see
the value of the Giving Tree
So when comes the very last page,
The boy is tired and worn with age
Despite the tree’s steadfast will,
the boy is old and unhappy still
I wonder would things different be
If it had been a sharing tree

Sharing Tree
See my visualization of this poem

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The Soul


The soul is like a sphere whose radius extends
not in one direction, but all
Bursting forth in equal proportion,
a great ball of light
Though dressed in honor, she wears no airs,
For she sees with equal clarity
Life’s majesty and absurdity-
Calling at once for both humble reverence
and hysterical laughter

The Soul
See my visualization of this poem

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By the memories
of what I saw
of what I did
of what I did nothing about
of guilt
of  shame
of horrible, horrible helplessness
and mine

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Like a knock on a door
I cannot refuse to answer
It arrives, and I dread its coming–
its weight
For there's no carrying this load,
Only bearing it – Upright
Then falling to my knees,
‘Til finally prostrate
And still it stays and weighs
heavy on my back
Then goes, unannounced–
As it came

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I carry it –
like luggage
It is heavy and a burden
But I need it I think,
lest I cast my lot completely –
in favor of joy

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Gut Wound


A dream dies – mortally wounded
by the acceptance of reality
I ask it to go quietly
but it does not
It is a gut wound
I cry out to God,
“Why are you? Why do you?”
Do this to me
But no answer comes
After a time I alter my question.
“How do I find it?”
“In what form comes relief?”
Soon comes the answer,
In grief
In grief

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Come on down!
Try your luck!
You know it’s bound to change
The past is past
Don’t look back.
You have so much to gain
The game’s the same
You know it well
By now you are the best
Just pick the time, the place, the face.
I will do the rest
 I guarantee consistency
This game will end the same –
Time and time again
This game will end the same you see –
Just for you my friend

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Why is it so, the less that I know,
the more certain I am of it’s content?
Fearful thinking fills the void
because the unknown is infinite

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A Penny of Grace

I went to the prayer box,
my soul hungry and nude
And found a penny of grace
for shelter and food

A penny of grace-
all I required,
had been left in the box
by someone inspired

When I returned,
I dropped in a dime
For a needier soul
at a needier time

The Soul
See my visualization of this poem

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Deaf Until I Listen


I try to make her see it –
this wounded child of mine
Nothing is as it was
There’s no reason for the pain,
but she is deaf until I listen,
rigid until I yield, all –
consuming until I surrender,
lame until I bridge the gap
and walk it back again

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The One


I see your face at the end of wait,
the one day of someday,
the liquid of longing gone past
It is to me the fulfillment of dreams,
the soothing of wounds,
the rising of joy at last
All this would be so
I know, I know
If your lot with mine
were cast

See my visualization of this poem

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Enough he would say
when he didn't want to play anymore
Enough tennis…
(You hit the ball over the fence too many times)
Enough frisbee…
(You made too many bad throws)
Enough wrestling…
(You're starting to win)
Enough spending time with you
(That I really didn't want to do)
Enough bearing the terrible burden
of your longing to be with me
Enough it should be to fulfill my obligation
But it was never enough and the the words
in parentheses always tainted time he gave,
Always dashed the illusion that I was special
at all, much less enough to inspire his love

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Sin-Sick Soul


Sometimes whisper, Sometimes shout
Always fear, Always doubt
This voice inside I can’t block out
To the world I show a face
Of confidence, Of poise and grace
These things are real, But only part
What’s in my soul, What’s in my heart
If I don’t edit, They’ll find out
Confirm my shame and my doubt
Once again I’ll hide my face
I’ll be put back in my place

Who am I to ask so much?
For love, affection, Human touch
To happiness I have no right

Cease my song - Put out my light
Who I am is an offense
Is the message I receive
Despite opposing evidence,
That’s the message I believe

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Ode  to Inigo Montoya


Hello, my name is memory
You raped your daughter,
who loved you dearly
I do not lie.
Hello, my name is will.
On her you imposed me,
while you drank your fill
It drained her dry
Hello, my name is shame
I served you well
Wracked is she with guilt and blame,
but ne'er you cry
Hello, my name is terror
With me you broke her mind
Day and night I pursued her
Nameless and faceless was I
Hello, my name is rage
I was that daughter
Now I am not her
Prepare to die

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There is no hurry
There is no wait
There is no early
There is no late
I no longer seek distraction
from ever-present anxiety
There’s no discomfort in the now –
It’s not prickly like it used to be
I’ve no concern for the future
The past no longer drives me
Instead I float – as on a raft,
And let the river guide me
My soul rejoices in this freedom
I breathe so ever easily
I know now that I belong
to a god who loves me dotingly

See my visualization of this poem


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Numbered Poems


~ 1 ~

Time served two the gem of joy
each on mirrored plate
One did hurry to capture the prize;
the other thought to wait
Death saw naught but refracted light,
and at his plate did hiss
Life, instead, cast aside the rock
and gazed into the face of  bliss

See my visualization of this poem

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~ 2 ~

Belittle, belittle, belittle
Become undone, be naught
Be little, be little, be little
Become, by one, be taught

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~ 3 ~

Life is not a closet
from which we may choose an
emotion, disposition, or perspective
It is more like a nanny,
who chooses from her own closet
what we shall wear that day

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~ 4 ~

What a place this silence is
I think I like it here
There's nothing to remind me –
No consequence to fear
I can almost say and do and be
all my heart desires
And never face the certainty
that action soon requires
I can walk the earth and never move
a single grain of sand
What a place this silence is –
This almost living land
Yes, I think I like it here –
I'm never going back
Look! A tree to rest my bones
I think I'll take a nap

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~ 5 ~

Too much in my body,
too much in my bones,
too much in my sinew
to my spirit know

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~ 6 ~

Such delight I find in him
In him my mate I see
My soul is filled with longing
For words from silence free
Alas, I’m trapped –
he wears a ring
His door is closed to me

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~ 7 ~

Anger to pain is preferable
Numbness better still
Best of all, to bind them all,
and sugar coat the pill

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~ 8 ~

Sometimes I thrash
with bitter stroke
in a pool of discontent
And then, my anger spent,
I dry myself on a rock of sadness
under a sky that has no sun
I do these things
and let them claim me
for they and I are one

Sometimes I Thrash
See my visualization of this poem

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~ 9 ~

God lays his quilt across the trees
and paints the ground with its leaves
Each bears the color of its fruit,
some flamboyant - others mute
Orange orange and lemon yellow,
ruby red and golden mellow,
macintosh with  pumpkin patch,
deep plum pudding and a dash –
And though my eyes can't drink their fill,
the season offers greater still
Such sweet aroma fills my breath
to wake my primal union with
my soul and senses one and all
I love thee, love thee, love thee, Fall!

See my visualization of this poem

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~ 10 ~

Truth is price and purchase,
burden and relief,
and Passage from endless fear
to finite joy and grief

Price and Purchase
See my visualization of this poem

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~ 11 ~

Healing is an iterative process,
a progressive probing hex
The first step is agony, followed by a rest
Successive steps improve by the delta
Agony – x

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~ 12 ~

Two rocks lie on either side of a path
They are mates –
 their faces tell me so,
"We were one, but now are two –
cleaved by brutal blow"
I notice as I pass between,
a  faint ambilic flow
It is, I think, their former wholeness
refusing to let go

Two Rocks - Print Only Two Rocks - Framed Print

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~ 13 ~

I shall send Reality to burn at your side,
and illuminate the face of Illusion

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~ 14 ~

Alone in the desert
I long to be free and scream out the pain
But when I think of it,
I hold myself in
The burning sensation
will only get worse if I let myself feel it –
the depth of my thirst

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~ 15 ~

When my mother wore rose-colored glasses,
the world was always fine
And if it wasn't really that way,
it'd surely be it time
But then one day she took them off –
much to my surprise
But even more the shock
when I did come to find
She'd worn the lens for many eyes,
and one of them was mine

Rose-Colored Glasses
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~ 16 ~

I never thought to live in my house,
to renovate the rooms
I only sought to get out
To live in something new
Ten times I left
Ten times I built
that house again the same
from breakfast nook to ceiling fan
from brick to window pane
In my rage, I tore it down –
stripped it to the frame,
and in the end, found myself out
through a door that opened in

See my visualization of this poem

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~ 17 ~

I long for the world where souls mate for life
and breath unmitigated truth.
Whose speech is unfettered by faces that lie
And life is not jaded by fear

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~ 18 ~

We walk the fence of self-esteem,
our faces toward the sun,
but never leaping there
It’s all we can do –
keep our feet on the beam,
And avoid the shadow’s lair

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~ 19 ~

Every deed both cruel and kind
falls on fertile ground
and finds a mate to spawn again
‘til kings of kings are crowned
Tempt this does to measure worth
of praise or scarlet letter –
tally thorn and vine since birth
and sum the deeds together
But all our deeds are potter’s clay
at last if not at first
None can take our worth away
or nullify our worst

Every Deed
Every Deed
See my visualization of this poem

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~ 20 ~

I feel sorry for the house –
for the walls that had to hide,
to hold, to hold inside
for the wallpaper
stuck there, trapped there
with eyes that wouldn't close,
for the roof that had to keep it together,
make it all seem sound,
for the floor on which I hid by my bed,
that small space I controlled
It had to know. It had to know.
I feel sorry for the house

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~ 21 ~

My Father taught me plenty
Although he doesn’t know it
He taught myself to hate me
To love, but not to show it
My father taught me distance
And the judgement it implies
He taught me to fear weakness
And the consequence it buys
My father taught me doing
To from my feelings hide
It is from him I’m fleeing
Though he has long since died

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~ 22 ~

On the anniversary of my death
I remember pain
Such as I had never known before
Such as I had never known possible
I remember betrayal
Such as I had never known at all
I remember my soul consumed by fire
Not yet a phoenix, but ashes
I remember this anniversary
Inconceivable and unwanted – loathed even
At the time
All this returns to me
All this is in the present
All this is in the past
On the anniversary of my death

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~ 23 ~

Childhood is when we get our wounds
Adulthood is when we feel them
And if we persevere,
It is when we heal them

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~ 24 ~

I am not who I've been,
the person you know
I’ve been a shadow –
A ghost in a show
The color of appropriate
The tune of just-right
The shape of fits-in
The line of in-sight
Now I am nova –
brilliantly bright,
life-changing color,
sight-seeking light
My moments are chock full –
the realest of real
I think what I think
I feel what I feel
Sometimes I look back
at how I was then,
the lessons I re-learned
again and again.
Those rules I created
had hemmed me in
Thanks to the tearing,
I'm not who I've been.

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