Nails in the Tree: A Reflection on Trauma

Sylvan Park, Scarborough

I want to heal from the damage caused by two nails that have pierced me. Over the years, they have twisted themselves into cracked pockets of partial burial, digging in, holding fast to their reluctant host.

“Brace yourself,” well-wishers advise. “Just rip out those rusty old bastards and you’ll be free.” It is easy for my friends to say this, for they perceive the nails as separate and distinct from my flesh. They judge me for cleaving to familiar cruelties, the very devices that undermine my stability.

I miss the clarity of rage that met the shock of the first hammer blow and the next and the next. But I was young and did not understand how quickly righteous anger cools to self-doubt. Matching pain to resigned silence is a mistake that re-makes itself.

The man who held the hammer is long dead, but the nails he selected still insinuate with aches. The memories sink more and more severely into my limbs each season, and their sharp points have become as familiar as shame. Although he never explained why he chose me to be punished, he was careful to convince me I deserved it. That way, I could continue to self-crucify as he intended, a sadistic immortality.

The two nails drive his name deeper with every splash of rain on metal, every ice-storm that conducts more cold into my veins. Yet without this Frankenstein map of ancient injuries, who am I? If I am not splintered, how can I seize the audacity to be whole?

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