DANIELLE BAXTER

Author: age 19

I was raised in filth.
This is important.
It is worth remembering.

I wonder what it does to a tiny brain like that, poised and taut and ready to build, to be smothered, forced down into the muck to flounder against tides of refuse. I wonder what I would be without it.

Would I still be as inventive? Had I not the opportunity to create beauty from trash.
Would my work still hold the same mute sorrow? Invisible to anyone who didn’t
know to look.
Would my art still carry with it the same sense of resilient triumph? Had I not the need to fight and claw and desperately thrash against pain and horror to bring it into being.

Would I be the same? No, of course not, but does that matter? I doubt it. I could change the color of my childhood bedroom walls and some part of me would change with it. We use the ends to justify the means, even if the means, in their conception, had no vision of the end.

That I am still constantly creating will never excuse the pain, the chaos, the violence. It is retroactive absolution to think otherwise, but that doesn’t matter. That I pushed myself up like a weed through cracks in detritus has never mattered. That I can create means nothing.

Who’s to say that version of me wouldn’t be happier? Wouldn’t panic and flinch at every loud noise or subtle shift in tone as though the walls themselves were falling? That she, whoever she is, wouldn’t carry that filth with her until she passed on into oblivion, into peace? That she would never have reached for death as though it were an answer, worse, a solution?

But how could she? How could her pain chase her if she never experienced it? No, it never mattered. It never will. No gift of the body, of talent, excuses the destruction of the soul.

This is important.
It is worth remembering.

Author: 27

Do not despair your trauma, sweet friend.
Don’t you remember? The details are in the wind.

It was me you looked to for hope, for strength.
It was me you turned to when you told yourself over and over that someday, it would end.

You knew no one would come for you, that you’d have to save yourself,
and you did.
You learned your lessons well, little one,
there in the dark,
but we are here now.

I must thank you. Your pain bought us time.
Your suffering is different from mine. It is a memory for me now.
It was never a memory for you.

For you, every horror was a fresh shattering of the soul,
but each time the ash settled, there you stood,
unbroken.

You got us here, and I will never truly be able to repay you.
We know who we are now, as you did not.
You thought you did, but your vision of yourself was one in which your power was found only in your ability to survive.
No, we know now, our power lives in our ability to heal.

Perhaps I am wrong though, another adult unable to fathom that someone so young could truly know themselves, but you did, didn’t you?
Why else would you have stood against the storm not only to survive,
but to defend?

You have always known exactly who you are.
You did not know who you would become.

You became me.

When I remember you, all the pain and chaos and violence you endured for me,
I look to the words you wrote,
protected,
refined,
perfected,
over all those years.

They may not be as you remember them, but they are what you always intended.
They go like this.

The details are in the wind,
held only by the frame of time that possesses them,
and someday, when that frame passes,
you won’t remember that you ever knew them at all,
save for when the right breeze flows past,
but it will be gone just as fast.

We no longer stand in the tempest,
and though we may weep when the darkest breeze touches our face,
the dawn in all its stillness always comes.

You were right to look to me for hope; I am stronger than you were,
but remember, always, that I am stronger because of you, not in spite of you.

You, in all your sorrow and fury, did not suffer in vain.

This is important.
It is worth remembering.

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