Poem: “Safer at Home in these United States” by Marie Cartier


Content Warning: Child abuse, domestic violence. 

~~~~~~~

Safer at home is what we are told to do in these United States right now,

and the idea is you will not be able

to spread the virus, or catch the virus, if you are home.

 

I was never safer at home growing up

and sure, people talk about that—safer at home—

but it’s not safe for everyone, especially if you don’t have a home,

and certainly not one you are safe in.

 

I think of the girl I pass sometimes, walking my dog at night.

She puts herself in a green bag and curls around the meter block to be invisible and sleeps.

She pulls the bag over her head and draws the cord. I was afraid it was a large animal dropped off

until I got closer and saw it was a woman, the top of her head visible beneath the closed bag.

I must understand that she has no home, and she came from one at some time– that was not safe.

Do you remember the little boy? So cute—with a little man’s hat and

a twinkle in his eye, eight years old. His parents beat him repeatedly because he didn’t put his toys away correctly, and because they thought he was gay. He was eight.


They tortured him. I think so often about that kid, his face eager to please,

at some point someone took that picture.

I wish I could have …saved that kid, loved that kid, made it OK for that kid to grow up.

Because his parents eventually killed him. Safer at home. It terrifies me

all of these locked up houses with people inside not coming out, doing what?

Of course, I agree we are safer at home if we have houses and they are safe—

stay at home, safer at home. Don’t spread the virus.

But for the woman who had that block of eight hours of time while her abuser was at work?

The kids who run into the streets “to play” to get away from home?

For the myriad of teens who are trying to find the window to take the online class,

with their parents yelling in the background. Yelling and then taking it out on them?

I know. I know that if there had been a one-year lock down when I was “growing up” I

never would have– grown up.

I see myself running out the door. A young girl tying on skates and skating for miles on the river.

Climbing trees and building tree forts four stories up. I had to get out. Get up. Get away.

Get out of sight.

In my teens boys with motorcycles met me down the street where my parents wouldn’t see.

Whatever happened to me outside the home, as hard as it was,

was never as bad as what happened inside of it.

Home was friends. Home was running through the woods, smoking cigarettes with friends, looking for rides, and moving, moving free, running out. Free.

Home was rarely safe. My father raging, and more, and we were in the path of the hurricane.

If we were in the home, we couldn’t get out of the path.

That little kid, Gabriel Fernandez, eight years old in 2013. I know why he smiled. He had his hat on.

He was going places.

There are so many people right now who are not safe. Not safe at home. And the outside is not safe.

We are in a pandemic. And the inside is not safe. Because it never was.

Pray. Pray. Pray.

Hestia of the home, Hestia of the hearth: protect them.

Most of us? Many of us? Were never safe at home. And so many of us are no safer at home.

Let us live to fight together again.

Shoulder to shoulder to shoulder to shoulder.

Let us live to open the doors to let the children run,

to let the women free, to let the men learn.

For now, Hestia protect the hearth.

Deep inside the houses the children… all the Gabriel’s…please find a way…

Join with Mary, Theresa, and Magdalene, Hestia.

Find a way- for the boy with the hat to keep smiling

I said over and over to myself as a kid, “You just have to grow up.”

May it be so. May they grow up.

And yes, thank you to all the essential workers who go to work and have to go out.

Especially the cleaning ladies.

Both of my grandmothers were cleaning ladies. The women who I know late at night because I work late at night, that entire workforce—the nighttime cleaners.

All the essential workers—they leave home and maybe get sick and go back home

and leave again. The stress: we are not all in this together.

Hestia bring equality.

Hestia keep the house fed. Keep it warm.

Make it be at least safe –enough.

Safer than the outside. Safe enough to get by.

Hestia, you who preside over all sacrifices, and maintain the home fire:

help them find the fire to defend themselves if necessary. You are honored with the first sacrifice in every household. Hestia you chose to spend your time not on Olympus, but on earth with us, with the mothers you loved. Then protect us, all of us, Hestia, the orphans and the missing children, and the home, the safer at home who are not safe, protect us.

Who can we pray to? Who can reach into the locked homes? The locked rooms? The scared children? The silent women? Hestia intercede for us. Please, if you can,

please, make it truly safer at home.

 

–Marie Cartier
August 2020
In These United States

 

Marie Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.  She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall (Routledge 2013). She is a senior lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Northridge, and in Film Studies at Univ. of CA Irvine.



Categories: abuse, Childhood, Children, Family, Violence, Violence Against Women

Tags: , ,

21 replies

  1. Thank you Marie for this poignant post. I have often thought about those children who are not safer at home. I think about what would have happened if there had been a quarantine when I was a child and how I would not only have been not at all safe but that there would have been no escape. Not that any adult protected me even out of the house but at least there was an out of the house.

    With all the reckonings going on in this world today, I wonder where and when domestic abuse will find its voice. Your work is an awesome step for that.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thank you. Yes. I think about this often. To all of you who have a home where you feel safe and loved and appreciated, Goddess blessed! But sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many do not. We have been dealing with Covid and lockdowns since March so approximately 180 days. Worldwide 832,000 people have died. That is horrible. Terrible.

    But in just a little over 30 days, that many people die of hunger worldwide, almost half of them children!! (25,000 a day, so 850,000 will have died in 34 days.) Why have we not stopped the world for them? While we are busy fixing things in the world, let’s figure out a way to feed them.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh, this is such an important point – so many are not safe at home -thank you so much for bringing this reality to the forefront Marie. Powerful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I got goosebumps reading this. Yes, I remember that little boy and yes, so many homes are not safe. Thank you for speaking out, for reminding us to lend out energy for safety of homes and those who cannot stay home because of violence. May they be protected.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. It’s so sad and horrifying to hear or read what bad parents can do to children. Heartbreaking. Blessings to the children and to you, my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for this essential post. Fortunately, in my community the organizations serving those who are abused — whether domestic, elder, or child abuse — have found ways to continue working, remotely when possible but sometimes even in person when necessary. It’s an important reminder of how much we need to support these organizations, especially now, and that those in need can still call for help.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for this heart wrenching post, it’s important that get your voice out this way. I think many people just need to develop more compassion to one another, instead of complaining that they can’t do this and that. Even including those children and adults in our thoughts is already having compassion.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Powerful and poignant!

    Like

  9. What a profoundly accurate poem! I know many of my students are not safe at home. I was not safe at home. Thank you for sharing your personal story with us so that we can all reach out to those not safe, including ourselves❤️

    Like

  10. So wrenchingly heartbreaking. This is why I see feminism as class liberation from class oppression rather than as individual choices. We need justice and healing for these horrific epidemics of violence. Bless your healing journey. <3

    Like

  11. Thank you from another person who was not safe at home as a child.

    Like

Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: