Poem: Daughter Beneath

This poem comes with an EXTREME TRIGGER WARNING. Trust your instincts from the title alone and DON’T read the poem if you think the warning may apply to you. For anyone “testing the water” with the first stanza, I can assure you that things escalate from there on. You have been warned.

This 590-word poem is one of the last I completed back in 2016, and I have held off from publishing it until now. I had read several articles about girls being abducted by strangers and imprisoned, or held captive by one or both of their own parents. The details are horrifying and serve only to highlight one of the many manifestations of inhumanity within our species. The stories struck enough of a nerve with me that I felt compelled to write a poem – an ode, if you like – to one such girl, albeit a fictional one but based heavily on those from the true stories I read. I know that I have occasionally dabbled in horror in my poetry, but all others are purely fictitious whereas this one is not. This was one of the most difficult poems for me to write, even moreso than those written about my own personal experiences. For anyone who has read my poem Playroom, this one goes far beyond it in terms of human depravity. So, with that preamble aside, here is…

 

Daughter Beneath

What he did to you, Katja, was cruelty manifest.
He stole a sacred treasure, then locked it in a chest.
At such a young age, he hid you away,
and took from you again, every single day.

He kept you in darkness, dust-streaked and bare,
like a pile of bones in a predator’s lair.
Each time your door opened, he’d enter and feed
from the one place of warmth in that den of vile deeds.

What manner of monsters our species spawns,
creating such creatures that know no remorse.
How can a father sink so far below,
to violate his own daughter while watching her grow?

How did you survive all those years in that vault?
Did he tell you, each wake-time, that it must be your fault?
Did he give you a blanket or did you sleep on the stone?
Did you long for rare moments when you’d wake all alone?

Did you even possess a vocabulary, Katja?
Could you comprehend the words of your master?
What could a tamed pet truly understand
when daily communion’s a disgraceful command?

Did he make you pray, Katja, and kneel for your shame,
to absolve you of sin, though you were never to blame?
Or did Father not teach you about angels and saints?
Did you not know of heroes who could break your restraints?

I couldn’t have found the strength to provide
a way to keep breathing; my heart would have died.
Doubtless, were it me, if I could but foretell,
I would not have endured that continuous hell.

But I could have been your knight, if I’d heard;
I would have saved your life with a word.
Of course I would, now that’s easy to state,
but, as with everyone else, I knew far too late.

Soon enough your tale faded into shadows of triviality,
for you died down there, Katja, after decades of brutality.
You endured such a nightmare, that in the end took its toll
Now no fragments of Father will ever tarnish your soul.

You lived and died in a one-room reprise
of devilish discord and calamitous cries,
begat in blood and baptised in blindness,
first a child, then a mother, unacquainted with kindness.

And your baby girl, Katja, she died down there, too.
I hope to gods that don’t answer, that she passed on with you,
cuddled in comfort, untouched by disgrace,
huddled in the warmth of her mother’s embrace.

But how can we know? There’s no sense in painting
a sanitised hope of the least tragic ending.
We should not be allowed such a cushion as security,
to be graced wishful thinking that he left you some purity.

What if I’d opened the door to your chamber
and led you above to live out the remainder
of the time that was left you under unending skies
that had never been glimpsed by your timorous eyes?

Would you have gazed at the gleaming chalice,
high on the ceiling of this fantasy palace?
Would you have had the slightest conception
of this new realm of light after a life of deception?

In my daydreams you smile in the warmth of the sun,
your girl by your side, your lives now begun,
content to be nameless, no longer conflicted,
now part of a species you scarce knew existed.

Dear Katja, these words were for you and for me,
for I sit here powerless against all that I see.
It was just an attempt to diminish the shame
that we humans should feel, for someone must be to blame.

Daughter Beneath

Copyright © Scott Kaelen
Read all my published poems here

 

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