The Persuader

Silently threatening
From the back of their bedroom door,
They jokingly call it “The Persuader,”
But I am not laughing.

It seems to have a life of its own.
Sometimes it does a random dance on the table,
Breakdancing against the fridge,
Causing dust to rise from the sofa
Where I am sitting.
When the end catches my arm,
I whimper.
The operator remains stoic as she says,
“Well, it’s your own fault;
You better get out of the way.”

There are days when its existence
Has nearly slipped my mind
Until he comes crashing through the door
Yelling with the voice of authority,
Shouting that I need to clean up the kitchen.
The power in his voice
Causes me to set down my sandwich
And bend over the couch.
The belt stings my legs over and over again.
Biting my tongue,
I refuse to cry.
Seventeen is too old to cry over a spanking.

When the anger storm is over
And he leaves the house,
I am finally alone.
From the depths of my soul,
I begin to wail.

I howl because the persuader has convinced me
That I have nowhere to go
That I have no right to a high school education
That I have no right to my own opinions
That I have no right to ask questions
Like why and how come,
That I have no right to question God.

They say they are doing their religious duty–
That God will punish me if they don’t
And would I prefer to be thrown into the lake of fire?

I cried out to Jesus, “Where are you?”
Then Jesus shows me how God uses His power:
The Creator beaten by His creatures until He bleeds.
I discover that God is not the way I thought He was.

Silent, hanging, without any motion
From the back of their bedroom door
The Persuader asserts its malicious spell
As it threatens and snears
That I don’t deserve more.
But Jesus whispers my name
And points to the scars on His back.

-Cherilyn Clough