Survival Taught Me Empathy

I have been praised for my empathy.

As if it was a trait I had acquired by any means

Other than from the flames of survival.

There is no easy way to tell them

It was never my throat he held up

By the fireplace,

Never my body he pushed or punched or

Tried to drown.

It was never me,

And that never explained my pain away

Or eased my sister’s suffering,

Or my mother’s bruises,

Or the bodies of our dogs.

I learned empathy from the struggle I witnessed;

My own part in the matter relevant

Because I took in the pain,

Took on the pain,

Shook the pain,

Looked the pain

Right in it’s damn face

And held my sister,

Mother, closer,

Letting the fissure bind us like spiderwebs;

See-through but


Empathy wove our struggle together,

And made us stronger for the battles we each faced

In private.

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