How I Became A Pacifist

by Jane Devin on 02/18/2012

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. I’ll be posting some additional articles then, but wanted to start getting the word out now in case other bloggers didn’t know about this event and would like to support the cause on their own sites. The following is a story I’d like to dedicate this to S.J., a survivor. “Where you’ve been is not where you’re going.” – Love, Jane

How I Became A Pacifist


My throat is closed up. I remind myself to breathe, breathe, but I can’t get all the air I need through my nose. The sweat’s pouring down my face, down my neck, but I don’t know how much is sweat and how much is blood. Mr. Kinley says keep fighting, don’t give up, only quitters quit. His voice is like an echo in my barely conscious brain.

I’m floating, floating

she smells like burnt brown sugar
I wonder whatever happened to my dragon diary
everything’s pretty when it’s cobalt blue

Something hard hits the side of my head. I just want to sleep. Can I sleep now, I ask silently. The answer is a sharp jab to my left side.

I’m supposed to want to win, but I’m losing bad. Don’t fall, the worst thing you can do is fall, don’t be a disgrace.

Had enough yet?  Her voice hisses and her blow lands square in the middle of my face. I can’t see anything except heaven and the smell of burnt-brown-sugar has turned to rust.

Hey God, is it supposed to be dark in here?
Why isn’t nobody answering me?

Hands under my arms pull me away from God’s distant reach. I know God was almost there, but the hands came too soon. I’m disappointed, but I know we’ll meet one day. It’s inevitable.


“Why you ain’t fight harder?” Kaia asks. “You know you got it in you.”

But I don’t want it in me. I want a washing away, a do-over, a new life, an exorcism. Whatever is in me isn’t mine. It was never mine and never meant to be. I was pulled apart, pulled open, that thing was shoved in there and then I was sewn up tight.

“So it’s like that, huh? You just gonna let yourself get beat?”

I shrug. It’s too hard to explain the kind of peace that comes from surrendering —from refusing any part of that kind of rage

not mine, never mine, don’t want it to be.

Kaia raises her hands in disgust before dropping them to her side. “Well, I can’t watch it,” she says. “Not if you’re not even gonna try.” She walks away then and I know this time it’s for good. It’s not the first time we’ve had this argument.


god give you anger, god give you strength
god give you love, god give you pain
god give you nothin’ but what you already have

If you listen very closely to the sound of a drum, God does this magic thing that puts grown up words in your heart, beautiful words, true words, words that resurrect. I beat the drum for hours and hours, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-ba-dum

except it wasn’t really a drum and it wasn’t really God.

It was a head-shaped dent in the wall. If you squinted just the right way, though, it kind of looked like a heart.

I love you God, I thank you dent. One kind of pain really is better than another.


Get your head out of the clouds.
Who you talking to?
Your imaginary friends aren’t going to save you.

My mind is my own and she can’t get to it, not with her hands, not with her words. I fly, I float, I swim into new people and whole other worlds. Mr. Kinley goes, Kaia arrives. Kaia goes, Alice comes. Nobody ever really stays for longer than they need to, but nobody ever really leaves, either. I know it’s just a mind thing, but it’s my mind thing, and nobody can take it away, not even her.


Look at this day, how red and gold and sunlit it is, with leaves blowing through the air and tumbling across the narrow street. I spy a gray cat stretched out on a porch, sleepy and lazy, while in another yard a brown-black dog rolls in the yellow-green grass. Not my cat, not my dog, but it doesn’t matter. Animals, like children, really belong to no one, even if nearly everyone feels like they have a right to them. Is that called dominion? I think it’s called dominion.

I don’t want to be like that, so I sit close and wait for the dog to come to me. I’m so grateful when she does, especially because I have nothing to give her except a hug around her neck and some good petting. She lays down and opens her whole self up to me — neck, chest, belly, legs — and she seems to be smiling. This is what love feels like, I think. It feels warm and soft and accepting. It feels like trust. And if it doesn’t, if that’s just another thing I imagine, then that’s okay with me. I like this kind of imagining.

The drum in the dog’s chest goes ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-ba-dum, and after a while God whisper-sings to both of us

all the days in the world are sweet, somewhere
somewhere, always, it’s just like this
red and gold and sunlit,
& wide-wide open to love.

Bandit lets me lay my head down on her big brown-black chest and I make a cradle out of my arms for her. I breathe her heartbeat in and sing us both to sleep.

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