Note: This blog was originally posted three years ago. Today I reflected on the Sonnet and the circumstances that led me to write it. Putting the emotions surrounding my experience in the cellar was a catalyst for writing my memoir, What Kind of Love is This? Three years later, my story is published and I am sharing it with new audiences across the world. Revisiting the Sonnet seemed appropriate in advance of my Virtual Book Launch scheduled for August 7, 2021 at 2PM CDT. The sonnet expresses the theme of my story-finding God in the darkness.
My last post, The Problem of Evil, began with a description of an event that I experienced at age 9. Since writing the essay, the introductory vignette has haunted me. As those who experience Post-traumatic stress reactions will understand, managing such occurrences are part of the healing process. However, I had not experienced such a flood of physical and emotional reactions to memory in years. So the experience was unsettling, to say the least. As I processed my emotions and physical reactions, I recalled another aspect of the experience that I briefly mentioned in the essay. Throughout my life, I always felt God’s presence. Sometimes I did not understand it, but as I look back on my life, God always showed up. I have said that before, but the experience in the cellar was such an experience. Each night an angel came to the cellar and held me until I fell asleep in her arms. The constant presence of God, Christ and angels gave me glimmers of hope that kept me alive throughout my childhood.
What is a Cellar?
For you to fully understand the setting of the Sonnet that follows, I want to describe the cellar. Basically, a root cellar is a hole in the ground used to store fruits and vegetables. The temperature is a constant 57 degrees F. The room is small, damp and smells of rotting food. There are shelves for storing the fruit and vegetables, but the walls and floor is packed dirt. In my case, there was no light except when my uncle came back to get me because the light hung from the ceiling and I could not reach the cord to turn it on.
The game I talk about in the essay and in the sonnet is the term my father and my uncle used to describe the sexual abuse. The rules of the game changed, but for most of my childhood the dominant rule was, I had to pretend to enjoy the abuse. I was a fighter from day one and rarely acquiesced to the rules. As the result, I endured days in the cellar or other absurd punishments for failing to play the game. I think my determination to fight and resist kept me alive, but it also led to substantial pain. The Sonnet describes “The Game” and my thoughts about my situation as well as the comfort of angels in the darkness.
Angel in the Cellar
As the door slams above the earthen cell,
Walls of dirt surround my shivering frame.
What must I do to escape from this hell?
To be free, must I always play “the game?”
“The game” that my Daddy says is my lot.
“The game” that now my uncle seeks to win.
“The game” my soul and body always fought.
“The game” that always ends when I give in.
But every time I cry and scream in pain.
I cannot pretend his touch brings me joy.
I cannot let him know that fear remains.
I cry out, “I am more than just your toy!”
The darkness fades and once again I see
An angel comes to hold and comfort me.