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PTSD Survivor Poetry, by Amy Sprague

In our ongoing celebration of National Poetry Month, this week’s PTSD poem comes from Amy Sprague… Two years Amy wrote a terrific piece, ‘Just A Thought On Labels and Healing‘. Today she’s back in our continuing series honoring survivors poetry in celebration of National Poetry Month…. Of this poem she wrote to me, “Just a poem I wanted to share with you, maybe not the most uplifting poem, but it’s honest.” Honesty, in my opinion, is where recovery is at!


by Amy Sprague

I didn’t cry
when the belts lashed and
the flesh stung
or the backside bruised
from flying across
one too many rooms
when I shook each wall
in the house and pictures broke
I didn’t cry
when I was sworn to deathly
secrecy that made my
innards ice and landslide
I didn’t choke on secrets
I didn’t give anything away
but my dolls, open-armed,
as a gift, as a sacrifice
I didn’t cry
when I lost myself
I cried when I spilt
the milk, when I choked
at the table, when I
had no reason to cry
I found reservoirs
of dirty water and I
apologized as the tears
stained my dresses
I didn’t cry when I
froze on the swing when
I first felt empty
I cried on a swing when
I was twenty
missing a lost girl
who kept all the keys
and all the pretty pieces
to the face that
had no name


When I was five

I used to jump from the top of the stairs

to the landing with a red cape,

believing if I kept trying

I’d fly

I’d be Super-girl

saving the world from damage.

Many afternoons, my bare feet

thudded the catchy carpet

as smoke rose up the stairs

with the patience of a coming storm,

my father puffing a pipe,

his big knuckles unharmed

from their crack into my cheek;

his eyes empty of what he’d done

beneath my cape.

It didn’t matter that there were no such things

as heroes.

At least I could fly.


There are endless days and nights

when the fever is at its peak, when the sheets

are still dry, tangled in the legs, awaiting its break.

There are endless days and nights

of infection seeping out your pores, as cells

proliferate and the mind expels the waste

through sweat and tears, as light comes

swirling out of the dark.


These are the stuff my poems are made on.
But what of now? What of the time unspent,

endless days of watching clocks or racing

up the afternoons in a frenzy

to chase away a possible new fever pitch,

wishing for the wet moments when it breaks,

taking me away from myself and into an illness.
What am I without difficult degrees?
My heart waiting and waiting,

looking in the mirror at a face

I can’t recognize, too disenchanted

by what’s left, what awaits, by all else

moving moving forward together
I remember thinking to myself my first

night in the hospital

well at least I’ve got new material to write about


To be an illness or scar

is at least something. A form of someone with

a clear goal, a clear ache, a clear infection.

Not this woman who, once passing clarity

or the long division of a stretched body,

waits unsettled in still time

waiting and waiting for sunlight

through her kitchen curtains to

show her something.



I think I’m seeing white birds
white birds scattering away
from my window, out there
in the cold January, their wings
sound, from here, like sheets–
my grandmother’s white sheets–
on the line in June.

The light coming in is white.
Color?  Or space?
Like the space we can never fill.
Like the start of a narrative.
Like the blank walls,
these hospital rooms cemented
in their smoggy halo.

I’m crouched over a puce tray,
surrounded by the others in halogens, others
that have found strange caverns to fill in
strange tongues native to disorder, asking me
if I have a home, if I want my ice cream,
if I cut myself
as they rock in their seats
or lay on the couch or pace
the room, watching.  We’re always

I’m back in room East-Building #125
looking in a safety mirror
at my eyes, those black spheres
that tell me nothing
as to how to find them,
and my face is swollen,
green in the light.

Afternoons leave me trailing halls
away and around the others, busy
ants that lost their tribes, seeking
something, something close to that morning
light, before you’re awake.
I follow the ones that never cry,
asking what they’re on.

I stop at the Christmas tree
with it’s paper ornaments.
Something deeper hurts.
The homeless Dave from Duluth
whispers to me from behind the tree
“are you getting out of here?”  and I’m suddenly
hitting a bottom
because there are no lights
on this tree,
just the glint in his chimney eyes.

I bolt for my room as I unravel, knowing
at the same time that I belong
as my thoughts spin and my body
invades my privacy, it’s going to turn too
and choke me out of reason.

I dissociate, panic,
get psychotic, crash
and wake up later beneath
a doctor’s light, my body
on a cool table

and I think I’m seeing white birds
white birds scattering away
from my window, out there
in the cold January.

They’re not doves–
more like the ghosts of crows
or a sheet of paper
that I once
had a narrative on.

(My poetry has appeared in FRiGG Magazine, The Survivor Chronicles, Escarp, The Abaton, Third Wednesday, and Psychic Meatloaf)


Amy is a mama and writer, living in a lovely little town in northern Wisconsin with her daughter and fiancé.  She is currently unable to work and had to take time off from college as well in order to take time to heal.  She has four great loves in her life: her girl, her fiancé, writing, and the Blues. 

For more from Amy visit:





The ideas contained in this post solely represent the perspective of the author. To contribute to ‘Survivors Speak’ contact Michele.

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