SHADOW BOXING v. to spar with an imaginary opponent as a form of training.
A moment of impact. This fist. This face. Belly cheek thigh. When there is no one to hurt me, I hurt myself. To keep under. Submerged. Suspended. Enough blows and maybe I’ll never have to come back.
Bodies marked with ghosts.
So, people create their own realities in a way. What is so extraordinary about trauma, is that these images or sounds or physical sensations don’t change over time. So people who have been molested as kids continue to see the wallpaper of the room in which they were molested. 
Violent acts as a way to keep the blood moving. Lost without a fight.
_ _ _
I stand in the backyard between the old maples that will be cut down after we move out. To the left of me is the stained hammock we rock ourselves dizzy in. Sister and I twisting each other into tiny cocoons and release, letting our bodies spin free.
I am trying to hold onto the thin slippery plastic of an inflatable punching bag. We are the same height, stand at eye level with each other, me and the laughable outline I have drawn of my mother’s face. Water fills the bottom of the bag slowly, keeping it upright. The face could be anyone’s, only I know it is meant to be hers. I take a step back and throw a punch. One two, one two. Before the second punch lands, the bag is beyond me, dodging my fist. Flopping backward, irritatingly slow. Like throwing a paper airplane. Unsatisfying. I step towards it and the water sloshes backward, bringing the bag back an inch from my face. I punch it again. The softness of the impact evokes rage. Each time it comes up I punch harder, and each time the longer it takes to fall. Takes its sweet time rising to meet me. I consider bashing it with a stick, stomping it to the ground. The anger starts at the base of my spine and rises to the sternum, flows through the hands. I need a body to feel the impact.
Snakeskins are piled in the corner of the basement. No one put them there. They like to crawl in through the windows and shed undisturbed in the damp. No one comes down here besides us.
At age six it is recommended that I start boxing. My punching bag is a heavy bag, free standing. At least, it’s supposed to be. They never got around to filling it with sand. It falls over easily from even the mildest of impact. My arms tired from lifting it after each punch. The bag grows sticky from lying limp on the basement floor. This was supposed to work.
Take it. Come on, take it. Take it like I do.
What about a punching bag? What about a teenage boy filled with sawdust and dirt. Wanting to be closer to the sun. Wanting more than anything to be whole. He puts on a pair of gloves as his sisters watch from the window. Moves like a pro, bare feet dancing front back front. He swings so long we leave the window, leave him to fight the black mass alone with no witness.
He comes in sweat stiff and dripping. He unwraps his hands, slowly. Coil after coil, tinged pink. When they are gone his hands bleed freely, knuckles skinned like he’d been punching a tree. Leaves a garnet trail behind him as he goes.
Rage pours over closed eyes. Red burrs funnel into sleep, pricking this inner architecture of dreams. The back door of the house won’t stay in the frame. Busted screen. Escape child body. Escape into the predator-filled night. Ruptured from above by the talons of men. Men of violence that my mind creates, that I replicate.
Soaked through with blood. Red red red.
The traumatic moment becomes encoded in an abnormal form of memory, which breaks spontaneously into consciousness, both as flashbacks during waking states and as traumatic nightmares during sleep. 
I awake inflamed.
Men stream in to fill the spaces of our home. My mother will let anyone in. The anger finds permanence in the length of my spine. Seething. To explode, whole body red as the sun. Found a place to rest my fists, constant battle against this new man’s skin. Something to resist me, something that fights back. Hard precise punches, waist high. Child’s anger, still enough life beating through the stick thin body to kick and scratch and bite. Teeth sink through the sailboat inked onto his arm, crowning.
Fists turned to palms shoveling food. Turned to palms pushing away food. I don’t know what fingers are for anymore. By using his fingers, he has taken me and mine.
I suffer because of touch. I suffer without touch.
We stand in the yard after dark, moon so bright everything around us looks covered in snow. On an exhale our breath dissipates like smoke. “Teach me how to box.” My brother stands up from his sun-bleached chair, stretches his arms over his head and looks at me. “Okay.” He tells me to take off my jacket, put my fists up in front of me. “Not like that,” he corrects, “in front of your face. Like this.” His feet in a wide stance, resting on the balls of his feet, heels lifted. His large hands big enough to hide his face when they are in front of it. He throws a punch that starts in his toes, ripples across his body from opposite foot to hand. One two, one two one. I copy his stance, feel the power in the fist that comes from the whole body’s momentum, whole body support. “I’m going to come at you.” My hands are up and I’m jumping from toe to toe, he hits my forehead with his fingers, “Keep your hands up Jane! Hands up!” I place my fists in front of my face but I can’t see anything. He hits my head on the sides, over and over. I cave inward. Shoulders round and hunch, protecting my softest parts. Head downward, his hands pelting me like rain. I throw a few punches with my eyes closed. He laughs, “You have to have your eyes open to protect yourself.” My eyes open but my head stays down, procedural memory taking over. I am collapsing. “Head up!” A second later something in the tone of him changes, “Eyes open. Head up. Look at me! Protect your face!” He is angry at me for my caving. “Hands up! Hands up! You need to protect your face!”
Threat stares in from all sides. A body turns the fight inside out.
Thin slices in soft tissue, battlefield fought on wasting thighs.
Did my patients also need to have physical experiences to restore a visceral sense of control? What if they could be taught to physically move to escape a potentially threatening situation that was similar to the trauma in which they had been trapped and immobilized? (van der Kolk, 31).
I throw punches at the mirror, practicing my form. I’ll keep my head up this time I promise. Reflection strikes back. I can never hurt myself as good as I beg to. Muscle memory indistinguishable from now to then. Memory stuck in the fibers of muscle, skin, bone. Fascicle, endomysium to perimysium, tendon to bone. Attachments reacting to one another. No way to understand; time has passed.
I bow my head.
Outrage doesn’t bottom out. It just digs deeper into us, further still than we thought it could. They say the danger has passed, but so much out there is still trying to stake a claim on my life. Yours, too.
And if we can trace its origins, we think there is a way to reach healing. But when the world itself is sick, there are no stories and there is no place to retreat. 
Anger cracks us open. Small slits in the world bleeding out. Then comes a flood of sadness to cauterize the wound. There’s not enough time to recover before the next blow. There never is.
DISSOCIATION n. the disconnection or separation of something from something else or the state of being disconnected.
Separated from connection, I break. Some invisible place in me writes. I walk in circles around the yard. Come back, come back, come back. I tell myself, they will notice. Someone will notice I’m not here.
Each sentence comes slowly. Prickly and precise. I wound myself by writing. Old sores opening through the tenderizing of memory. Hip bones split like a bone in a dog’s mouth. In my mouth, there is a word and we are fighting. We are fucking. It’s hard to tell what’s happening.
Some days all I am is leaving. Like I’m writing to someone who only exists in this other world, the world where I watch my life from above like a cloud.
Language as excavation. Resurfacing the grieving body.
This is the everyday work. This is the I’m fighting to live work. This is the shadow work.
 van der Kolk, Bessel. The Body Keeps The Score: brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. NY, NY, Penguin Books, 2015.
 Herman, Judith Lewis. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence--from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. New York, NY, Basic Books, 2015.
 Tippett, Krista, and Bessel van der Kolk. “How Trauma Lodges in the Body.” On Being, 9 Mar. 2017, onbeing.org/programs/bessel-van-der-kolk-how-trauma-lodges-in-the-body-mar2017/.
 Hogan, Linda. The woman who watches over the world: a native memoir. New York, NY: Norton, 2002.
Brighde Moffat serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Hematopoiesis and works as an Editorial Assistant at VIDA Review. They are an MA candidate in Embodiment Studies at Goddard College. Their work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Rumpus and Nat. Brut.
Cosi Nayovitz is a writer, massage therapist, and trauma sensitive yoga instructor based in North Carolina. She has a degree in Literature and serves as the Art Editor for Hematopoiesis Press. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from Room Magazine and Monstering.
Walk-In ClosetAlex Kanevsky18 x 18 inches, oil on wood2017