By Susan E. Wagner
There was once a girl who bound pain to her bones.
Each painful thought she had, each hurtful act she
saw, each painful story told to her, was bound inside
her with wet leather thongs. When they dried they
tightened, so that the pains became the outer shell
of her bones.
She captured every sad moment, every unkind word
and bound it to her. She bound the hurts caused by
other children until play became a thing to avoid.
She bound the jealousy in her sister and the hard
kicks of her brother. She bound the disappointments
of her mother and the anger in her father. Year after
year the shell grew thicker.
As a young woman she bound the rejections of
young men and the criticisms of neighbors and
relatives. In time, the hardened shell came to cover
every inch of her bones one thousand times over.
By then the woman was much slower. Her joints ached
from carrying so heavy a load. She hurt everywhere –
and this pain she could not bind. This pain she could
But the woman refused to believe she could not bind
this pain as she had bound all the others. She ignored
the pains in her joints, pretending they were not there.
She behaved as if no pain could stop her. But the day
came when she could no longer ignore the pain in her
joints. Angry at her pain, the woman cursed her body.
So, her pain became worse. It roared over her like
ocean waves in a hurricane. She resisted. It flew against
her in the form of a giant wind. She resisted. Finally,
the wind sucked her up into the air, swirling her around
and around until she reached the very top of the sky.
Then it dropped her.
She fell for days until she hit the earth with the sound
of thunder. She lay unmoving and without breath, when
suddenly a powerful gasp overtook her. She awoke.
“Am I dead?” she asked. The Earth did not answer her.
She lifted her arm, touched her face.
“I am here,” she said. She flexed her toes and wiggled
her fingers. She pushed against the ground and sat up.
She patted her chest, her shoulders and thighs.
“I am here,” she said. “I am whole.”
She looked about her and saw she had dropped next to
the place where the wind had lifted her. She turned and
looked in every direction to see if anyone had noticed
the miracle of her fall and rise. But no one had.
All alone, she began to walk and was almost home before
she noticed she walked without pain. In her joy, she
ran to tell her friends and family the good news.
“My pain has left me,” she told them. “A fall
broke my bindings and released my pains. My
joints no longer hurt!”
Because she was happy, her family and friends
held her close and kissed her. But one or two gave
her cold hugs and stiff kisses because they were jealous.
The woman who bound pain to her bones felt the
hidden jealousy. Without thinking, she started
once again to bind the pain to her bones.
Just then the wind returned, blowing hard. This
time when it struck her, the woman knew to open
her heart, letting the wind blow through and take
the pain with it.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
For the rest of her life, the woman opened her
heart to the wind in all its many forms and
guises and never again bound pain to her bones.
Susan Wagner is the author of Unmuted: Voices on the Edge, a collection of hybrid poetry on mental illness and families. A former therapist, Susan facilitated creative and poetry writing group therapies. She has published poetry, short stories and feature articles and taught both creative and business writing. Susan is an editor with The Pearl S. Buck Writing Center and currently finishing her second novel. Her next book of poetry, another in the Unmuted series, will soon be available on Amazon.