Issue 7. It Would Be Easier by J Questions.

The Work.

Trigger Warning: Mental, Emotional, and Physical Abuse.

J Questions is a New England expat living in the very foreign land of rural Texas. Always an outsider, she turned to writing and poetry as a way to express the things she could never say. Today she lives in quiet chaos with her daughter, grandsons and a bunch of misfit animals.

She can be found on Threads and Instagram.

It Would Be Easier

It would be easier
if your fists
found my body
instead of the walls,
bruises and breaks
to shatter the facade
you create for the world
of how you love.

It would be easier
if I bore my scars
openly visible
across my skin,
inky tattoos
proclaiming your sins,
instead of buried
in my darkest places.

It would be easier
if the chains that bind me
could be seen
as bracelets on my wrists
instead of
whispered words
creating damage
from behind smiling lips.

It would be easier
if the mask you wear
could be ripped
from your face,
exposing your demon
for all to see
so there would be
no questions
and I could find peace.

It would be easier
if your fists
found my body
instead of the walls
but it’s just
internal bleeding
that you can’t see
at all.

Originally posted on Threads.

The Commentary.

Before we begin, I feel it’s important to provide information for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You can call, text, or chat to get help and assistance 24/7. Please, if you are in a situation where you are facing abuse, seek help. There are resources and people that care and are willing and able to help you.

And it’s incredibly important to remember this: domestic violence is not just physical. It can be, and often is, financial abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse, and even stalking.

National Domestic Violence Hotline
Phone: 800-799-SAFE (7233)
SMS: Text START to 88788
Chat/Website: www.thehotline.org

Issue 7. Subtext. This was a hard issue for me, not necessarily because of the content of the poem, just in terms of my own personal headspace and where I’m at. My mental health has been a real challenge this past week, and especially these last couple of days. I’m writing this late because I just haven’t been able to focus today. But I know I need to get this done (sure, sure, slipping by a day or so on a self-imposed schedule isn’t the end of the world, but I’m trying to make sure I can keep my commitments as I work to build my brand and reputation).

But! Enough about me. We have one hell of a poem and a poet to talk about today. You may notice her name and photo are a bit ambiguous. She’s asked for a level of anonymity, and I respect that. I’m incredibly glad she agreed to let me feature her poem and Subtext is all about the author and the piece. So, for her to be comfortable enough to share her poem and the information that she has is a lot. And I’m gracious that she allowed me to do this for her and her poem.

This is also encouragement for anyone else that may have reasons to mask their real identity. I am willing to work with you and provide whatever type of bio, photo, and whatever you are comfortable with. Or, if you’re not comfortable, you don’t need to provide anything. Just permission to share your poem is enough. Ideally, I’d love to be able to provide at least a link back to the original post and social media account. But, know that I can and will accept anonymous submissions through either my website contact page or via email: submit@subtextwithjacob.com.

Alright, enough of the clerical stuff. Let’s get to the meat of why you’re here reading Subtext in the first place: the poem. The first time I read “It Would Be Easier” by J Questions, I knew I wanted to feature her and her poem. And now here we are, ready to dive into a poem that starts out swinging (literally) and doesn’t let up in its onslaught of imagery, metaphor, and the dark look at abuse.

It would be easier
if your fists
found my body
instead of the walls,
bruises and breaks
to shatter the facade
you create for the world
of how you love.

J Questions starts with a powerful first stanza. Really let those words sink in and realize what she’s saying here: “It would be easier / if your fists / found my body / instead of the walls.” To be the victim of the anger, to be the one that is taking the brunt of the rage and hatred. Can you imagine, to be jealous of the wall? But, it’s not really jealousy now, is it. “Bruises and breaks / to shatter the façade / you create for the world / of how you love.” Again, just let that sink in. Digest it. Swallow that bitter taste of what you just read. A victim of abuse.

I read this as domestic abuse, but it could be other types of violence. But, the poem tends to lead me in the direction of an abusive spouse, so that’s how I’ll be talking about it throughout the remainder of this column.

With that lens on, I see this first stanza talking about a person desperate for their spouse to hit them, to leave a mark, so they have evidence. So that they can be believed and actually get help. I can feel the shear desperation in these lines, the pleading. But also a strength, deep within and rising through those words. You can feel the defiance behind those words, along with that longing. And the final lines of that first stanza read like a challenge. A taunt. “Shatter the façade / you create for the world / of how you love.” Because abusive partners hide it. They are the pillars of the community. People you wouldn’t expect. Careful. So, it would be easier to be the actual object (I choose this word carefully because that’s what a victim is to their abuser) of violence and aggression. Because then the world could see the monster.

It would be easier
if I bore my scars
openly visible
across my skin,
inky tattoos
proclaiming your sins,
instead of buried
in my darkest places.

The imagery here is powerful. J Questions crafts a hauntingly and disturbingly beautiful poem. The words she uses, the images she paints. I know the subject matter is dark and hateful and disgusting. But the way she writes about it is so beautiful: “inky tattoos / proclaiming your sins.” Emotional and mental trauma can scar just as deeply and hurt just as deeply as physical pain. Sometimes more so. And invisible pain is a difficult burden to carry. Easier to carry scars that were visible “instead of buried / in my darkest places.” This stanza cuts deep. She really shows that mental turmoil and emotional scarring that can occur in an abusive relationship, where it’s not all just physical abuse. And to be able to write about something so dark with so much power, so much conviction, and so much beauty. I can’t get over her words. “Inky tattoos / proclaiming your sins” is by far one of my favorite lines in this poem.

It’s just so…there. It’s an emotion that’s hard to describe, because to be so gripped by something so dark and evil. But the way it’s said. You can tell that J Questions has all the power as she writes this poem. Whether this is autobiographical or fiction doesn’t matter. The truth and weight of these words is there all the same. But she writes with authority. And I can hear the voice, strong and unwavering in the face of brutality. A kind of taunt, a kind of promise, a kind of threat. The inherent and innate strength in one simple line: “it would be easier.”

Easier for whom? When I first read this poem, I had a different idea in mind about that phrase. Like, it would be easier for the victim, because they could seek help, have evidence, etc. to show they were being abused. To show the abuser as the terrible monster they really are. But as I’ve settled down into this poem and have started holding the words in my hands and really sampling them, a different flavor comes out. Whether intended or not, I see an interesting dichotomy of power forming in this poem, all centered around that one, constantly repeating line. A line so important it’s the title. A line so important it’s the first line of every stanza. “It would be easier.”

Now, I can almost feel the heat of rage starting to boil through those words. I can sense the restraint. The slow burning strength and resentment. “It would be easier.” For some reason, I get the sense that the victim is holding back. It’s not that it would be easier for the world to see who the monster is. No, it would be easier for the victim because they could strike back. They could regain their power and autonomy. It would be easier to accept what was happening, to bear “my scars / openly visible.”

It would be easier
if the chains that bind me
could be seen
as bracelets on my wrists
instead of
whispered words
creating damage
from behind smiling lips.

Again, we have a stanza that paints a terrible picture in an incredibly beautiful and poignant way. Have you noticed, the descriptions of the abuse are painted using words for things that are typically associated with beauty and decoration? Tattoos, bracelets. This really goes to show the state of the speaker in this poem. So desperate for escape from the mental abuse and trauma that they instead begin to glamorize and romanticize the idea of being physically abused.

“It would be easier / if I bore my scars / openly visible… / inky tattoos / proclaiming your sin… / It would be easier / if the chains that bind me / could be seen / as bracelets on my wrists.” Again, as I know I’ve said repeatedly, the juxtaposition of the beautiful imagery and words to the actual content of the poem creates a powerful tension that moves us through this poem. J Questions is clearly talented, the way she marries these opposite concepts and weaves them to tell this story of mental and emotional abuse. Abuse so great the victim begs for physical abuse. Again, with that hint of rage and contempt and the almost-taunt. It’s like “Hit me, so I can hit back. Let me show the pain you’ve caused me. Let me feel it in my body to match how I feel. Let me fight back.”

Because the damage is done with a whisper. And how in the hell do you defend against that? At least in a physical confrontation you have the ability to try and defend yourself, to try and fight back. But how do you fight back against words? Even if those mental chains were instead physical ones (“bracelets on my wrists”), they would be able to fight against the restraints. Maybe get free. Or maybe be able to get a punch in at their abuser. But it’s words. And as we’ve seen throughout the entirety of this poem so far, and as we know as writers and poets and artists, words hold a tremendous amount of power. A punch will hurt. Maybe even break a bone. But those wounds can heal. That pain can be managed and controlled. But even the strongest can’t defend against words. “Whispered words / creating damage / from behind smiling lips.”

Because words can eviscerate more surgically than any knife or scalpel. Because our body is resilient. But confidence and self-esteem and worth can be shattered with a whisper. A fucking whisper. And how “sweet” the abuser can look, smiling and twisting words, and killing your mind without lifting a finger. To crush the soul without breaking a sweat. Isn’t it always worse when someone verbally attacks you with a smile on their face?

It would be easier
if the mask you wear
could be ripped
from your face,
exposing your demon
for all to see
so there would be
no questions
and I could find peace.

And this penultimate stanza is the meat of it all. This is where the rage and hatred and contempt builds and the language turns from beautiful to violent and gritty. Desperation crescendos. If this poem was read out loud (an idea for another time), I imagine this stanza would be yelled, louder and louder, until falling near silent at the word “peace.”

As I’ve been learning to manage my depression through therapy and (hopefully) finding the right medications, I know how validating it can be to be confronted with it, to be told that yes, you are depressed, and there is something broken inside you. To know, with absolute certainty that you are not out of your mind. And I see that here, in this poem. When I speak of desperation, that’s what I mean. With mental and emotional abuse, your world is upside down and gravity randomly turns off and on. The floor shifts. You are always, always, always unsure of what will happen next. Your world cannot be trusted, nor can it be predicted. So, the desperation to have something real to latch onto. You can’t see the mental trauma. How can you know it’s real? Especially when the abuser will pretend it’s not. They’ll be nice for a while, and then turn into a demon (even though they always were and there is no transformation: just the truth). So, to have the physical evidence and the physical representation of the abuse provides the validation. It shows that there is in fact something wrong. “It would be easier…”

Abusers keep their victims disoriented and unsteady. They’ll change moods in a flash so the victim can never be sure when or where the next assault will come from. What will be the next “trigger” for the abuser. So, “if the mask you wear / could be ripped / from your face, / exposing your demon / for all to see / so there would be / no questions / and I could find peace.” We all know most demons hide behind the nicest faces and the brightest smiles. And that can be an incredible cruelty. Again, the recurring theme through this entire poem is being able to have the physical validation of the mental and emotional trauma the speaker is experiencing. To be able to have that peace. “It would be easier.” It certainly would.

I’m still in awe of how easily J Questions is able to capture these emotions and deep-seated feelings. She writes about them in such a visceral way. In such a matter-of-fact way. There is beauty and there is ugliness. The dichotomy of power between victim and abuser. The dual meaning buried in that one, repeating line of “it would be easier.” I am amazed at the simple power her poem holds. The images that she uses are sparse, but that scarcity makes them powerful. And the words, even telling as they are, paint a terrifying picture. It makes me think of the abuse that’s happening, and how it’s been hidden. The simple statements in the poem do much the same, hiding the deeper darkness just below the surface. And every now and then, the ugliness bubbles through to the surface. Like in each stanza. Like in the final stanza.

It would be easier
if your fists
found my body
instead of the walls
but it’s just
internal bleeding
that you can’t see
at all.

I love how this poem circles back to itself. Repetition has been a major device in this poem already, with the constant mantra of “it would be easier.” But the final stanza closely mirrors the first, but the more careful language (the idea of the façade breaking) falls away now. “If your fists / found my body / instead of the walls / but it’s just / internal bleeding / that you can’t see / at all.” I’ve had to sit with this final stanza for a while. Not really to marinate in it or digest it more. But just to be able to get my emotions in check. The entirety of this poem is heavy and carries a very real, and a very important emotional toll. But this last stanza, those final few lines. That’s where it becomes incredibly real.

Because you can feel that the rage has fallen away in this stanza. It was burned earlier, wanting to rip away the mask of their abuser. But there is no peace. And this acceptance hurts. It makes my heart physically ache to know that we can be so broken, so beaten, and so…just accepting of helplessness. It makes me cry. “It would be easier” is no longer a war cry or a taunt. It’s pleading. It’s begging. “Internal bleeding / that you can’t see / at all.” I don’t think I could have come up with a better ending. I don’t think I have anything I could say to make that final stanza better. Throughout this whole poem, J Questions shows a certain mastery of language, interspersing the appropriate dusting or smattering of imagery with the very matter of fact and telling language of abuse and victimization. This has been an emotional poem. This is an emotional poem.

And it’s an incredibly important one about a very dark and ugly topic. I have not experienced this, not to the extent described, but J Questions: you made me feel all of it. There were times that I felt like you didn’t use words to write this. Instead, you used raw and visceral emotion. How the tone and meaning of “it would be easier” shifted throughout the entire poem even though the line itself didn’t change. How you came back around to the walls at the end. I still have my throat catch as I think back through this piece.

To see, in the penultimate stanza, the victim almost rise up: hope! But then to falter and blend back into the identity of the abuser in the final stanza. I know this is all too real and representative of actual abusive situations. So, thank you. Thank you for being willing to share this poem, being willing to allow me to write this issue of Subtext about your poem, and to share it with even more people. You have provided a very important and necessary insight into mental and emotional abuse and trauma and the mindfuck that it is.

This poem will stay with me for a while. It will stay with everyone else that reads it. I think it will open some minds to the realities of these awful situations and raise awareness as well. I know I mentioned earlier I read this as domestic violence. But this could as easily be between a parent and a child, friends, mentors, teachers, etc. No matter the situation, this all holds just as true. And as I wrote about the victim/speaker of this poem and their abuser, I purposefully used gender-neutral language. Because any gender is capable of being the victim or the abuser.

I know I’m repeating myself, J Questions. But this is an incredibly powerful piece. I am so glad I came across your post, and I am even more glad and grateful you allowed me the privilege of featuring your poem in this issue of Subtext. Thank you.

4 responses to “Issue 7. It Would Be Easier by J Questions.”

  1. Doug Belleville Avatar
    Doug Belleville

    This piece resonates with me on many levels. The feeling of being misunderstood, the abuse being invalidated, etc., is all too real for many. Such a brilliantly written poem that breathes tender pain and empathy into my soul 👏🏼

    Jacob, I’m glad you decided to add your thoughtful analysis to such an important poem. Well done as always. I was able to feel how it emotionally connected to you, thus enhancing how it connected for me!

    1. This was a poem that I knew I wanted to feature as soon as I read it. It’s an impactful piece. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem and my analysis!

  2. In my 21-year marriage to my first husband, I thought this very thing every day. ‘If only he would just hit me. Then I would know that it’s okay to leave.’

    1. I’m sorry to hear you went through that. I hope (it sounds like it based on your word choice of 1st husband) that you were able to get away, heal, and find someone else that values and supports you (or, that you were able to find that on your own through friends etc., because I know another relationship isn’t always an option or desired)!

      I fear this type of abuse is far more common than many realize. And from any number of people, not just a spouse. Could be a parent to a child, a friend, etc.

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