One of my writing assignments in my Creative Nonfiction class was to write a six-word memoir. The six-word memoir challenges the writer to simplify their experience down to its truest essence.
"Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” In November 2006, Larry Smith, founder of SMITH Magazine, gave the six-word novel a personal twist by asking his community to describe their lives in exactly six words.
They sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet (“Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”) and poignant (“I still make coffee for two”) to the inspirational (“From migrant worker to NASA astronaut”). and hilarious (“Married by Elvis, divorced by Friday”). And the Six-Word Memoir project was born." (Source: https://www.sixwordmemoirs.com/about/#story-of-six-words)
I thoroughly enjoyed this challenge and wrote several versions of my six-word memoir. Later, as I looked over my list, it took the shape of a poem. Given my experience of complex trauma, it made creative sense that this mini-memoir would come together as fragments and snippets pieced together into a poem because that is exactly how I formed my own narrative. Collecting lost and forgotten pieces of my life and stringing them together.
Who am I? I am Layers.
Why can’t I remember my life?
My mind is the ultimate puzzle.
Detective to my own riddled mind.
Who am I? I don’t know.
My body is the road map.
Flooded by the ordinary, everyday things.
Where are the instructions for life?
I love you. I hate you.
I hate me. I hate me.
But eventually, you will leave me.
On a quest to fix myself.
Have you heard of complex trauma?
Therapy. Therapy. Therapy. Therapy. Therapy. Therapy.
Life fragments collected in a bowl.
I can’t quite figure it out.
What is hiding in the dark?
My story challenges my very reality.
The past holds the present hostage.
The edges of the puzzle form.
On a quest to find myself.
Under the water. Above the water.
Mothering myself and my three children.
A grown-up who's still growing up.
Will I find where I belong?
Hearing “Me too” helps me breathe.
Sitting in circles. Speaking the words.
I am a puzzle in progress.
One step forward. Two steps back.
My body keeps the score. Listening.
And a river runs through it.
Starting over again. And then again.
I think I can love myself.
I think I can love you.
Born at the age of thirty.
This isn’t the puzzle I wanted.
Rewriting the story I was given.
Each day writing myself into existence.
Who am I? I am Layers.
Write your six-word memoir. Write it and rewrite it as many times as you want.