“How Could She Stay” by Kella Hanna-Wayne
Kella Hanna-Wayne is based in Eugene, Oregon, and has been published in several print and online publications, including Cast Macabre, The Cynic, and Uttered Chaos. She specializes in poetry about abuse and depression, and she has a book of poems on recovering from abuse, titled “Pet,” that she’s working on getting published. She sings, bakes gluten free goodies, talks constantly about social activism, hosts and DJs an Argentine Tango event, and loves cats.
This poem is so spare and at the same time so evocative. The pull of loneliness that returns a victim to her abuser is sketched with enough detail to be clear, and yet lightly enough to avoid the weight of judgment. It’s most effective in the middle couplet; “a space empty of corruption/ is still” exists on its own for a moment, allowing the word “still” to signify a quiet, safe haven before it’s undercut by the next line: “empty.” A single word and skillful white space convey how our need for companionship can sometimes undermine our need for safety, as well as how easy it can be to believe there are only two choices. The pause in the next line between “at first” and “it does not matter” does something similar. The second phrase floats away from its own line to join the next, implying that heartache is impossible to avoid.
Emptiness has a weight all its own. The fear of emptiness, too. Futura’s thick, even strokes create an orderly heaviness: marks so dark that the white space around them vibrates with tension (in this case between companionship and safety). Even the white space enclosed in the bowls of letters, like the o and a, feel charged because of how thickly they are enclosed. Overall, ample white space is required to balance the text, and neither text nor white space allows the eye to rest completely.