Roots and Leaves: The Devil’s Shape

A mix of prose and poetry describing psychological abuse and sexual assault. Not for the faint of heart.

The Bible is not meant to be read literally.

Nor is the title of this article.

This isn’t an article about the big red-horned fallen angel who supposedly hates God and rules over Hell.

Well, that’s a lie, it is.

But not literally.

This is an article about my own personal Satan.

In biblical sources, the Hebrew term satan describes an adversarial role. It is not the name of a particular character. Although Hebrew storytellers as early as he sixth century B.C.E. occasionally introduced a supernatural character whom they called the satan, what they meant was any one of the angels sent by God for the specific purpose of blocking or obstructing human activity.
– Elaine Pagels, “The Origin of Satan,” 1995

It was then,

As I was a woman

All drawn out of shape,

That the Devil appeared

With his devlish smirk.

He took me up by the mind

And told me his name

I’ve since forgotten it.

But I’ll never forget what it means.

The Devil came up from Kentucky.

I drove him here myself.

We met online.

We’d spent the several weeks previous texting and calling one another every day.

It was going so well.

I’d gone through a divorce about a year and a half  prior and I finally felt ready to date again. I’d dated one other guy briefly. He was nice, but not for me. We’ve maintained a friendship at least.

This time, it felt right.

We met for lunch and then I drove him up tour my hometown.

All throughout the day, everything was perfect. We got along every bit as well in person as we had electronically.

I decided to invite him back to my place.

He sat down, legs spread in my easy chair.

And then, his shape changed.

He became someone else.

Satan revealed himself to me.

He said he was in love

With another woman,

drawn in his shape.

No one could ever love me

But as a waif.

He brought me to

The other side of the veil.

Showed me the void,

and took me to Hell.

He wanted to be called “daddy”

and called me his whore.

If I was a good girl

Maybe I could be more

Maybe he would take me down

For a spin upon his cock

And maybe he would unravel me

From this knitted sock.

The Devil took my shape that day,

And twisted its already twisted form.

Then twisted

and twisted

and twisted it more

And that’s the last thing I can tell you about that. The rest is one big blank I have ripped out of my mind. I honestly can’t tell you what followed.

I can only remember the terror of it.

Complete subversion. Total bewilderment. Utter disorientation.

What did I do? What choice did I have?

I like to think I stood up to him and overcame my adversary right then and there and threw him out of my house.

But I know that’s not what happened.

The nearest memory I have, I was driving again, on the road back to Kentucky.

He seemed pleased.

His shape wasn’t twisted anymore.

He was the same as before.

I thought about driving my car into the Ohio River.

The world would have been a better place if I did.

He haunted me for years after.

My mind was filled with monsters. The world was on fire.

Once you meet the Devil, he’s always with you.

He’ll never stop trying to rip you from Heaven and condemn you to Hell.

But, like any adversary, he can be overcome.

Like God, and like me, I hope you have angels to help if you ever meet him.

It was a long road to calling myself a survivor, but I’m lucky in that I had a very strong social support network in my life at the time. So many wonderful wounded women who had been through similar events helped me to overcome him.

They are all like sisters to me.

Their support taught me an important lesson. The devil can’t catch you if you’re smarter than him. And so that’s what I did, I became smarter than him. I poured myself into my work. I studied and worked harder than I’d ever known I was capable of and became crafty enough that he couldn’t catch me anymore.

In a weird way, I’d like to thank him.

I’m a much better person because of what he did.

But that would require forgiveness, and that’s not mine to give…

The devil almost had me fooled.

He knew the weaknesses of my shape

And exploited every one.

His tricks twisted me

To his own twisted shape.

But I learned from his tricks

Some tricks of the trade.

I learned how to spin

To twist who I am

And I learned how to do it

Better than him

I learned how to shape

my words,

my body,

my thoughts,

my actions,

my movements,

my soul

To be impenetrable by the Devil

I’ve cast from my Throne.

Condemned,

to eternal shaplessness.

He taught me to shape

And how to forget.

He taught me survival

And the pain of it.

He taught me forgiveness…

and the truth therein:

Sometimes, it’s best left to God.

I hope he’s somewhere praying.

He can arrive at any moment

You don’t always hear his chime

He will try to change your shape

He will try it every time

And sometimes, if you let him

While you’re not watching your shape

He will take and take and take from it

And take,

and take,

and take..

The foolish thing in all this is

This twisted

twisted

twisted shape

This shape the Devil’s made of you

Is his own devilish shape

The only shape that matters is

The shape you make alone

The shape that you take with you

That pattern you follow

The shape you make is better

This shape is your own

It’s knitted

and drawn

And painted

and sewn

It’s battered

and bruised

and berated

and honed

It’s in the music you make

It’s in the sound of your voice

It tastes just like the taste of your tears

It’s woven into choice

It overcomes the worst you fear

It can bring your thoughts to cheer

It’s in the burden on your back

It’s the plan when you attack

It’s your guide

when nothing’s clear.

 

It’s written into the presence you have

And the way you make your way.

 

Next time Satan tries to twist it:

Overcome the meaning of his name.