• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 08

The Cartography of Gaslighting

The process is slow, geological:
the gradual erosion of a path across a hillside,
the battering sea undercutting the cliff face.
The perpetrator is both boot and wave.
Relentless, his attrition corrodes
colour and contour until years later
I’m all that's left, a cowl of shadows.
They call it gaslighting, this wearing down
of confidence and self esteem.

When I step back from the mirror,
when I see the landscape of my younger self
revealed – the bright afternoon sun already
slipping across her hills and valleys –
I want to tear her away, cradle her, soothe her.
I want to remind her she has other options,
alternative routes to navigate.
But I know she will twist away from me,
turn her face towards the prevailing wind.
She is beguiled by his faint praise,
grounded by censure, hungry for approval.
She is unable to recognise me as her future,
to read the lines on my map as a warning.