Lima Syndrome

by Therese Elaine

This is a hostage situation

I am confined in a prison
made from your guilt
reinforced with your
good intentions
and guarded politeness.
I am bound
by fetters of hope
and gagged
with the futility
of escape
You have reduced me
to cell-block contemplations
and personal privacy privations
this place is haunted
and I do not sleep
so much as pass out
when I can't take
the echoes
any longer.

Explanations become
and apologies
the preferred method
of torture
Each time you say
you're sorry
it cuts
a little
and I think I'll
go mad
under the steady
of your defensiveness
but I won't
throw myself
on your mercy
this is no longer
a bargaining matter.

This is a hostage situation

The only thing of value
left to me
is the strength of my
and I won't negotiate
the terms
of your emotional


Author's Note: Lima Syndrome is the reverse psychological situation of Stockholm Syndrome. Rather than the captive becoming empathetic and in some cases, dependent on the hostage-taker, the hostage-taker becomes empathetic to the hostage, giving them a few creature comforts, allowing them more liberties than normal and essentially reversing the roles of power and dominance to some extent. Thank you Vince Blake for the suggestion towards the title...I got a title idea, you got to learn something new!

Posted on 01/20/2010
Copyright © 2024 Therese Elaine

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by V. Blake on 01/20/10 at 01:59 AM

Does it hurt to be this good? I've heard rumors...

Posted by Sarah Wolf on 01/20/10 at 02:47 AM

This is my most favorite in a long while... The whole thing just rolls off the tongue and comes quick at you. It's darling and witty... Adding this to my favorites... Love the title...

Posted by Steven Kenworthy on 01/20/10 at 03:23 AM

hilarious...my hometown is Lima, Ohio. this poem is deep...you and your new style...this whole thin column flavor...i like it. to be able to write this well about such a particular thing...a distant concept to most of us, is a talent and beauty in its own right.

Posted by Michael Smith on 01/20/10 at 07:03 AM

The obvious: this is measured, weighty, point-blank, knowing and kicking ass. Also obvious: many poetic elements are in use and on fire, from the coagulated use of consonance and rhyming in just the right places, to the form and use of space. This is the whole shebang, and not lacking in insight, knowledge, or wisdom. I know I'm biased, but I also think that one added element to the language used here is that there is even a sense of restraint, like there's one last chance. I hope somebody else votes this POTD worthy also...

Posted by Amie Golda on 01/20/10 at 09:27 AM

Brilliant as per usual. Haunting, dark, deep and cutting. I love the allusion to the Lima Syndrome as well and how much depth there is in this. You certainly know how to give words an edge.

Posted by Clara Mae Gregory on 01/20/10 at 10:44 AM

I like this style too...but I also like the variety of style you demonstrate in your other works as well. I just like what you write!I think I am attracted to this style especially because of the way it emphasizes words that stresses the concepts by breaking up regular sentences into units.

Posted by Elizabeth Jill on 01/20/10 at 05:39 PM

You surely must know how immense and sturdy your writing is. I will shout it from the rooftops!
This whole scene is jake.
And this:

The only thing of value
left to me
is the strength of my
and I won't negotiate
the terms
of your emotional 

Gold, Calamity. Shine on Therese!
Posted by Alison McKenzie on 01/20/10 at 08:04 PM

OMgosh, what everyone else said and then some!!! Kudos Therese!!!

Posted by Nicole D Gregory on 01/21/10 at 04:56 PM

I can't even believe someone who can write like this exists during our time... fantastic write! I bow to the excellence of this piece in that it should be awarded high honors among the students of psychology who try to write pages and pages on a thesis of the subject that can't even touch this! ~N

Posted by Laura Doom on 01/22/10 at 11:52 AM

I can't wait for you to take on the 'Singapore Syndrome'...I have no idea what that is, but I can't imagine it would be any less appealing in your more than capable hands...

Posted by Richard Paez on 01/26/10 at 12:54 AM

The repetition of “This is a hostage situation” is what makes this poem – that flip (which constitutes a hypertextual link) mirrors the flip which occurs in the syndrome: there's a moment when the “victim” becomes something else, in Stockholm, a dependent, in Lima, the usurper: which is exactly what the last stanza does (usurp). I love many of these lines and images (I am very and freshly familiar with this), but “I think I'll/go mad/under the steady/drip/of your defensiveness” is perversely good: not just the Chinese water torture metaphor (which, while potentially cliché, is perfectly deployed here), but the way you made the word “drip” actually drip... Yeah. You nailed this one.

Posted by Joan Serratelli on 01/27/10 at 09:10 PM

Absolutely brilliant- so much here to think about. Excellent job to say the least!

Posted by Glenn Currier on 02/06/10 at 05:33 PM

I can feel the emotional and interpersonal knot the subject is in. You pose a very interesting idea about how we can be taken hostage by the feelings of others, even SEEMINGLY

Posted by Glenn Currier on 02/06/10 at 05:35 PM

... oops hit the wrong key.. I continue: ...SEEMINGLY helpful things like apologies. Much to think about in your poem. Thanks, Therese.

Posted by Charles M Harrison on 02/07/10 at 04:02 AM

I just love the way this flows. You are very talented.

Posted by Johnny Crimson on 02/11/10 at 05:54 PM

This is panic room meets my every fantasy. haa. Good work.

Posted by Max Bouillet on 05/28/10 at 01:50 AM

My god this sounds like a marriage. Mutual imprisonment with guilt gags and blame blankets. With your permission, I will make you do everything I want --if that's okay. Fall with me into the sanity of the insane as I read this poem over again with a subtitle of the "the marriage game". Great read!

Posted by Angela Cotterman on 06/10/10 at 08:15 PM

It's a shame that you felt the need to define Lima Syndrome for your readers. Or, rather, perhaps it is more depressing that I feel it should be a well-known phenomenon in these warring times of ours. This poem, out of the many I've read today of yours (thank you for the comment on mine, which led me here), caught me immediately, because I'm familiar with Lima Syndrome. Also, as I read it, I felt and thought about how it feels to linger in a relationship after your love has shifted for the person you're with, but they still love you very much, and their desperation to pull from you what they need becomes so overwhelming, so heavy that you are reduced to "cell-block contemplations". Of course, by the end, the emotional abuse in this piece is larger than the discordance of love taking separate paths in the disintegration of an otherwise healthy relationship. It's a powerful piece. Thank you for posting it. (An aside: have you read "Bel Canto" by Ann Patchett? It's supposedly loosely based on the Lima incident. There are some beautiful--heartbreakingly beautiful--passages in that novel, but I loathed the ending.) Anyway. Yes. I hope you're having a good day, whatever that means to you. -Angie.

Posted by Mo Couts on 06/29/11 at 02:00 AM

This expresses pure talent...complex and sad due to the subject matter, but nicely conveyed. The psychology major in me was drawn to this by the title and I was not disappointed.

Posted by Kristina Woodhill on 09/25/13 at 04:42 AM

Most excellent in its forthright delivery and extended metaphor. A fine POTD!

Posted by Paul Lastovica on 09/25/13 at 08:15 PM

delighted to see your name on the front page for POTD :)

Posted by George Hoerner on 09/25/13 at 08:29 PM

Excellent POTD!!

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