“LaVena Johnson to Sarah Palin,” A Rumpus Original Poem


In Iraq, in the summer of 2005, 19 year old US Army Private LaVena Johnson was found dead and mutilated in a tent belonging to military contractors KBR. The Army, to this day, asserts that her injuries were self inflicted, although based on the nature of those injuries, it seems improbable.

Information is available at colorofchange.org and lavenajohnson.com

LaVena Johnson to Sarah Palin

Dear Sarah, from the moment I saw you
Beatific, anointed in news-ticker light
I knew that you were meant for me.
I knew that you would change my life
We are so alike. I don’t just mean the woman thing.
I love the way you love your small town, a place
where nothing bad could happen
The photographs of you beside your husband,
halos of animal fur around your pink faces.

Sarah, what a terror for you to be out there,
under the midnight sun.
To know your woman’s body made you second
would make you a meal in times of famine
thighs rendered for lard. Hair stuffed in
to soften a sawdust mattress
I see you running scared, Sarah, I know that choice
The need to become a predator
To hoist yourself out of powerlessness on someone else’s back
desperation to feel yourself God’s chosen daughter
So you decided all the other lives were second
Inferred sanctity into the function of ovaries
God’s will in the dropping of dirty bombs.

If you were not you, if you were some housewife
stranded in middle America, you would be so forgivable.
But you are you —
you cunning pillowlips
you are the chosen.

So when you said, in Wasilla, that rape survivors
should pay for their own forensic tests
I knew what had happened.
That you had passed
through a dark curtain
into a place where women are not women.
Where women do not live.

Now you’re there, you think
the power that they gave you will protect you,
like I thought the moss green poplin
and brass buttons would protect me
that they would have to admit I was human
if I showed that love of country.

You know what they did to me, Sarah.
The abrasions
loose teeth
the burns on my hands
the acid
they poured into me
to burn out their DNA
the hole they put in my head
could not have been made
by my shooting hand
and they told my mother it was a suicide.

I believed my service to my country
would protect me from this.
I believed it until the day I died.

The molecules of my last breath
spread out over the desert.
The glinting sugary sand in the dawning light —
it looked like snow.
If there is a god like you believe in god, Sarah
He keeps me here
waiting for you.
My mother’s anguish twisting me four legged —
I scan the horizon.
I know my time will come.

Somehow, you will fall from your helicopter.
Your rifle will kick and jam
I will feel your throat pulse
against the gray fur of my jaws

and you will know me, Sarah.
Flesh of your flesh.


Rumpus original art by Rob Kimmel.

Corrina Bain is a genderqueer writer-performer living in Brooklyn. She has toured throughout the United States reciting her poems. She is currently working on a manuscript about death and the feminine. Reachable via facebook, myspace, email at [ androidhime (at) yahoo (dot) com ], and occasionally through other, more corporeal means. More from this author →