ENOUGH is a Rumpus series devoted to creating a dedicated space for essays, poetry, fiction, comics, and artwork by women and non-binary people that engage with rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
The series will run every Tuesday afternoon. Each week we will highlight different voices and stories.
Things People Say to Me After
What did you do. How much had
you had. Has this happened
before. How many. I never
liked. I always knew. I’ll find. I’ll
kill. I know people. I know you
didn’t. I know you never. This
won’t. Everything will. With what
frequency. He would have. He would
have killed. Do you have
someone. Do you have
somewhere. Do you still live
in the residence with. Will you tell
the judge. I’m willing to pay
for your travel. Your medical. If. If
you just. You killed his. You seem
so. Seem very. Shhh. I’m calling on
behalf of. We know how
these things. I’m going through
a separation, too. Do you need
a. Do you have a. Don’t move
out while. It will make him. Don’t
touch his. It was always. I am so sorry
I didn’t. Inevitable. Are you
pregnant. How can you miss.
How can you still. Would you
describe. Just a few more. Stop
crying. Why won’t you let
this. How could you. Who are
you to. Who do you think. To ruin
his. To hurt his. To make him.
This illness is turning me into a cannibal.
I’m unraveling myself one fistula at a time,
and dreaming of what I can no longer consume:
a scalding dribble of cheese roping my chin;
meat still tinged with pulses of pink.
I’m startled awake by the taste of my own blood
sweetening my throat.
__________________Last week I told
a friend about our last time, when you left
the condom unopened on the nightstand—trick
of the eye, wafer of proof that I’ve been passed
through by the beast you call yourself;
the camel straddled by the leather dream of your brain.
__________________Why is this poem
turning to you? Because rape
does that to us; in the fitful sleep
of sickness, a breaking fever, it comes
to press its forehead to the cooling cloth.
__________________Every night with you
was like this: I had all these children
in me; I carried each one to the bed
you named “Second Coming,” built after she left,
when you had only unfinished wood and time.
But you doubted yourself, broke it, built it again.
And each time you told the story was a different
dismantling, a loss of some vital part
in the reassembly:
__________________first it was tenderness, then
I couldn’t speak without permission, then
you stopped asking, and I couldn’t move at all.
You never wondered why there was no water.
The curd of spit on my belly was an afterthought,
loosed from your throat as if I’d always been
this barren tract of ground you were passing.
__________________And this isn’t an indictment
my love—I keep turning over
and over the same few grains of sand,
comparing memory to definition: say I loved
the ungulate of you; say, every night,
I led each innocence to your bed;
say you kicked them beneath me like pillows; say
you shredded them with your splintered hooves
as I came—if so, then, who gets to choose
the difference between all those nights
__________________I read through all
the doctors’ reports. I ask
too many questions before
letting them enter me. I’ve already
been promised salvation in the guise
of implied consent, a bound wrist. Some days,
leaning into the oven or into the bowl,
I feel powerful enough to translate each ache
into inquiry. One specialist notes
the tortuosity of my insides, how I take
each thing I consume on a crooked path,
through the length of a twisted course
before it leaves me.
Whose Sea We Swallowed
In middle school
boys lift the hem of my skirt
______& say it was the wind. The weather
today is men: the eye storming
______your skin blue. The girl grieved
into grease stain. In 7th grade
______I let a white boy wear my mouth
around his fist. He makes me swallow
______my accent. In ESL, I learn the word let
dragging through my mouth
______like a knife or another boy’s
tongue. In religion class, we learn
______let there be light & in the dark
between my legs,
______a bloodletting. A murder
of crows, feasting
______my bones clean.
In 7th grade, the boys bet
______I have a slanted vagina. I know
what angle to look
______at a man so he’ll leave
you alive. Boys
______enter me like a godless
church & I tear
______out of my clothing. I outgrow
my body & beg strangers
______to take it off my hands.
On the way home, I tuck
______my bruises into pockets, afraid of
my body tattling on his touch.
______Afraid my mother knows
whose nation I have kneeled for,
______whose sea we swallowed to come
here. The sky today
______scarred with the flight
of abducted birds.
______When I didn’t go down
on him, he held me
______open for hours & said
it’s only fair. Godhood is just
______like girlhood: a begging
to be believed.
I Caddie Woodlawn-ed up out of childhood with a bounce & a book
& on the corner morning, next to the forsythia bush a thick hand
______my legs as I waited on the way to school oh. I understand. the
shame that rubs a hole in your cheek like a Sweetart does raw but
you keep touching it. The butterfly of my body making its way down
the street isn’t mine an old man’s finger beckons the cracking seat
where so many people have sat the word wild it means
you thought wrong
(From Pretty Tilt, Keyhole Press, 2012. Reprinted with permission.)
You’re told it’s honey, sweet
on the tongue, a poultice for
what in you hasn’t stopped
screaming. Perhaps. Others
lived through what you did,
stand upright. He has likely
forgotten too, conflated you
with another pair of ruined
tights, muddy saddle shoes.
Then why insist on calling
down this well that flings
your voice back, distorted
and faint? It’s just that here,
treading water, is the child
you were, skin he unzipped
you from. Sole visitor, you
can’t leave her where she was
flung ages ago. She may find
handholds in moss, climb
skyward, or drown gagging,
but you must sit, witness it.
How to Tell
When put plainly, its obscene,
artless gestures—drunk sisters
in a hammer fight—reduce us
to baser matter, body against
body, sully those who handle
it, although we never sought
it, even while it’s happening,
can hardly believe it, though,
being girls, we’d prepared since
birth, and so say, Take anything
you want. We’ll never know what
he wanted, other than a clump
of hair. You back away. Heard
enough? So, how to tell without
handing over this wet weight
like an empty overcoat? Then,
as you finger buttons, rummage
through pockets, explain, this is
nothing. We haven’t even begun.
Akira Olivia Kumamoto
I pretend I am drifting through dark matter and navigating the multiverse.
I’m small and he locks the door.
To me, the multiverse is the headlights on a crowded freeway.
My body unravels through time and space,
the pressure of invisible realities flattening on the surface of my skin.
The room is dim and his fingers are like aged stars
inserting black holes into my body so I won’t radiate
out of the slits in the window shades into the empty night sky.
I am afraid that this gravity will never end—
that I will be spread thin across an infinite oxygen-less plane
or be crushed on the unpolished linoleum floor.
I wonder if my gravitational cavity can swallow enough of the debris around me
or if his dying celestial body will collide with stronger forces
like merging vehicles on a busy onramp,
leaving me to carry evidence of origin theories—
salty craters in my skull.
Rumpus original logo art by Luna Adler.
ENOUGH is a Rumpus series devoted to creating a dedicated space for work by women and non-binary people that engages with rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic violence. We believe that while this subject matter is especially timely now, it is also timeless. We want to make sure that this conversation doesn’t stop—not until our laws and societal norms reflect real change.
We received over four hundred submissions to our initial call and will not be accepting additional pieces at this time. We may reopen for submissions at a future date. We also must acknowledge that the submissions we received overwhelmingly came from white, heterosexual women. While we are actively assessing how we can do better in our next call for submissions, we also believe this points to systemic inequalities that need to be addressed: who has access to healthcare and to therapy, who has been taught to speak up and who has been taught to be silent.
Many names appearing in these stories have been changed.
Visit the archives here.