ENOUGH: One Day, That Tree Will Die
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.
The Morning After
I wake up naked next to a boy
who knew I didn’t want to fuck him.
What I do next is automatic:
I kiss him.
Try to conjure some want,
some warmth that will transform
this moment into one
where I am a person. His lips
are cold and only feel like skin.
I stop trying, slink beneath sheets,
boyhood-blue. When my dead phone
resurrects itself, it shrieks my doom:
my mother, best friend, friend
and friend and friend and
every person who saw him
pick me up and carry me home
like a trophy kill: are you
alive? I am unsure. I get up,
discover his room is half-walled
with mirrors. My throat is violent
with hickeys. I gasp—I have never
seen anything so brazen.
I hold my hands to my neck.
I wish for a scarf, I wish
for death. I take back the thought,
but I think it again. And I take it back
again. My dress oozes on the floor.
I climb back into it, think of how pretty
I felt yesterday. I don’t think
I will ever feel pretty again.
When I leave, he hugs me
and smiles. I buy a dozen scarves
and wrap them tight around my neck.
While filling out the online initial visit questionnaire for the OB-GYN
You check yes when it asks, “Have you ever experienced
_____any non-consensual sexual contact?” Only after that automatic motion,
___________that muscle memory cultivated by exhausted habit, do you pause,
_____consider how easy it would be to just check the other box. No,
such a tiny syllable, a lie made easy by the faceless computer screen. No,
_____and that is the end of that. But you know that is not how things work —
___________or else you wouldn’t be considering what to say to this question
_____in the first place. When you read the phrase again, you wonder if it’s a trick
question, hiding the ugly noise of rape and assault. Non-consensual —
_____how circumspect, how un-damning. A confidante once told you
___________that what happened wasn’t rape, but was “definitely non-consensual
_____sex.” Oxymoronic or plain moronic or both, they glue cotton balls
to every word until they are soft and safe and thoroughly
_____unrecognizable. But you still crack your teeth on every hard word,
___________pausing only to spit watery mouthfuls of blood on the floor.
_____You continue to speak and speak and speak until they ask you to stop
making everyone uncomfortable. The initial visit questionnaire quizzes you
_____on the rest of your life too, asks if you have a history
___________of breast cancer, diabetes, smoking. If yes, please explain
_____your answer in the space provided. When the questionnaire asks
if you have ever experienced any non-consensual sexual contact,
_____they do not offer a space to explain. Just click yes
___________and move on.
a pack of 18-wheelers hunt out along rain-soaked highways.
suffocate the word before it reaches into my 2nd floor window.
below, our neighbor’s eyes click click open. brows arch up
as he stares over the gate & into our back yard.
i flinch when his flat pink mouth slides open & reveals
charred gums & piss teeth. when my dog begins to howl & buck.
daddy brings the stud up behind her again. cups her hips & holds
her still when the cock catches her off guard. when her fur dampens.
while the muscle jerks beneath. he holds her still as the stud jars her open &
our neighbor’s cheeks gash red & suck & i watch him & not her & he is
clearly shaken. he pants a little. parts his lips. hunts for a name. a tool
both my father & this man can share while watching her get taken.
their eyes gesturing excitedly at the way that she is finally broken into.
a woman sprints from her husband. a man gallops from his wife.
a vermillion corvette chasing a nutted-brown chevy through a trailer park hive
& past a doublewide where their children sometimes play. around & around
where the switch grows thick & emerald on bushes just outside their door. next to where
a wife buried her last tray of cigarettes & her twenties & her heat. a husband buried
his last bottle of Heineken & his fists & his forgiveness. where their children fall asleep
to the lullabies of roaches fucking. a husband trails a wife pursuing a husband
on a sable night wrapped around the frozen bodies of their girls.
next night mama sniffs our front door. sniffs her ratty sheets. flips our couch. turns
a tv box on. daddy growls out in the yard. charges our front door. howls & howls. turns
an engine on. mama says watch your –stops. turns an engine on. growls out in the yard.
a dirty hazel truck blazes past a crimson car & out the trailer park hive & past us girls & then
we sleep for years. wake to find muddy paw prints under our sheets. tire tracks on our carpets.
cars still chasing trucks still chasing cars. blind wheels still catching whiffs of salt & blood.
K. Zen’ obia
the shadows closed the room and the dark
made us feel safe, though the policia
kicked open doors below with us
closeted in the attic; Will in hiding, they’d come for him twice.
The cocaine made me forget to swallow,
i cried. i cried.
i wore a green dress the color of foam
my short lizard boots flapped around my calves
my boyfriend of two days; a blonde Malibu law
yer had promised to see some
man in jail and i stood there,
men hungrily behind the cages
eyes on metal bars that separated us
and me against the blue of the sky.
Once i lay on a mattress my legs spread open
no panties, seventeen. And a woman pee
ring between my legs parting them, with
vaginas circling the air and i can
not cry for you, you
see, my tears are not
when no one was looking i pulled
the green humped camel-back off
a lonely snail sprinkled salt over it to
see what would happen it
someone did that to me once pulled off my
clothes and rubbed saline & spit & semen into naked
self w/ bare bones i stuffed my hand be
tween my teeth waiting to dissolve i am still
A Plum Tree Grows in Whiskey Gulch
As verde, greenest leaves, as of the plum tree, skim past airless waves of sky, yellow parchment edges out the green, and overripe plums, drop, smash, split into amber fibers on pavement cracked by Sun’s impatience. The backyard patio, where a black bitch birthed her children right at the intersection where chickenscratch marks above clouds indicate uncertainty of dusk and dawn hesitating toward another day
The doors open and close, 3 albino puppies die before their eyes can open even once, thrown in the metal trash cans for the garbage man, with empty milk cartons, decaying bread, used Kotex, broken plum branches. embryos jetting out the black dog’s body, and my own thinly bone hip pulsing under short shorts, curled into the letter S, on waxed floor, while an arm raises and descends above writhing body, 3-foot plum switches lacerated with thorns crisps, and bright green leaves dangling forgotten bride’s petals, crosses, slides across the bared spine, it is the dance of Salome, and John the Baptist, the hush music of leaves whipping my back
above her screams, or mine. red welts plump up, a mouth has taken shape, blood seeping out slow as if embarrassed.
I found my head the other day and it whispered, one day, that tree will die.
All the Men that Summer Who Said I Love You
after Samuel Amadon
After I made it out to the country,
the panic attacks came on
like minutes. Undiscernible,
ceaseless. The fence leaned
perpetually and the pool filter
droned on & on
next to the double-wide.
The mail planes passed overhead
like water from a spout—the most
I counted while out for a smoke was 13,
landing one behind the other.
Out there the world was steady,
untroubled, but my body
wouldn’t let me believe.
Brandy’s mother let me sit alone
in her jacuzzi for hours, comforted me
with rolled cigarettes and coffee,
a hymnal-heavy hand on the back.
Brandy came home with a bottle of Captain
every night after her shift at the Golden Corral
and sat with me under the tin roof
on the makeshift porch
while I confessed: How
that summer, after my fiancé followed me
through Chinatown for an hour yelling It
while I looked for the bus stop,
I’d pissed myself and rode the 14-hours
back to Kentucky, mildew and smoke
& How, once there, my father said It
while he rifled through my fiance’s abandoned car
looking for evidence and again he said It
while he was interrogating me
in drunken fits after finding
the name Mohammed
on the insurance cards & Are you fraternizing
with a foreign operative? over & over again
with a loaded pistol
between us on the kitchen table & How
I’d fled him, as I would an assailant,
ending up at Misty’s—a woman
I waited tables with—
& How her husband
had looked at me desperately
as I was leaving & said It: I love you
& How he’d crept into the room
where I slept whispering It
while Misty was sound asleep
in the next, an empty balloon
lightly dusted, on the nightstand
& How there had been no panic
in my body then & then & then & then or then.
Rumpus original logo art by Luna Adler.
ENOUGH is a Rumpus original 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. You can submit to ENOUGH here.
Many names appearing in these stories have been changed.
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