ENOUGH: Do You Understand?

By

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.

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I try to teach my daughter the breaststroke
Caitlin Gildrien

rocket airplane soldier
the ways we tear our human bodies

through air, the bullet shapes,
the rigid wings.

but the water is womanly, the way
the lake opens to us beneath the unkind sky
glaring with its gathered heat.

in the spring before this throttled summer,
in first grade, a friend was pinning her

beneath the picnic table,
pulling her underwear down.

move your hands in the shape
of a heart & let that
propel you.

kick hard.

hold for a moment your hands
before your chest like a prayer.

when she told me, at first I wasn’t sure.
some exploration is normal.    right?

how did it make you feel?

practice holding your breath.

clouds come, swift and booming.
the water darkens as though doubled
in depth.

in our family
we don’t say prayers.

her hair in her face.

bad. like there were bugs in me.

we stay
until the clouds rub charcoal
over the contrails,

until lightning reveals its reflection in the lake.

the good thing about breast stroke
is that you can keep coming up
for air.

*

Prayer
Aqdas Aftab

the first time god wept lonely
next to me/ touched inside touching
me/ I was on my prayer mat eyes closed
vibrator buzzing/ allah’s palms clutching me

the first time I unlearned shame I fucked
allah so intense so lush she had to moan
earth into a foggy shudder

though there was no skin no hair no soft to taste
I lay on the aging prayer mat/ weeping one moment
and laughing the other as I wrestled god/ from wrath to
mercy/ shedding all skins of spotted memory

you see, the thing about shame is the time
lapse/                       it took them generations to build
________________this body because they had to drill
skin bone vein again again again with grief
so deep no amount of excavation could have
undone the root

and I tried to be my own archaeologist digging into my
skin to find the fossils of flashbacks/ digging through my
flesh to efface the remains of lingering genders/           but
no amount of desecrating the body purified anyone’s spirit

so when I came on the prayer mat/ I knew this vibrator
was just an excavation tool in my discovery/ just an exercise
to wipe the centuries old stain/ just an extra push to slide out
of sticky inherited guilt

what I had truly needed all this time was to fuck
everything sacred/ to wet everything dry and pure/ to feel
the dirtiest smelliest unholiest parts of this body/ lay myself in
pieces to build a shrine/ which god would visit when she needed
some quiet reflection time

because neither allah nor I had ever wanted to be the ones
sobbing silently outside the shrine/ we both wanted to bawl
circles into its straight bricks/ to stretch its pillars with
every tired yawn

so when I breathed deeply on the prayer mat I swallowed
my own shrine whole/ until its dome
choked me sexy

and finally/ I became intimate enough with god/ to stop
fearing her

 

ramadan smells

there is no new sliver, no lunar silver, but i fast today anyway.
years of parched muslim loneliness have taught me google
is easier than moon sightings

a special trigger awaits as i drag heavy out of bed. suhoor
or nausea sizzle pink with pungent memories of an age when
i was not lonely, just singed

denied remembrances curdle in my stomach, grieving since
puberty and punjab. like porn, iftaar feasts refuse to fill the
emptiness, but I eat anyway

still hungering for my body to forget. there was once a meal
i was forced to call home

*

Delayed Report
Arielle Desiray Contreras

Offender:
his name hurts

Details of Event:
a  hole in my wall,
a bruise flew

I rolled overnight
lights, a silhouette
shaped like depression

a cracked window,
winter bit flesh
from (my) side of the bed

Summary:

he stole laughter in silence called me his girl with silence penetrated shame in silence  then took my voice with silence beer-breath smelled like silence twisted words with silence tangled hair with silence slapped silence kicked silence raped silence then washed himself with soapy silence i take pills in silence to calm    rage    in silence  i dress myself in modest silence brush my teeth with silence share meals with silence i nightmare in silence i joke in silence i flirt with silence in bars and go home with silence then drink more silence

do you understand?

*

Late Night Episode
Cathy McArthur

Something in the house
speaks; water turns on
and off, wood floors shift.

Trucks in the night,
a dispatcher in my room
arrives with cargo.

Hours until morning—
tv screen left—talk
show or sales pitch.

Is it my alarm
or my mother’s voice calling
over my night stand,

the beveled water
glass; family staring past
the answering machine.

The message for me—
brother drunk outside her house,
pounding on the door.

I hear half of it,
turn away in sleep, my parked
car settles on the street.

***

Rumpus original logo art by Luna Adler.

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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.

Visit the archives here.