ENOUGH: What Becomes of a Body

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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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Skyline with Rape Victim
Sophie Segura

About 270 miles south of Buenos Ayres, in the Sierra Tandil range of mountains, is a 700-ton rock so delicately poised that it can be rocked gently enough to crack a walnut without crushing it. – Popular Mechanics, November 1911

When it falls, there are no witnesses.
Its gunboat weight, tipped in perpetual balancing act,
tests the precipice, concedes to gravitational force
and the granite splits. A city mourns its broken totem.

In sepia tone, an acrobat inverted on the monolith, a group of men
prodding its hind part with sticks. Locals would put glass
bottles under its base to prove the invisible movements;
tourists, scratch their names against impermanence.

There’s talk of intent, symbolism in destruction. Young men
being young men, the swagger and egging on. A damaging
desire to test an object’s agency. The expert’s theory of inherent risk
in particular morphologies.

They will resurrect its likeness in synthetic resin. Hundreds
damp-eyed along the main drag, shrouded replica in state
in a truck bed. Everyone knows someone who shaped or winched
or touched the thing, rebuilt a skyline with his bare hands.

Privilege as shelter belt. But here the winds care not
for your good names: the strata of impunity, entitlement streak
one day vivid in the record, reveal the muck-heap
of a phallocentric time preserved, rock-solid testimony.

*

QUESTIONS REGARDING PEACOCKS
Val Dering Rojas

Q.

What becomes of a body, moving through blueness, blue
in this case, being an effect of light along a pathway turned to frost,
where the shrubs and trees have become more than a galaxy, and
in their glassy, glassy, stelliferous state, blindingly bright, which is not to say
I am craving the bluesy moment where I become nebulous phantom, but
maybe bluesy in the case of sadness or melancholy or chemical imbalance,
positron emission tomography, Journal of Neuroscience, or just to ask
what becomes of this kind of sparkliness and the beauty
of parking above The Valley and the city’s lights?

A.

It’s what becomes of the remote distance, blue in the way that
something grows smaller and smaller, like faith in the benevolence
of camouflage beneath the hale dark sky, looking down on the town,
how we’d drive to the top of Mulholland on a Saturday night—
and how I gave it away at fourteen to Dondee in a pick-up truck,
before one is old enough to startle at the way a body can be stolen,
or how they say that’s the reason I came-to naked in a bedroom,
each of the four boys from my high school still stripped
from the waist down, blueness in this case, of memory contained
in the alarm of peacock threnody, in the shhhhh of tailfeathers
opening, opening, opening, opening.

 

POTENTIAL WITNESS

I don’t usually remember my dreams, but in this one, a woman
was lying dead, naked, partially obscured by the low-growing forest
in half-light. That same week, I watched a woman on TV swear
to the reasons why she has been slowly dying. I watched not because
I didn’t know how a woman can be killed by quiet, but because
I wanted to hear about a species being laid bare.

There are approximately ten million known species of animals,
insects, and plants in the world, and half of them are in the Amazon.
The rainforest has been referred to as the lungs of the planet. The toucan
is the loudest bird in the entire place, a clamor heard up to half a mile away.

Imagine being heard like that. Imagine the blue morphos, stopping
suspended, neon clouds beneath the bosky canopy. The orange clouds
of monkey brush holding the iguana. Not even the rain reaches the orchid
with as much force. Imagine something to kill the tiger’s carnal pounce.

In the dream, I was fleeing, and other women were fleeing also.
In the dream, someone in the clearing says, I may as well scream. And we did.
So many years now, I’ve been shushed as if by strangler fig. Each sinuous branch
basketing into a beautiful cage. Science says dreams mean nothing. Science says
only a fraction of the rainforest is yet explored. Science says the woman
on television lacks credence.

In the dream all of the women became transparent. But not in the way
of disappearing, in the way that the dusky shade of trees feeds
the rainforest’s dark-rich floor, reveals its graceful decay, or in the way
that the leafcutter ant, with its three spines, its slick and suffused
exoskeleton, its terrible mandible, can chew through
any man’s skin.

 

HUMMINGBIRD # 2

It was a dream of hummingbird wings: one, an arduous red,
the other, as shadowy as betrayal. Where one would swoop up,
the other would loop down. This went on all night. There were
crossed lines. There was an eternity. There was a death.

And if you think that dying isn’t alive in this city, you don’t know death.
It’s like a hummingbird weighing the same as a penny. Except
the hummingbird is flightless and the penny is made of sun-dried brick.
In Mexico, it is believed the hummingbird is spirit–

Or a house of adobe, pink with dung, straw and silt, or a bird
like a jewel, a sapphire, whirring her purr in every black room. Blue so blue
as to mean that for every sin committed against woman, an equal sin
will be committed against man.

And I mean blue like indigo, ultramarine, cerulean, lapis lazuli,
a blue as blue as the quieting cobalt sky over the navy mouth of sea.

*

Collected
Chloe Hanson

I must be very still:
A flower in a crystal tomb,
frail stem positioned just so.
I must take care not
to fog the glass with my shallow
breath, infrequent now
to give the look of death.

He’s posed me thus: one
hand to naked breast,
one hand grazing
goose-pimpled thigh,
a Venus de Milo stuck
through with a pin.
Collectors are the truest beasts

I’ve found: they capture that
which can no longer
run, display kills
as trophies, delight in bloodshed
made sterile with formaldehyde,
with borax, with cold stillness.
He’s arranged my lips in an unmet

kiss. Most nights
when he presses his to mine,
I feel the hard
plane of his flat, harmless
teeth, picture him
helpless as all of our species,
unable, at last, to devour me.

*

An Elegy for My Body
Starr Davis

How many people have I had sex with?
The answer is somewhere in my blood

This is a question for God
Would He also count my thoughts?

Or the fingers and hands that went up my skirt
Do I count the times I was too young to count?

Or my own, black fingers
Would I count myself?

Should I subtract the times I was idle
And only count the times I was in love?

Or what about acts of incest
Would I count my own blood?

Or the times I pretended to be sleeping,
Would I count the times I was awake?

I have had the best sex of my life in dreams.
Do I count the times I thought I was dreaming?

If I look inside my body, like rings inside a tree trunk
Would I count the stretch marks?

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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.