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 runs every Tuesday afternoon. Each week we will highlight different voices and stories.
We Walk Barefoot
If I’m a wife and my wife is a wife
who vacuums the house and cleans the dishes
which wife dusts and which one does laundry
who cleans the dirt off of the dirt
which one of us sucks dirt and which one spits out dirt
which one of us doesn’t fit into the word wife
if wife is carved into the dirt
whose left breast falls off and whose right eye is dug out
if the wind is prayer if dirt is 50% lesbian and 50% void
if it never rains how do mosquitos suck the gay out
if we live below the ground in our dirt house
do we get squatters’ rights can we sue the land
if the land is our witness if we inhale the earth
if our bodies are silent tell us what we own
if the law of the dirt is dirt if wives travel west
of the dirt what customary law influences property
rights if individual grains of sediment never move
if the force of gravity pulls us deeper into the dirt
if there’s no gust of wind or water or ice
our marriage will never sculpt itself into a mountain
if the valley of dead-women-in-the-dirt has been
our destination this whole time all we had to do
was walk barefoot in our backyard
Portrait as Overgrown Garden with Invasive Species
The wisteria crawling
out of our kitchen faucet
probably won’t flower
for another twenty years.
Lilac will eventually blind us.
We sleep with the carbon
flowers and lipstick plants,
shedding body parts
as they do. The rubber
trees’ roots reach
into the sewer system.
What does it mean
to survive? Basil bursting
out of sidewalks?
The choking plant
turning blue? The foot plant
kicking us to death?
At sunrise, we mistake
baby’s breath for fog;
it grows around our necks,
pulls the lesbian out
of our dirt. We leave behind
skin and bone wrapped
in wool. We almost
survived the shape of a man.
Lavender grows out of our mouths,
it swells between our cracked breast bones.
Our guts tender and fertile.
She piss herself at night
pity, old to cry down legs
She smell of yellow-brown
urine, the color of her skin
She tread pools in herself
but colored kids can’t swim
She didn’t breathe a word for a year
instead held, each molecule containing
monsoon histories, elusive too heavy
for little children too weak
to stay, afloat
She shine white-boys like teeth
don’t, get up
She skin off ash-rose knees
don’t get up
She mixed-up bag of bone
silent-wild, outside too late, swimming
too little, elusive children, too heavy
never did learn to say aloud
but, I’m afraid
She wonders why
that child writing love poems in chalk
on the pavement the day before it rains
Impossible to Keep Self-Forgiveness from Turning Into a Story About You
“Maybe poetry is our lifelong effort toward self-forgiveness.” – You know who you are.
Picture this: girl as a field of tulips / as a fused clavicle wish to snap / as a crag at the edge
of an ocean. A girl is a room lined with honey / is yours for the taking / you think a girl
doesn’t know that? A girl walked into a bar / walked into your office / walked off the face
of galactic space. Girl unhinged / girl floating / looking for light at the end of her own
black hole and you couldn’t wait to get your hands on her. Hollow girl / follow the girl /
swallow her whole to live a little longer. Skin the girl / sew the girl / wear her as a coat.
Taxidermy the girl / mount her on your wall / stuff her mouth with mute moths /
deliver a speech on self-forgiveness. Tell her how beautiful she was / her body
a blank lake for you to dive in / how sorry she should be for making you want her
like this / all that emptiness begging you to fit yourself inside of. In this one, a girl
is a rotting fish in a box at the bottom of your closet / hating herself / a girl is / is a girl /
that girl / isn’t me / not anymore and you / wherever you are now / I hope you can’t stand
the smell of her.
Stage Directions for a Girl Growing Talons
Lights up on a girl growing talons,
beak curving out to tear flesh,
a girl side-stepping every mirror,
mortified by her own becoming.
This is what you wanted isn’t it
what you wanted, a girl
turning predator, bird of prey,
bird of her own scorned feather?
Raptor girl, easy to hate, easy
to blame. Never trust a girl
with keen eyesight or risk
becoming her dinner. Let her be
what she will be. The Greek rapio
meaning to seize or take by force,
meaning she has been taken by force
and this is her curse:
girl breaking into plumage,
broad-winged, the peregrine
female considerably larger
than her male counterpart,
stoop-hunt speed for killing,
cue thunder, cue doomsday music,
cue the world we have made for her,
send stagehands plucking her feathers
into the blackout.
The Rashomon Effect
every time a woman sees a bird
a man stands behind her and
says that’s not a bird it is never
the same man but rather a group
of men who look alike this tendency
to stand behind women looking
like other men who stand behind
women saying that birds are not
birds puzzles us what compels them
to discredit the existence of birds
why do they all look alike for some
time birds articulate and inarticulate
have been squawking at women
egrets robins blue-jays penguins
all rendered imaginary by men who
insist on telling women that even
if these are birds women are not
in fact seeing birds apparently the
birds women see don’t count one
exception is rooks the men who
stand behind women are known
to say rooks count as birds
My Feet Hurt
My feet hurt, said the old woman.
My bones complain these blessed days.
Then why wear those old white shoes,
the little girl asked.
The old woman farted and both giggled,
then they looked up at the moon.
My naked feet get startled
and I love the sound of that tap tap
when I walk across a floor.
Can’t we ever be free of shoes, the little girl asked.
The old woman took a scoop of moon, ate it,
licking it from her fingers,
letting her long tongue get every last bit.
They have you, girlie, said the old woman.
In public, we don’t belong to ourselves.
We live inside our own shells
like naked birds in a raw bone cage.
Ah! In private
we can be savages
and say what we want.
We don’t have to pretend
to keep them all happy
and our private shoes
are made of the moon
and filthy belly laughs
I thought so, sighed the girl
as the old woman
hammered the shoes
onto the girl’s feet.
Both admired the pretty blood
that flowed and flowed.
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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