ENOUGH: The Most Important Thing a Woman Could Be

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 runs every Tuesday afternoon. Each week we will highlight different voices and stories.

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a diagnosis of our daughter’s sleep apnea
Kaya Arnoux

                                  to my husband

last night I had a flashback
of the exact moment when
she watched us put our hands
on each other

                          I was in her eyes
her pupils expanded     taking
screenshots of our twisted bodies
each image captured the creases
on our skin

I heard sharp aching sounds
as muscles twitched   under her chest
on her eyelids         our voices muted
our faces blurred by her tears

the other night   she kicked
her blanket off the bed    yelling
no      stop it  
it must be us she was seeing       us
throbbing our limbs around like
quadruple lightening     hitting
buildings            while she stood
under the night sky
                                       uncovered
                                       drenched
                                       in her sweat

*

Intimate
Mary Hutchins Harris

Here is a book. There are pictures in this book. You are the one with breasts. Yes, I know your breasts do not look like this. But they will. The man is the one with a pointer sticking out at the top of his legs. Yes, I remember you saw a naked man standing at the window of the green house on the way to work with me.  No, his pointer was not sticking out, you are right. But it was there between his legs, a shorter leg with more hair around it. Do you remember or did the red light change too soon? I want you to read this book. It will tell you about becoming a woman. Yes, I did say the blood comes out at the top of your legs. I want you to read this book. Then I want you to hide it from your father, your brother. Do not read it in front of them like you do Nancy Drew. Yes, if you have questions you can ask me. This book, this book should tell you all you need to know. Yes, everything, except you should never wear pajamas to bed. When you are a woman, always wear a nightgown to bed.

*

surviving fifteen / quince in miami
Stella Santamaria

& i was fed in water
ocean juice when i was sprouted
scorched sea oat
fields of grey softball & uninflated soccer
at the ripe of 15, beached quinceañera
fed fresh sugar cane

no vaya ser que se nos eche a perder 
                                                                              so she doesn’t get ruined
the honors placement, youth folclórico
rumbera burning sequins in 8st carnival ballet

arte es para                       art is for
trabaja ya estas lista                               work you’re ready

                      estudia hasta que se te quemen las pestañas
study until your eyelashes burn off

hasta que derrames sangre                       until you spill blood
                        que un día            that one day

puedes ser un ejemplo                you could be an example                                         

                            a wife                                                                      a mother

ten cuidado con lo que dices                be careful with what you say                       how you say
revolutions      
                                                                                                                mira lo que paso                                           look what happened    
                                                  perdida                         lost

                                                           una        decada
                                                                                            one                 decade, spin across
the new images of the black hole

                                               lo mas importante                   que una mujer puede ser 

 

                       the most important thing                                               a woman could be

una       virgin                                                             a         virgin

 

*

Preservation Lessons
Erin Rodoni

My daughter looks at her hands     for a long time. After
I tell her what they can do.             To anyone who tries

          to take her. The girl doesn’t want     a stranger’s blood
          beneath her nails, doesn’t want         the shocking give

of a stranger’s eye.     I took my first
self-defense class       when I was ten. I still can’t

          shake the cringe.     The girl makes a fist.
          Thumb tucked         inside. I shake

my head. Pull her     fingers sharp.
The lamp casts         our shadows on the wall.

          The shadow mother     merges with the shadow
          daughter. It goes on     forever.

What a hand knows             of forever. Bone. And
grip. Hold hands to stay      together. Not to

          lose. To squeeze.     A warning. An accident,
          averted.                    Yanked from the grasp

of disaster. Such small hands.          Busy always.
Scribbling crayons into nubs.          Melting chocolate.

          Impossibly quick.     The chance between hesitate
          and too late.              My hand rakes tangles

from her curls.          A shadow hand catches her
ponytail. Yanks        her chin straight up.

          Her throat                 exposed. And all
          the tiny roots sing     ouch!

I know it hurts.                     I know. These hands
soothe. Wound their own     palms with their own

          nails. With rage.           With worry. I look at the dirt
          beneath her nails.          See blood. My hands

guide hers. Dagger.     Bludgeon. Gouge.
The lamp casts            shadows on the wall. Rabbit.

          Danger. Run!          The girl memorizes
          the shapes               her hands must make if

she is caught.          Behind the shapes,
the violence.           Of what her hands can do

          if they have to. To escape.      And beyond
          escape, the violence.               Why she has to.

*

Dinner Prayer
Mariam Odetoro

As a child I made things up too often my friends stopped listening. I did not wish to become a liar. The stories I can explain. I wanted so bad to be held. I have seen girls pull their heels off at gas stations. Seen one lie about a torn dress on her way out of an interview. Seen one shuffle countries to be rid of an uncle. Seen many roll their eyes at the mention of communion. A union. So father, bless the loud girls. And the quiet ones. Those who left their voice in the hallway of a public restroom. Those sitting inches away from a family they can’t use their dinner knives on. Bless them. The ones with holes in their bones. Their trust a shipwreck. Father, bless us flowers so we may open again. If we want to.

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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.