National Poetry Month Day 27: Ruth Madievsky






I learned the term domestic terrorism from my white physics teacher who, when he was sixteen, built a marshmallow cannon and shot at civilians from the roof of a mall. What a weirdo, we all thought. It was almost as funny as that time during a lockdown drill when our geometry teacher forgot to bolt the door. Our beloved white Assistant Dean blundered into our class, made eye contact with a boy hiding under a desk, and said, Pew-pew.

In high school, domestic terrorism was “real” terrorism’s baby cousin. It was a white teenager launching candy at strangers. It was a white guy bringing a gun to school, but probably not our white guys, probably not our school. Probably we would have called that mental illness and not terrorism.

Now I think of Oak Creek and Isla Vista and Charleston and Planned Parenthood and Charlottesville and Tree of Life and Christchurch and I think of the 93% of women murdered by men who knew them in 2016. Now I think of the time in high school that a boy threatened to fuck his classmate until she bled. I think of the time one boy earnestly told another, I could buy and sell you in a day.




We all knew of the sex tapes, the girl who in a fugue state masturbated in the cafeteria. I cradled the same Smirnoff Ice all night. A talisman warding off the girl I already was—anxious, unfucked, three layers of padding in my bra. Seventeen, flirting with drunk boys when their girlfriends went home. Their beautiful fifteen-year-old girlfriends, their chemically straightened hair, their white designer jeans.

His girlfriend out of sight, one boy dropped his hand to my ass. I felt dangerous. Who was manipulating whom?

We all knew of the freshman who let a senior titty-fuck her on a dare. I too wanted someone to want me on my knees. To feel cool tile through ripped jeans, my ponytail taut in his fist.

The boy removes his hand from my ass. I end up in a bathroom with a drunk friend and her drunk boyfriend. He says, Babe, can I wipe you? She says, Not in front of Ruth. We stare at her pale triangle of crotch and each other and in two weeks a different friend will blow a boy from a rival school at knifepoint.


Photograph of Ruth Madievsky by Adam Phillips.

Ruth Madievsky is the author of a poetry collection, Emergency Brake (Tavern Books, 2016). Her work appears in Tin House, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, The American Poetry Review, Poem-a-Day, and elsewhere. She is a founding member of The Cheburashka Collective, a growing community of women and nonbinary writers whose identity has been shaped by immigration from the Soviet Union to the United States. Originally from Moldova, she currently lives in Boston, where she works as an HIV and oncology pharmacist and is completing a second poetry collection and a novel. Find her at and on Twitter @ruthmadievsky. More from this author →