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.
To the Editors Who Asked Me for Something
I could tell, you know
Could tell you were waiting, the entire exchange
For me to speak in the voice of victim.
“Our readers need to hear from people like you”
Meant: spill it
That thing in our readers
That wants to feel terror
In the body of a girl.
To consume it, like cookies
That same story, same tired tropes
To chew the bones
Of girls gone missing, girls found
We eat girls.
Can’t be just ho-hum, ordinary
What else? Parts missing?
Did you pay with your childhood, your future?
Pay some more.
I always look away from that iconic photo
The famous one,
From the famous magazine,
Of an Afghan girl 50 years ago
Said to be stunning, haunting.
But she is stunned
She is hunted
She looks raped.
No one wants to hear my take
On the photo’s appeal:
That we love the look of prey.
I thought you meant:
My stamina, my synthesis, my strength
Your readers need my wisdom, my grit, my resilience;
Isn’t that the latest buzzword
That we hum in the ears of the tormented?
How about my timely retorts, my stats, my quick wit?
No, you wanted me to bleed
You were looking for that cloud to bloom,
Sniffing for the scent in the water.
Your readers are still hungry.
bring me a sword.
…and Solomon ordered, “Cut the baby in half! That way each of you can have a part of him.”
– First Book of Kings, Chapter 3, Verse 25.
I know the boy I’ve raised he was some flash of skin in the night
the scar dimpling his chin and my body
a soft crater; his crooked smile teeth meant for meat
cock strut, confident you know all the ways to the marrow
found his way young to the needle, the pills, the soft of others
but I know how to sing a boy to sleep how to suck the poison out like honey
know how to sweat the nightmare like a fever how to never be another excuse
He’s different now, better at hiding all his ruin
it can get better sometimes if you pray
I know the things they whisper about him junkie, criminal, rapist.
nothing they’ll say to my face a mother’s nightmare she paints the walls with
but I remember a little boy brother, where have your hands been?
pulling fruit from the vine taking all the sweet that can grow
whole strawberries hidden for later and the dark of all the words we tuck under our tongues
a watch on a string counting down to the next silence
a red, red mouth I know what blood tastes like
can count all the seeds that got us here when you bit down hard enough to make yourself a liar
so take me down to hell if you must damn me for truth
let me rest for half the year while you figure how to spin this story clean as cotton then, give me back the sunshine give me back the strength that kept me fighting
give me back the boy and the knowledge that what he sees in the mirror is only half
what echoes in the muscle after the bruise is gone.
The morning after / she weaves
an arm around my waist / chin cupped
in the easy basin of my shoulder
while I fry yolks & fat to sizzle
She takes a palm & massages
the clay of muscle / snorts.
Says Oh / that makes sense.
tells me I have trauma shoulders.
Tucked into the trapezius / that bloom
of muscle arching / up your neck
the halfway down the spine
My back is all brick & unscalable
of course it is a woman / who can touch
this body & know the fault
lines before I even tell her of the shaking.
It is easier to story this past / without having to look
a new love in the face to do it.
They always mirror it back at me.
tell me that I’m so / brave.
Brave takes away my permission
to break & I am so crack & breath already
I paint her the nightmare / how he found me
every night / for six years
how No was a word / I learned
so many times it lost all meaning.
When I finally told / they believed me
until they didn’t / Never trust the locks / the closets / the family
I feel her trying to climb / the wall
As if she has made this trek before
mapped her own spine / for its storm points
Don’t we always recognize our own reflections?
Isn’t the love of two survivors the softest light?
She presses her knuckles into my stone & tries force
it into something more / malleable
a bone she can twist beautiful / grotesque / alive.
She wants me to feel / alive
kisses my jaw & tells me of the tremble
how I broke / this delicate thing / yolks
running amber in the pan
She tells me she doesn’t like them soft / anyway.
Perhaps it was naive to think / that pain does not live
in this body / even when I’m not worshipping
at its altar of grief
I dream a world / where what you did does not live
inside me / Where two women can kiss
away their past / where I can love
& love / & love / without your hands
snaking through my hair
You are not welcome in / this bed / anymore.
my mother makes my rapist a meatloaf.
My mother bought my rapist a house. My mother showed my rapist how to fold his shirts neat. My mother makes my rapist meatloaf—because it’s his favorite. My mother spent three months coaching my rapist on his fractions. My mother went to all of my rapist’s junior varsity basketball games. My mother thinks my rapist’s ex-girlfriend didn’t give him enough of a chance. My mother thinks that bitch broke my rapist’s heart.
My mother worries my rapist isn’t eating enough, is drinking too much, is running out of socks. My mother got my rapist a warm fleece robe for Christmas. My mother saved one of my rapist’s baby teeth in a book. My mother wishes my rapist would cut his hair. He looks so good with it short. My mother rubs sun tan lotion on the spot my rapist missed on his back. My mother helped my rapist paint the walls in his first apartment. My mother thinks my rapist has such potential if he’d just apply himself. My mother thinks my rapist is a good boy.
My mother doesn’t know that my rapist is my rapist. My mother calls my rapist her son. She is so proud of him, how he is finally getting his life together. My mother has a picture of my rapist from middle school on her dresser. She thinks that is who is sitting in his chair at dinner. Not the violence. My rapist has good dinner manners. My rapist is smiling boy. He has such long eyelashes.
My mother wants to know why I don’t come home more often.
My mother says all my dresses are wrinkled. My mother gave me a box of old recipes and told me to make them my own.
My mother wants to know if my boyfriend loves his mother. My mother told me I need to try to be a better sister to my rapist three days before Christmas. My mother says we used to be so close.
I used to be quiet. My mother wants to know when I got so tall.
I don’t fit in her house anymore.
My mother is worried about all the things she can’t change. My mother has a farmer’s tan from working in the garden. She wears a special hat to keep her neck from burning. My mother knows all the words to Gimme Shelter. My mother is a good woman. She makes a damn good meatloaf.
She thinks it’s my favorite.
I am crying because I’m tired of all the reasons children are raped or because I’m twice as old as I ever imagined living, seven times as old as when it happened, and those reasons still haven’t changed. I am crying because it’s safer than the sharp edges of my rage set loose. I am crying because my own body is a minefield sometimes, makes pleasure something I have to fight for, dangling fuses and scent memories like barbed wire.
I am crying because I am awash in the tears of an entire world, prey and predators navigating a biosphere where victory is shaped like a harem, or a zoo. Where the layers of ghosts and pain can be carbon dated back to caves. I am crying because maybe we never knew better. Maybe we never will.
I am crying because salt stops the bleeding, flushes the wound. Because rivers are easier to make than wings, and escape is the goal, or because escape is impossible. I am crying because I’m finally alone or because I’m all alone, because there’s a door I can shut and lock, or one I can never get to open.
I am crying because poetry sometimes cuts ragged edges in my fingers, my soft throat. Words that have no gentle left after decades of compression.
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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