ENOUGH: Reciprocal Testimony

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

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Poem Made of Unsolicited Comments from Men
Michelle S. Reed

you could be beautiful
if you let your hair

grow long / that bird
is nice but too many tattoos

will make you look
easy / I was hard the whole

night you wore that tiny
blue dress / you could

make this poem more feminist
if you used the word

daddy / I like you best
when you’re drunk

and quiet/ in my experience
women like to be told

they’re still pretty / don’t say
you didn’t like it when

I touched your thigh / have you tried
writing it from the man’s

point of view / even
if you lock your door tonight

I’m coming in

*

You Will Know Us By Our Song
Rena J. Mosteirin

Celia Cruz sang Guantanamera
like Abuela used to, before that tube
went down her throat, before the hanging
bags of medicine—fruit from the metal tree—
ripened and fed her. I see you metal tree.
What hurts is the lack of roots. Refugees
are trees that live on air. They root to music,
prayer, family, food, and all together
it becomes a sort of feedback loop: Celia

Cruz sang Guantanamera and I sang
along, loud—I was wearing a mask, I
wanted Abuela to hear me. My lips
close to her ear. I sang loud, bent over
the plastic walls of the hospital bed.
My hips did a small dance. My feet pranced.
Were her feet moving? Was she in the past, dancing?
Abuela, can you hear me?

Oye Como Va came on, the doctor
came in and I did not see him and I
love that song, so I sang loud as I could.
When the doctor walked in he saw me:
a thirty-five-year-old woman dressed for
a party singing Oye Como Va
to her Abuelita in the middle of the night.

Once I taught yoga, I played Chinese flute
music for my class. There was a bird just
outside the window, the bird recognized
something in the music and sang along.

That night, the doctor who came into the room
with me and Abuela, he recognized
the song, and in perfect Spanish, he began to sing.

*

The Shelter
Jami Macarty

One woman passes on being
first, looks at the clock.
Another seems ready to put it
on the table. We eat but
not alone. Reciprocal
testimony. The shelter
makes sure we have
a home and can keep it.
See us as living, not always being
destroyed by men we help make.
A lot can be accomplished
at the table. Gift of meal, back-
bone, as much
for the company as the telling.
She says I read about a wife drinking
radioactive water on Face-
book. Is Facebook a metaphor for
the kitchen table, I don’t know, she says.
Togetherness that happens through shared
experience of battery. What we do
is singing at the bush. We are quite often
our own barriers. Not that again.
His harshness. Cyclical, historical,
internalized—so is resilience, we learn.
Here we unite through communal meals,
flower pots, God, fingernails.

*

XIV
Maya Grossman

women are born with guilt, raised in it.
eve just wanted to know the truth,
and now we’re always ready to run back into burning buildings,
trying to grab the things everyone else forgot.

when the boy i loved told me the horrible thing he’d done,
—in a tone usually reserved for children showing off the frogs they’ve caught—
my heart seized in my chest and didn’t let go for two whole days.

did you know,
after hour three of a panic attack you stop hyperventilating.
instead, your lungs feel as if someone has dipped them in wax,
your thoughts stop racing, slowing to a times square billboard’s crawl.

i left italy three days before i had originally planned,
crying every step of the way back to my apartment in amsterdam.
guilt weighing down my arms and legs as i moved from train to airport to train
—even though i wasn’t the one who’d done anything wrong.

am i not a woman? do i not feel the duty to wear the guilt of others,
a heavy pelt of bearskin upon my slender shoulders.
why do i always end up wanting to apologize to the ones you hurt?

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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.