ENOUGH: Habit Makes Violence the Norm

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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.

[After this week’s installment, ENOUGH will be on hiatus through the summer. The series will resume in the fall. – Ed.]

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Wreck and Ruin
Leona Sevick

What did you think would happen,
knowing what he is? You saw
the writing on that wonder
wall, bartering lines between
other lines, the haunted house
on fire, and ashes, always
the ashes. He told you it’s
so hard to be without you,
and so it made you love him.
But he was never clean, was
he? My sweet Carolinas,
didn’t our mothers teach us
better? No matter, we’ll come
pick you up in your time of
need. He’ll ask do you still love
me? Say no. When doomsday comes
he won’t be around. You will
shiver and shake, anything
he says to you now won’t make sense.
Weren’t we broken anyway?
On this tightrope, prisoners?
You say you’re afraid, not scared,
but love is hell, you see monsters.
You aren’t safe when he’s tired of
giving up. We just might come
and save you now, have you stay
with us before he wrecks you
like a ball. Love, let go, be
lucky now.  Sweet illusions
be damned. Know the wolves are real.
What did you think would happen?

Author’s note: I have used Ryan Adams’s song titles throughout the poem.

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Sugar Bowl
Allison Albino

He was proud
of his parents’ stainless
steel sugar bowl,
a round globe whose
hemisphere
could slide open, halved,
reveal a mountain
of sugar, an Alp
to sled down in another
life. It kept hidden
what made my coffee
drinkable, what made me
long for a second
slice of cake, what could cure
the ache of a sour
strawberry, or grapefruit,
or just something to dip
the tip of a finger.

He would tell me
that my trademark cat eye
made me seem too seductive,
that red nail polish
and high pony tail
made me look like
a whore, the denim
mini skirt was an open
invitation to be
taken from behind.
He joked that my face
would be best hidden
behind a veil.

He would take me
when I was asleep,
when I was somewhere
between reality and nightmare,
but where I knew
I could count to ten
and it would be over
and I would be in the clear
for another month or so.
What he called frigid
was a body that knew better,
and was counting down
the days until he would take
all of his things
out of my house
and I could lock the door
behind him. He made
sure not to forget the books
with my notes in them,
the dining room chairs
all the movies
he thought he had the money
to afford, his grandmother’s
cast iron pan that burned
everything, a moth-eaten
Mickey Mouse T-shirt,
and of course,
that sugar bowl, emptied,

He left the sugar piled
on the counter,
formless.

With the side of my hand,
I swept the crystals
into a bowl I loved.

How freeing
to dissolve it all
if I choose, boil it
down to syrup,
cool it until it is skull
hard, crack it over
my knee if I want

and then dump it all
in the trash.

*

GIRL IN BATHTUB, FLICKING DRIED ROSE PETAL
Natalie Tombasco

Notice the door unlocked. Edward Hopper voyeur,
              peer through the keyhole:
              regal, a vision—O buoyant breastbone, the hillside of knees
                                in honeysuckle & milkweed! O foreplay, forefinger
                                tracing through foam & steam. So much of a girl’s time
                                                                                                                                     is spent
pruning, waiting for someone to come eat her. So much of a girl’s time is spent being
              a catalyst
              for sin in silk & fringe.

Watch as she marks territory with bobby pins: backseat, night stand, sink basin.
Watch as she swells under the hot spell.
                                Boudoir, from the French, meaning a woman’s room
                                for sulking in,             to pout    prettydaysaway.

Notice how all she wants is to get clean           together, how all she wants is someone
to be hyphenated to.
                                                              Ignore that time is measured by a lighter’s fluid.

Notice how she’s both demure      & stink eye.
Listen as she sighs                                                at mildew & grime, waiting for
                                     her body to materialize.

 

A WALNUT FALLS FROM NIGHT

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost

I’ve got a bone to pick with you Bub—
     all afternoon, I’ve ground down
     this cortical argument
     to a spear, but what does little ol’ me
     know about hammer & strike?
     I’ve admired your wander-abouts
     into the yellow wood of alternate futures—
     choosing the grassy untouched path—
     & it’s not just you, but the Romantics, too
     stupid-drunk on Daffodils & solitude

     I’ve tried to stray from the trail—
     yellow-lit kitchens & shut-eye garages—
     found a stick for walking as old, wise men do,
     except I was a girl
     so it most likely was to beat someone with

these props we carry
in the dark alleyway—car keys
in fist, pepper spray in the guise of lipstick

one time in Asbury Park after the restaurant shift
I scared away a crackhead with a wine key—
what glee! what privilege!

I hide behind being my father’s daughter
I hide behind sorry, I have a boyfriend
I hide behind a wedding ring
I’m home before sundown, unsure
whether to rest
or play dead

what privilege to be immune
to the body’s intruders, to walk
out of the house bare-handed
with the exception of Daffodils

if I do go into the wood
I would very much like not to jump
when a walnut falls from night
not find someone to suck the marrow from me
not write from a wound—you see,
my heroes have bite—they slice
open each tree with an em dash

if I go into the wood I want to find
a creature who scratches hard
but kisses soft

*

Normal Acts
Jonaki Ray

Have you ever tasted burnt wax?
The acrid, rubber-tar sting of it?
Now imagine that on each pore, each nerve
of your face.
Stinging blistering scabbing perforating your face.
The face that he tried to kiss
cupped by his rice-powdery hands.
If I had not slapped those hands
and left, twisting that face away,
he won’t have bought that acid
available so easily from that ordinary hardware store.
The path to this was pebbled from the beginning though:
the pinches on the butt the breasts
the back the crotch en route to school.
The leers at the gates of college.
The bilious snipes of the sauntering men who ‘protected’ our apartment.
The crab-like crawl to avoid being touched on the bus the train the office
All these acts swept into the “eve teasing” bin.
Habit makes violence the norm.

(The number of acid attack incidents in India was estimated as 3409 between 1999 and 2018.)

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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.

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