ENOUGH is a Rumpus series devoted to creating a dedicated space for essays, poetry, fiction, comics, and artwork by women, trans, and nonbinary people that engage with rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
The series runs weekly, most often on Tuesday afternoons. Each week, we will highlight different voices and stories.
Poem for My Rapist’s Supporters (Or, I Asked for It)
You’re welcome to gorge yourself
on him, but I loved him, too, and look
how easily he buried me. He’s not an if,
but a when. A sliver of a man at the ready
to wrong your body. Make you your own
abusing god. I wish he’d killed me that night,
left me a symphony of red. Some
monument to the boy behind closed doors.
An incorrupt bouquet of a girl.
After a while, I find
beauty in bruising, its iridescence,
the way color dates
the hurt—I tell myself that love is touch
that darkens, bears
a purple salpiglossis with a yellow navel,
spotted and spreading.
In dreams, my father gives me new
jewelry. A tender necklace
where his thumbs would touch below
my neck—a second clavicle, another
type of permanence—or a bracelet
like a large hair-clip with teeth or claws.
In the mirror, I’ll twist and turn, sweep
my hair back, show my mother—aren’t they gorgeous?
She will touch her own gems
like opal or pearls, swiveling in the bathroom
lighting until they seem to sparkle.
The saying goes, like mother like
daughter. What then, if mother
is rag-doll, fresh canvas to ink?
We twist and turn in the mirror,
my mother and I becoming each other,
her bruises and scars passed down,
family heirlooms that will take
me decades to stop wearing,
In Which I Dream of My Father #1
After you tell my brother
I will break your hands
in our kitchen, I reenact
the scene in dreams for a week
straight like a one-act
Broadway short. Only, I am cast
in my brother’s place.
In each opening,
you loom from the garage, a brume
of cigar-smoke shrouding
your feet. I ferret through the fridge’s
leftovers, aluminum foil
as flimsy stand-ins for Tupperware
tops, and you catch
me reaching for something
you’ve claimed. And this
is enough. Don’t touch what’s mine.
In this dream, we are always eye to eye,
our identical noses nearly
greasing the other. I parrot
my brother’s words. I can take
what I want. What a spectacle we must
be for the others, my sister and
my mother watching from the living
room. You stab a finger into
my chest. I will break your hands.
I go off script. I present my limp
wrists like a caught
criminal, wait for the weight
of cuffs (the nipper of your sturdy
hands, the not-so-clean
click of bone peeling from bone,
like that first sliver of string-cheese).
Make them doll hands,
or like a ballerina’s, broken
into position. I say. Here.
Don’t back down from your
promise now. I want you
to feel the loosened weight
of you me, to see the skin
blue—your hands’ afterimage.
Be a man of your word.
How easy it is to forget
that we are not made of stone,
that we are soft enough to crumble
with our own hands.
Police-Style Arm Lock
The morning after a storm, I find a tree’s severed
bough on the highway’s shoulder. Propped
against the cement barrier, the wood angles
like an arm twisted behind the back. My own arm
thrills with childhood memories. Games of cops
and robbers, older cousins competing for the best
arrest. My cheek pressed down into the barbed
grass, a knee in the dip of my spine, and the muted
clout of my palm on the dirt when I wrung an arm
free to “tap out.” Time out, time out. Tears were
the only safe word. Then the way they crushed
my head to their chests, finger-combed the green
blades from my hair, said shhhh, I didn’t mean it.
How I never told my mother of their roughness.
Was it wind or lightning that popped the branch
from its socket? The next day, I pass it again
on my morning route to school, the deep “V”
now on its side. Is this what the therapist imagines
when I say my father is abusive? An arm cranked
to breaking? You must know, he’s never touched me.
There are things he has not done yet. But he has left
his mark other in ways, his love only visible
in photonegatives of his rage. On the third day,
the branch on the shoulder is split at the elbow,
now two sticks laying side by side in the gravel.
I know nothing has touched it since it landed.
Beneath the veil
of strangers’ hoodies,
you must have found
my scar: the color
hot-blue and proud and
round like a pork rind;
of damaged clam.
This single, , hardened
muscle; nip of domino; ,
doll’s eye; ; eyelet. .
You scratched through
thinking I was wet.
you ring my vag
tucked between my lips
a mystery, a membrane
a vestige from my spell
in the womb
no tampons, no specula,
no horseplay can break you
no myths, no shame,
no urban legends will taint you
lovely, secret no more
a bomb wrapped in purple ribbon
He taught. She annotated.
He tested. She aced.
He mentored. She blushed.
He jested. She quipped.
He summered. She called.
He invited. She traveled.
He caressed. She stroked.
He unzipped. She fellated.
He taught. She lingered.
He teased. She dared.
He fingered. She climaxed.
He obsessed. She idolized.
They boned. They cohabitated.
She graduated. He taught.
She auditioned. He groomed.
She acted. He cheated.
She confronted. He rationalized.
She bolted. He pursued.
She returned. He womanized.
She spiraled. He atoned.
She split. He aged.
She mothered. He taught.
She testified. He pleaded-the-fifth.
She hashtagged. He was sacked.
She published. He grieved.
I don’t fight,
And I don’t flight.
I hide in plain sight,
A rabbit in an open field.
I become small,
Lost in my expanding skin.
A crumpled wad of paper.
I am limp,
Waiting for it to be over.
A frayed rag doll.
But there’s only so long
You can play dead
Before it kills you.
Rumpus original logo art by Luna Adler.
ENOUGH is a Rumpus original series devoted to creating a dedicated space for work by women, trans, and nonbinary 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.