ENOUGH: A Constant Undoing
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.
Swallowing your tongue is a myth, yet
every morning there it is, sitting in my spit
inside the bedside barf bag between
the metal coils, broken glass, and teeth
I swore could outlast a few fists. You ask me
if I’m eating and I cackle til I gag.
Can’t you see? An open mouth is always full,
even with the holes where my bones
should’ve been. I hawk up a memory,
still hot to the touch. The mouth remembers
everything it’s held: an iron kiss, a lead wire,
a limestone fingertip dimly lit. Once,
you stripped me empty under string lights,
fed them to me bulb by bulb, my chin
in your hands, your incandescent appetizer.
I kept it down until morning, didn’t cry
until then. Only a slick right hook until
the midnight poured out. One quick stitch is all
my hollow’s allowed. I’ve never known want
without rejection, how it lurks beneath
my gut, how it bitters at my cheek. Feed me
your lips; I’ll let you know where they land.
Call Me the First Horseman
I make a feast for dinner. Siting across the table like chess pieces, I am bridled.
I don’t understand this game, how am I all four horse-pieces and you none?
Still, I frown, but my eyebrows smile. You gobble supper down like a snack,
chuck on a coat with silver trim, which means you are going somewhere special
without me again.
Hours stack precariously, stretched out thin
and slow— like atoms across dark matter. The haunts I collect
and pay with lust, wait for you, (my love), by the front door.
I lie in bed with a white sheet pulled over my head. Bluish bruises
pocking my slim frame. Empty as a drought; alone as a webbed window.
I warn you, the next day, as I line the house with the same plastic
you rolled out for me—I say, I have an idea, (death moth).
Runaway as fast as you can—I’ve had enough.
Don’t think you hear me. Your flimsy wings crumple instead of spread.
You drink a Blue Moon as I slap on plastic gloves, whipping my tongue saying,
(Love) you’ve given me more cracks than a map of California fault lines—
Your fault of a mouth pushes against mine
like it belongs to you and lines with seams always break
so I break and wait.
With a knife I practice cutting branches from the Christmas tree because,
December is a stormy season; the bluest. You always take six steps backwards,
punch holes into me.
In January, Six beers in and passed out I straddle you like a horse.
It is important to be precise—
you stole mine years ago, placed my heart right on top of yours.
The seam opens easily, like a mouth with no teeth to protect it.
My heart beats out of tune above yours. I whisper, we are leaving,
we are slamming the door, we were always just passing through.
I know (heart) knows I am lying. I know it knows what I mean.
I replace my own organ then grasp the one underneath. I have to pull hard
before it plucks out like a stubborn flower. I find a jar
with daisies—I am not so cruel. I won’t keep something that is not mine
inside me. I bury your heart, with the white horse-piece, under the willow,
with enough blood to last a year.
You wake breathless. I have cleaned and changed. I still can’t leave
but I say, Hush, I have a secret, (death moth).
I’ve taken small steps. I make a snack for dinner;
my hips are happy to start swaying again.
If I were a Greek myth
You think it hurts. You think
It’s the same way Kronos ate his children,
All young and wet. You think of my stories,
All tea-lights and eating snow off the sidewalks
With a drop of maple syrup in the middle, a damp
Sweet. Like that, it’s almost easy. Parenting was bringing
Child to breast until they let go and created the Milky Way.
All the same. There is never any talk of pain. Just a constant
Doing. The gods turning over in their sleep. No talk of shame.
A drop of sperm taking root. No talk of rape. Athena takes the
Boy as her son because Hephaestus leaves. A constant undoing.
As I walk with my tongue lodged in my mouth, the nightingale scolds
Me. I do not waver. I know the female nightingale is mute in nature.
I am not beautiful, but I know that somebody stole Helen when she was
Only ten, on a crumbling sea shore. We all crumble some days. We all have our sea
shores. I am not beautiful, but I know. You think it hurts but I do not blame her for the war.
They said it was about immigration. As
If their God was cupped in the bowl of their hands. Waiting to be molded.
But I don’t know
What hurts most. Men dusty like peaches, that fuck us into tables, us waiting.
The wounds we give them the trophies they share the next morning. Or the
Emptiness of a mother’s eyes as she stands in a supermarket’s line
Because she couldn’t afford an abortion. Waiting. If the hurt has no name, it doesn’t.
a dishonored death
She felt the shoulders tower over her breathes
They crowded her lungs till they made them collapse
Words delivered from diseased tongues came with orders
That this was well past overdue, her days were numbered
She was her families troubles
This should have already been done
Brought on by hurried feet
The fleet of the consequence of what was to be done
Would be supported and not reported by native sons
Who ran the livestock for everyone
Her back had cultural shocks crawling up them with spikes
Digging into her spine, setting up the attack
The village paid no mind but watched the whole time
They were a part of this,
this was theirs, this was an example
This happened all the time
Her stomach made a knot that
locked her ability to digest any help
Or digest any if there was any time to
She was now being run down
the men even brought dogs with them
She made a turn one with no concern into an alley
And then her killing became an honored one
If there is an honor in taking the life out of the living
Even if its by their own kin
Her shoes sat in the alley for days until a woman
Picked them up
And walked miles in them and gave up
the life she lived in them
When the soles were finished
Dream in Which You Find Me Mid-Escape Except It Is Not a Dream
Once, you pulled out
the wind in me long-winded
wire taut to be still. Me—weed-
like—an unraveled yarn of yearn
wrapped around your fist.
For years, I walked without a spine.
Tiptoed till I learned to steal
your breath away. I sprouted
steel under its warmth—wide
winged war weighted and wet.
Wary of my awoken flight, you showed
up with shears to shape & spun me bent
over in fright twisted into your worn
down wound—all cut cord & tungsten bone.
How you coiled me so—my mouth molded
to melt under you—till everyone (even I)
mistook wreckage for rapture. How we danced.
Why I Stayed 2008-2012
After Brenda Shaughnessy
1. In every version of this dream song, there is a chase.
2. In every version, someone asks why I don’t just run.
3. In every version, I try.
4. In one, I steal rat poison from the cabinet and prepare myself.
5. In the next, you hand me a bullet—cold steel in fist— say:
This isn’t as messy; besides, no one will miss you anyway.
6. In one, I decide I love you too much to handle the hurt.
7. In one, my running is given reasons: age :: faith:: sexuality
8. Our community clucks collectively: Don’t we queers have enough to deal with already?
9. After, I simply shatter. You scoop up the shards of me, build a prison to nurse me in captivity.
10. In one, I turn into a poet and bruises become good business.
11. In none did my straightened spine walk out, away and not look back ever again.
12. In this one, you show up years later and I confess I still carry the bullet with me.
13. In this one, the bullet tells the story. How really, there was only one way to run and I’m glad
I didn’t choose it.
My Rapist Speaks
I’m sorry. I was incapable
of holding back. I know I stole from you
every deep sleep. Every greener pasture.
There are other worlds beyond this one
but I have ruined every kingdom.
It could have happened anywhere.
A field, the road, a kitchen, after the party.
It couldn’t have been anyone. I chose you.
God spared me from the flood, and all the animals
made me what I am today.
Please. Remind yourself, through every octave of grief
that I loved you once. Something horrible happened
between us. Milk borne into blood.
There is nothing I can say
that you want to hear.
I can only offer you this.
I’m sorry. I was incapable
of holding back.
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.
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