Protest Against Rape: Wednesday * May be triggering *

Before the reader embarks on reading these poems, the editors stress that some content may be found disturbing, troubling or even distressing. Sexual violence is an emotive subject, and some writing about rape is as exploitative as the crime itself. Such writing in the context of politics, the media or literature can constitute a “double violation” for the rape survivor who lives the experience for a second time: the experience of “triggering”. Encounters with sexual violence as a subject for literature demand caution, care and respect, but an interrogation of “rape myths” is necessary. The poems selected break the silence of the status-quo, which defines sexual violence as a freak event rather than part of a dominative “rape culture”. This protest is the beginning of a conversation that seeks recuperation, healing and redress.
 
Please note that submissions are closed.
 
The introduction to our protest can be read here.
 
Please refer to our list of International Resources for Rape Support here
 
 
 
Daughter 
 
 
Now That I Have Daughters
Carolyn Jess-Cooke
 
 
Don’t get me wrong, I was always a feminist.
How could I be otherwise?
But now I’m raising daughters it all seems to leap out at me,
and by it I mean the twelve-foot murals at the fairground
of women: breasts bulging, thighs narrow, backs arched, red pouts.
I’m sure I always noticed them but now,
as I take my girls on those rides, I am angry because
a spin in a pink mouse-themed cup subjects them to a message
of womanhood as coterminous with sex and subservience
and a pervasive annihilation of their true power,
true beauty of the female edited out by capitalist ink.
And it’s there when I wheel the pushchair into a newsagent’s
and dash out again, for at my four-year-old’s eye level
magazines flash those same bimbo-fied babes, naked, slicked,
twisted in poses of the seductress,
the same on billboards or posters for alcopops, movies, apps –
anything to trade the masculine as dominant, as master. My oldest
brushes the hair of her princess dolls, wears a tiara
and writes little stories about becoming a princess,
and this I don’t mind. We talk about
what a princess represents, her qualities
of self-worth, integrity, what femininity really is.
Then she asks me to read one of her fairy tale books,
but I cringe at the self-sacrificing narratives of female-as-
secondary, as helpless – and one day I can’t stop myself,
I pull out all her books and discard the ones
I cannot bring myself to narrate. Yes,
I may have become a curmudgeon.
I may well be over-protecting, censoring, radical.
But I say if I must raise my girls in a world where rape
is joked about, warfare, legal,
where a child my daughter’s age will be forced to marry,
where a woman will be put in prison for reporting a rape,
where a mother will be thrown off a bus for breastfeeding,
where the press will vilify a woman for not losing baby weight
and applaud a man for misogyny,
then I will raise my girls by teaching them that they are awesome,
they are daughters of the divine, that their femininity is sacred.
And I say take back your messages of harm and woman-as-
nothingness, take your whispers toward me in my raincoat
pushing the buggy, take back the qualifier
in that disgusting phrase, just-a-mother.
I say, these are my daughters, they are glorious, they are precious,
and they know their worth.
                                       I say, watch out.
These are the women of tomorrow’s world.
 
 
 

© Naomi Woddis

© Naomi Woddis

 
 
Landmarks
Jane Commane
 
 
Our geographies are different,
Pierced by landmarks like this;
Secluded lanes, alleyways, parks,
emptying train carriages, taxi cabs,
stairwells, public toilets, almost all
open spaces when unaccompanied.
 
Then, those other landscapes of threat;
working late alone, short-cuts home,
the party where the first drink swipes
your running feet from under you,
the stranger or the friend you trusted.
 
It can happen almost anywhere.
And too often, it does.
We fold up this tattooed map of threats,
carry it everywhere we go.
 
 
 Red traffic light
 
 
Boot Carnage
Meg Tuite
 
 
Alone in my car at a stoplight.
Owl Liquor store, the only beacon on an otherwise four-way corner
of tangled vacant ghosts between sky and bone.

Drivers stare through each other from the safety
of windshields
when the girl crosses the street.
Air is still. July transfixed in swelter.

The girl’s body wires on a decline
no wind outside her.
A mini-skirt bares bruises,
spindly legs pack into combat boots.
Black cracked magnificence.
Boots haunt and bleed many orbits.

She sneers at cars lined up on either side,
spits at windshields.
Thrusts her head back,
shoots white spitballs into the air between us,
one after another, as if they were fists.

Somewhere defiance
stomps its kickass boots
smacking cement
a fear I decipher,
a compass point.

Alone on a street in Uptown.
4 AM and truancy is palpable.
Men line up, lean against buildings,
drip leer-bullets like semen.
A masturbation on every strung out crack face.
They click their tongues
hoot at my scrawny limbs,
hone into my tremoring head
through blood-clot eyes.

I just left the hospital.
A girl has been raped.
I held her hand for hours while she shook
through legs in stirrups, detectives
whose eyes were cast on her breasts
as though they were answering the questions.

When I get back on the street
those rabid men don’t know these boots
are loaded with dynamite
could take out the entire block.

Cement crushes beneath me,
I grind through each one
of their crotch-grabbing threats.

and with every step they diminish,
as though behind a windshield,
I watch them disappear
in my rearview mirror.
 
 
 

© Wayne Holloway-Smith

© Wayne Holloway-Smith

 
 
The Apple
Rethabile Masilo
 
 
When young summer rains
have washed our sheets
by the river, hung them in the wind
to dry, and yanked them tight
over the edges again, then swept them flat
with an outstretched hand—that’s when
I like to get it on with you; yet even sex
has somehow left us wanting,
so that the orchard appears to fruit
how pillage does to love. They are people
of aggression, my Lord, who spend
their time reaping the undergrowth
as if Eve had never offered her apple
openly to Adam first, inviting his snake
to partake of her harvest, with this blessing—
this apple we shall share at love’s meetings.
Objection, your Honour! (Objection overruled!)
In Eden, everywhere between limbs is fruit
watered with good water. Red ones
the size of Mecca, small ones with a small
tang, bigger ones, of the loins
and of the loom, made from stamen and pistil,
mangoes with the fever for a mouth
just hanging out at the pool in the sun.
There is a buffet in the afternoon
where the horn of plenty has spilled.
And when the mission bell rings
and we head to church ironed-out
and starched like sheets, our clothes
are a tropical basket of fruit, some of it
ripe enough to burst at a touch
into tears that may not be of joy,
young fruit with no particular root
to look to but the earth beneath us.
Truth is, without the core’s consent
nothing should ever take place. Peach
or apricot or the wild berries that grow
behind the village spring, who will, when
the time comes, take the message of this day
into consideration? When I walked
out of Pioneer Mall in Maseru last night
a man lifted a sign at me, held it at the flow
of after-dinner traffic: fuck rape, it said
in cursive and deliberate characters.
 
 
 

© Amy Key

© Amy Key

 
 
The day after
Pippa Little
 
 
I am invisible.
Nobody would know, nobody will know,
my friend says. She runs her hand down
over my head, says
I am clean now.

What used to be my voice
but haywire,
a wolf clawing at a door,
tells her no,
red sobs erupting through my skin.
 
 
 

© Malgorzata Lazarek

© Malgorzata Lazarek

 
 
After the Attack
Carrie Etter
 
 
I hinge one of my ribs
to either side of the doorway.
I stir my father’s muscles into mortar.
I carry my mother’s eyes in my palm
to set in stone above the entrance.

I am building a house for Joanna, my youngest sister,
designed to protect her.
I regret its late construction—
I had thought, She is only thirteen,
believing she had a few more years of safety.

I walk to the nearest hill and look back.
There is no house, there is no sanctuary.
There are bricks I want to heft.
There is a sharpened pole
where I want to place his head.
 
 
 
Published in The Beloit Poetry Journal.
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 
Angel 
 
 
blue rubber mat
Mathew Staunton
 
 
past a staff room
and the office
of the principal

a boy drags
a blue rubber mat

out into the playground
where St Joseph
guards the cars

a boy drags
a blue rubber mat

through the gaping entranceway
and up two flights
of stairs

a boy drags
a blue rubber mat

past his teachers
and another open
staff room door

a boy drags
a blue rubber mat

and once the classroom door is closed
he lays the place he will be raped
upon the floor
 
 
 

© Cassandra Gordon-Harris, ‘Yellow Leaves’

© Cassandra Gordon-Harris, ‘Yellow Leaves’
Oil painting

 
 
Wallpaper
Terry Ann Thaxton
 
 
Purple hills and green houses run
together in the wallpaper around my room. My daddy
runs his hands down, gliding over the cut

edges where they join with paste. The paste holds
down my tongue. Do you like it? I swallow so daddy’s
princess can exist. Stare over hills into darkness
beyond green houses
where people live happily
where purple hills are not bruises
where little girls laugh. No daddy

loves his princess more; he buys wallpaper. Mommy
sees the edges peel, superglues them down so no one
sees. It’s silly to have wallpaper like that, why
did you ask for it anyway? I did not
ask for it—I drop my head, close my eyes. Inside
my head crowds of people run away
with me to the other side of the room and wait
in the corner

under the window, ready to throw
our weightless bodies out in to the purple hills,
ready to stay away for a long time—all night
if we have to. Princess will know when it’s time
to return. When daddy leaves her

alone again. When he tells her to forget.
It’s important to be quiet. Do you like it?
nodaddynodaddyidont
 
 
 
Published in Getaway Girl (Salt Publishing, 2011).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 

© Josephine Corcoran

© Josephine Corcoran

 
 
Unconvincing (underlined)
Josephine Corcoran
 
 
My mother didn’t die when I was twelve
Someone’s husband never said
We can give her a home
I never found myself alone with him
Inside my bed
My head
Was always full of fancy
I would have failed regardless
Whatever did, or didn’t, happen
The day before the test
 
 
 
Static 
 
 
Memory Grill
Paul Hawkins
 
 
The noise I hear when bacon fries is the hard pop and scratch of vinyl; Elvis or Jagger jumping out of the speakers into my ears, I recall the clumsy moon-steps of Neil Armstrong in zero gravity, Mohammed Ali having no quarrel with them VC; the taste of a digestive biscuit dunked in tea. But then there was no ‘Love Me Tender’ in the room lit by that black & white TV, just your insisting hips thrusting and you forcing yourself into me.
 
 
 
One 
 
 
Coat
Martin Figura
 
 
Give me your tobacco coat
and black hat, father. Sink
into the cracked leather chair.

Let’s have a good look at you:
your white shins and loose teeth,
your monkish bald patch.

Let’s go through the photographs,
those ridiculous fictions
stuck down in albums.

Who’s this and this, I don’t
remember them. Your hands
seem a little shaky old man,

be careful with your tea. Tell me
the truth this time. We can take it
to the scrubby end of the garden,

not mind the sodden leaves,
look out across the stubbled field
to the roosting rooks.
 
 
 

© Naomi Woddis

© Naomi Woddis

 
 
Evil Eye
Camellia Ann Cressey
 
 
To her, the oblong rubber was magical.
A little rub, and all her multiplication errors
and spelling mistakes would disappear.
She harvested the flimsy rubber shavings
in her blouse pocket to make pretend
snow for her dolls at home. Each day
she went to the girls’ toilets and rinsed
her rubber in cold water to wipe away
granite smears and grubby fingerprints.
In Maths, a pupil stabbed her rubber
with a pencil, the lead breaking
and wedging deep inside. She cried
until the teacher observed that the prick
looked like an eye. She skipped home,
excited to give her Barbies a snowy surprise.

She was surprised to find the kitchen door open
and even more surprised to see Daddy
who’d been away for ages, pulling
his jeans up over his bare bottom
and Mummy on the floor with her eyes closed,
blood dribbling from her mouth.
She licked her rubber and scrubbed it frantically
across her forehead, but the image wouldn’t rub away.
 
 
 
School work 
 
 
Best Eaten Cold
Valerie Morton
 
 
Behind me at the freezer section,
his hands round my waist tightening

as he whispers “We’ve missed you –
it’s been so long”. He doesn’t know

I know what she spilled onto my lap
one day after school. My best friend’s

husband – her best friend’s father.
At first it was simple – report him, kill him,

smash his face in – but it would be her word
against his and he hadn’t gone “all the way”.

This is it –

in a flash I bring up the frozen peas,
crash the solid pack against his cheek,

watch the weals rise, red and angry –
that’s for my daughter.
 
 
 

Vanessa Daou © Image by Tyann Sells

Vanessa Daou © Image by Tyann Sells

 
 
Save Yourself
Vanessa Daou
 
 
Running away from things that don’t hypnotize you
Spinning in circles when you cry
Something inside you always turns against yourself
While everyone out there knows how to be the hero

Can’t you save yourself just like everybody else?

Forever’s a state of mind you like to put yourself in
So you go to the movies to believe in things again
You make a religion reading comic strips
So you’ll learn how to die with a smile

Can’t you save yourself just like everybody else?
 
 
 
Lyrics from the album Joe Sent Me © Daou Records
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

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