Protest Against Rape: Thursday * 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.
 
 
 

© Theresa DiMenno

© Theresa DiMenno

 
 
4.
 
Sarah Crewe
 
 
amity= friendship

a flag happy population    like dagenham on sea only

less grey    more    great white    equal    display of

misplaced patriotism    equal    whitewash/no

talk of iraq on the heathway/no

vietnam chat on the gangway

this is a seasonal wealth complex

so let me say chrissie wasn’t so much attacked

as swimming with bad intent&

wearing a corpse flower costume&

waving her arms lasciviously&

shouldn’t have been out alone&

barefoot&you say accident they say uh, what?

but you say hunted& they say riot&

summer parade=uprising
 
 
 
From sea witch.
 
 
 

© Tom de Freston, ‘Swimmer’

© Tom de Freston, ‘Swimmer’

 
 
Starfish Hands
Caroline Carver
 
 
Bermuda yes          islands of dreams
so many islands wrapped in glittering sea
like shining silver inside sweet papers

crinkled and thrown away
– put them in the cave
where no one will find them – says the man

she hates him already       with his
yellow skin and pursing sun-pricked mouth
he smells like long-dead starfish

Above them on the rocks is an iguana
Why did her mother leave her? she is
terrified of iguanas   – big and scaly like a dragon –

– a monster who eats little girls –
says the playful man holding
her tight and speaking in a tingly
sea-urchin voice

He carries her into the sea saying its safer there
but it’s

hot as if it fell out of a witch’s
cauldron and she wants her mother
nowrightnow rightnowrightnow and she goes
so far away everything is small like the tipsting of a mosquito
comes so close it’s three hundred and sixtyfive
times bigger than all the islands beaded together and
the watching monster grows big as a

giant pushing himself up and down on his
front legs and breathing his throat out and in
while the world turns green and

blue the world turns yellow and red every
finger and mouth in the world is full of splashing
and salt homenowrightnowrightnowrightnow

Monstrous starfish hands
monstrous starfish mouths   c r e e p     s l o w l y

over her slow worm face       creep
under her spiny
back    creep

into her soft space
nowrightnowrightnowrightnow  the world turns soft and black
until
          with lanterns swinging like owls’ eyes

night searchers find her naked cold
and gasping       a stranded close-hooked
fish amongst an unforgiveness of rocks
 
 
 
Published in Bone-Fishing (Peterloo Press, 2006).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 

© Theresa DiMenno

© Theresa DiMenno

 
 
To Hear a Mermaid Sing
Jacqueline Saphra
 
 
Once I nearly drowned and fell in love all in a day.
A goddess saved me from the sea.
Crazed with thirst, horny as hell,
I thought I saw a mermaid and heard her sing.
Her hair made patterns like the waves.
We lay together, panting on a bed of sand.
I’ve always liked a bed of sand,
a girl who asks for it: whoah lads, my lucky day.

There was magic in the waves.
She swayed in rhythm with the sea.
Ripe, crimson lips opened: she began to sing.
Perhaps I’d died and gone to heaven although hell
is more my scene. And what I got was hell.
True, nothing between us but the sand,
but think about it. Mermaid. Tail. All she could do was sing.
She sang all fucking day.
I was off my head man, rocking with the sea.

At nightfall, hypnotised, I watched her disappear into the waves
and I was gutted. For weeks I scanned those waves,
stood on the shore waiting: it was hell.
I promised I’d change, stop drinking. I slept unshaven by the sea
until one morning dark waters washed her up onto the sand.

I promised I’d marry her that very day
if only she’d sing, if only she’d sing.
Made a fool of me. It wasn’t her. She couldn’t sing.
Tailless, tongueless, witless slut of the waves.
Not so innocent and pure. Proved it that day.
Got pissed. Had her there and then. Fucking hell.
Called the lads in. Took turns. She was salt and sand.
Fed her vodka. Dunked her in the sea.
I wanted her to drown: she swallowed half the sea.
Rising from the shallows time after time she tried to sing.
No sound but gurgle, spit and splutter – brine and sand.

I walked away but she followed, back turned to the waves
lurching after me towards her new hell.
Alright, I said, come home. Let’s give it one more day.

Sometimes when I’m pissed, I like to watch the sea.
Across the waves
some nights I think I hear a mermaid sing:
my private hell.
Face down, breathing wet sand, I dream of her till day.
 
 
 

© Theresa DiMenno

© Theresa DiMenno

 
 
Tea and Sea
Kiran Millwood Hargrave
 
 
When he entered me, I emptied myself
and dreamed of tea –
jasmine, coy on my tongue,
and fresh mint, sweetened in Jordan:
climbing the misted hills with my brother,
the mother-of-pearl ring bought at the top
by my father and my mother; my mother
who likes her tea English, and weak
as early morning light. My mother,
cupping sunshine in her palms.

I found the sea shelled in his hand
at my throat the thumb salty, bitter
in my mouth, spirited from coasts
ghosting through: the sun dipping
as we drove to San Francisco,
wired by discovery and the moon
beside us, sharpened in its wane
to a blade cradled at my neck.
The submergence into shocking cold
tides at Wells, tides at Druidstone, tides.

This girl
she is washing away:
expelled as the piss down
her inner thighs. I will find her,
years later, crouched under an
unmentionable weight; changed.
 
 
 
Published in Splitfish (Gatehouse Press, 2013).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 

© Theresa DiMenno

© Theresa DiMenno

 
 
Security Blanket
Caitlin Clarke
 
 
You, frolicking like wild horses we saw
at the villa in Orvieto,
grazing in their kingdom of spiky grass,
hollering and playing in the river,
splashing about like you did, in your wellies,
specks of gold and silver dancing through their thick auburn manes
performing your odyssey to a green amphitheater,
with innocence draped over your shoulders.

I see you in Cardiff, on the Gaza strip
a medley of latex, iron pyrite, and big bouncing tits,
I see your face among them all,
plastered against the bodies of whores, and pimps,
of the Rottweilers chained to telephone poles,
snarling through their buttery teeth,
clawing at nothing in particular,
and the scarlet faced men who scurry like rats,
opening and closing cast-iron doors;
fading into black.

Beyond the mountains of ivory powder,
and the piles of broken glass,
I see you, shaking
your skin turned to rubber,
as limp and sullen as that bird we saw,
in the bush outside Bungendoor,
clinging on to the darkness,
depleting into the onyx earth.

I see you at Hope House
among a collage of absent faces;
do you remember how your legs shook,
when he parted them,
when you sunk your body into the lumpy grey foam
and begged it to swallow you?
in the mirror, our eyes meet
patchwork blue, green, brown
                                          and crimson
dripping down your legs like rain
on a pipe, evaporating
like the steam off the top of that mountain
we saw, when we chased shadows
as if they were dragons in the sky.

I see you there, aged seventeen,
searching through the long grass,
newly wet with mildew,
for some kind of prophecy.
I see you there, in the water,
among the schools of fish,
hunting with the seagulls,
and floating all the way back home.

Mosaic mermaids swim through the derelict rust,
their platinum tails capturing light, competing
with other contestants;
the old man who nurtures squirrels in the graveyard,
whose sickly skin is blotched with shades of violet and cherry red
who cowers from children, and crumbles, slowly,
into the amber earth.
The sandstone woman, imprinted with hues of you.
In Stokes Croft, I see her, in all her wretched glory,
her leathery skin tightly wrapped in matte black plastic,
hips bulging, gasping for a breath of fresh air,
like the glistening rocks we saw at Church Bay,
that appear only when the tide is out,
apparitions in the sand.

I see you there, in the water.
Flecks of luminous golden light striking the sea,
and from it you rise, in all your saline splendor,
only to crash against the marble and tremble,
retreating to the deep dark blue.
 
 
 

© Theresa DiMenno

© Theresa DiMenno

 
 
A kind of rescue
Afric McGlinchey
 
 
Can’t inhale any more
of his boulder-sized words,
droops, like a fox’s tail caught
in a shower of rain.
His rage has turned her upside down,
bringing out the other one,
who launches

like a whale leaping from the ocean,
while she disappears
into nothingness.
Later, comes to, to find herself
carried in a cradle of human arms,
panic hitting her in the throat,
bruises blooming;

tries to cover them, looks up
to see a corridor
of huge trees peering down,
green faces leaning.
Across the sky, a white arc
wakes the beginning of memory…
then a mighty uprush, burning;

his smiling mask,
finger beckoning
casually, as though talking
of the weather, or moving house,
or furniture, yet
eyes fixed as poignantly
as a bridegroom waiting for his lover.

Arms release her at the door,
and she ducks behind it,
fragments of a hide-and-seek self
flicking into place
like a coin into a slot.
On the camber of her hips, evidence
of thumbprints.
 
 
 

© Sally Clark

© Sally Clark

 
 
Exposed
Agnes Marton
 
 
Those forests can be only walked naked,
on the soft, at parts bebarked paws
of the once-tamed-but-escaped,
of the fairly-wild-still.

I shush along the trees you sculpted for me,
embarrassed by your shiny touch
on the leaves which unfold
curved trajectories to the Deepest.

The Dreamiest Alone has never scared me.
I keep talking to you as if you were
still whiskassing me until I purred.

Watching me, bastard, huh? Don’t you ever stop
feasting your eyes? And what’s next?
You make me jump through hoops of
sunset-flames mirrored on lakes
and when exhausted you stroke me
while I fall asleep?

I square up to you, looking straight back
to your fucking fingers,
I can bite and hiss until you
keep out of my sight.
Pardon my French, I’m supposed to speak like a lady
but it’s gone, I’ve unalterably changed.

Vulnerable at core but keep going.
The more I scream, the more silence I gain.
The more I swear at you, I become the more sacred.
I’m your ex-creature. Goddess of Survival.
 
 
 

© Cassandra Gordon-Harris, ‘Three Moon Lullaby’

© Cassandra Gordon-Harris, ‘Three Moon Lullaby’

 
 
A Silver Tabby called Tiger
Emma Lee
 
(from a photo accompanying Emma Humphreys’ obituary)
 
 
Emma called you Tiger:
a big name for a little cat.

Her case changed the definition of provocation
to include accumulated violence.

You blink away from the sunlight:
outside is bright with trial and error.

She had blinked in the prison exit’s sunlight,
the brightness of her own flat.

Let’s count your tabby stripes.
Say fifteen for kittenhood.

At fifteen she ran away
to Nottingham’s inner city streets.

Let your sandpaper tongue wash
your dull metal-grey fur.

She used a knife on the pimp
about to rape her again.

Let’s count two more stripes
as you stretch onto your long spine.

She was sentenced to seven years,
but served ten.

You’ve no problem with appetite.
Over three years you watched her diminish.

Count thirty stripes of your silver.
 
 
 

© Naomi Woddis

© Naomi Woddis

 
 
Asking For It
Emmy Summers
 
 
I’m all dressed up in my best
I dare not venture past the threshold
the black-out curtains twitching
in case fish between the plains of coral
invoke the prey-drive
it is their fault for being born fish
and how in turn if I should be found
my knickers hitched up
blood stains like the first time
it will be my fault
for daring think it was mine to keep
when it was taken
with all the grace of an Attenborough documentary
if the bird remains in the cage          (safe)
we are saving them from themselves
the black-out curtains fall and twitch
playing dead for this graceless audience
foetal under the duvet
 
 
 

© Virginia Erdie, ‘Psychedelic Jane’ from ‘Not just an ICON …’

© Virginia Erdie, ‘Psychedelic Jane’ from ‘Not just an ICON …’
36″ x 36″ on wood, with cardboard, molding paste and resin

 
 
The Sex Life of Slugs
Valerie Laws
 
 
Slugs make a civilised business of mating.
Each one both male and female,
They come together side by side.
A fat white rope joins them,
An umbilicus through which
They exchange genetic material.
Both lay eggs, a pearly caviar.

Slugs do not have, take, or possess:
They build bridges between two equals,
Share their twin-sexed selves.

If only we could share so easily
The male and female in us with our lovers.
The penetrating and the child-bearing
Keep pulling us apart.

Meanwhile, after dark, slugs stroll
The pavements, fearless of rape.
 
 
 
Published in joint collection For Crying Out Loud (Iron Press).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 
Cymbidium 
 
 
Cymbidium
Adele Ward
 
 
That was the first time I saw orchids.

A neighbour called over the hedge
though he didn’t like children.
Being twelve I obeyed,
even if his mouth was too
old man voluptuous.
Glaucous eyes behind
thick lenses caught and held me captive.

I followed
into a dark back room
where his wife sat in the corner,
so still she might have been dead,
then stepped around

                    his special door
into the warm extension.
The walls were glazed –
Light filtered wetly
through overlapping fronds.
Flowers perched like fine curled
slices of moist raw veal.

He showed me his pride: cymbidium orchids –

See how they grip the climbers:
they live on trees,
sucking up water and leaf litter
as it drips down the bark.

Epiphytic, he called them.
Parasites, I thought.

Hold out your hands.

He sliced off an orchid head –
planted it, corpse cool,
in my upturned palms.
I held it: stemless, wounded,
Nothing but a gaping mouth –
amputated, silent.

Then he took a hooked knife,
cut away clinging roots
and tore through, as if
parting curtains.

Look. That’s where I watch you play.

From his hide I peered
into my own clearing: a square of lawn –
sunlight painful after the shade.
My own discarded tennis racket waiting.
 
 
 
Published in Never-Never Land (Ward Wood Publishing, 2011).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 
Roses 
 
 
Indian Rose
Sharon Black

               All the flowers of all the tomorrows
               
are in the seeds of today – Indian Proverb
 
 
This is no romantic gesture:
a weal of pink, bruised to violet
at the petals’ ragged edges –
fuchsia and mauve flooding the frame,
the flower’s heart
leaking
down the canvas.

Six men on a bus
pull a student from her seat
and rape her, beat her,
dump her body –

a nine-year-old is married
to her uncle to preserve
family ties and a dowry
of ten china bowls –

another hides
a notebook in her mattress,
forced to cook and mend
while her brothers go to school.

It’s just a painting –
you can’t smell its fragrance, hear it
confiding to the breeze
                    how soil too blooms
each time five sepals open like a hand,
petals unfurling, pistil rising proud
and fiery as the sun.
 
 
 

© Naomi Woddis

© Naomi Woddis

 
 
That Room
Becky Cherriman
 
 
His guitar stood in the corner, upright like a threat.
There were beanbags to slouch on,
an empty space where the video used to be
and a place on the bookshelf
for the tank of tadpoles
my mum brought home from school each year.
During the holidays we would watch
as some of them teetered
out of their tails and into legs.
Not all of them made it.

The walls of that room were papered in woodchip
the colour of an alcoholic’s piss, and peeling.
When he left, we bought some Trisodium,
sprayed it from ceiling to floor
to get the tobacco stains out.
Brown rivuleted down onto the carpet
like the tadpoles that slid
off the shelf and into my bra and knickers
one night when Mum was out.
There were some stains that wouldn’t shift.
 
 
 
Published in Versions of the North: Contemporary Yorkshire Poetry, ed. Ian Parks
(Five Leaves Publications, 2013).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 
Paisley 
 
 
My Paisley Quilt
Becky Cherriman
 
 
There are worse rapes than this.

He did not threaten my family
or beat me with his fists;
he simply prised open my thighs,
shut his eyes to my tears.

There are worse rapes than this.

He did not bind me with Gaffa tape
or hold a knife to my throat;
he simply ignored me when I said no,
every time I said no.

There are worse rapes than this

in the comfort of my own bed
under my favourite Paisley quilt
by the man I love.
Loved.

There are worse rapes than this.

2 thoughts on “Protest Against Rape: Thursday * May be triggering *

  1. Pingback: Why I wrote “A Silver Tabby Called Tiger” | Emma Lee's Blog

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