Protest Against Rape: Saturday * 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.
 
 
 
My Dream Is 
 
 
Anniversary

Barbara Smith
 
Strength is born of hardship, but is no protection against it.

                                                                                       Country saying
 
 
Every Christmas she expects the phone call:
a basso whisper that rasps out queries:
Will you be there … on such-and-such … a barely-
there presence on the line that stonewalls

her, yanks her back twenty years to her default
summer. Fifteen, still unscathed, bleary
from too much sun, she stumbles as he blithely
grabs her from behind – all he was before, made false.

Now she thinks of these stupid children’s books
from remaindered bookshop bins – every year –
for children he’s never met. He will not comprehend.
There are no scars – she thinks – but those you choose
to wear. That all happened to another girl: but this year –
this year, there will be no more Let’s pretend.
 
 
 
United 
 
 
From ‘Bloodlines: An Emperor’s Crown’
Bethany W Pope
 
 
I

 
She cups her hands against the place where breasts will grow,
Over her visible ribs, that empty place seemingly
Made to accept a wound. The shivs were constructed of
Every available thing. Hers was a bartered razor
Punched into the end of a blue toothbrush handle. Her
Enemy, her rapist, had a real knife stolen from the
Open kitchen. Her housemother handed her the key.
People do not realize that girls can rape. Media
Leaves this off the newsfeed. An unacknowledged truth, that
Everyone is capable of violence, even victims
Grow weary of remaining that self. This girl
Realized that she could make the violence stop. For her.
Even a jagged scar across the right pectoral
Would shrink with years. Look. See? It has nearly vanished.
 
 
II
 
Necessary comfort cannot bear the weight of
Earthly suffering. I am the woman at the window,
Arranging my books. Every few minutes another shock
Rocks me. That iron shovel blade connecting again,
Long years after, with my aching jaw. My back teeth are
Yellowing, but the false front incisors are white and whole.
Every day I feel it again, the rape, the
Violence. A hard tide smacking into me, coating
Everything in red. My fingers smudge the pages. I’m not
Really reading, I’m reliving. It never seems to end;
Years of constant re-iteration. My black eyes
Open wide at any sound; the scrape of spades in sand, a
Neighbour’s child crying, bovine mothers wailing for their
Escaped calves. I never used to be this broken.
 
 
III
 
Outside of modern ken, below the surface where
No contemporary current can direct you,
Lakes of unconscious beauty spread in myth pools, fed
Yearly by the memories of our blood. Great-grandfather
Purchased his wife—young enough to be his daughter, black eyed
Urchin, native miner. She birthed Daniel, who sired father.
Returning to my mother, the suffering semi-saint,
I know that she and her father were both raped by
The man who thrust him into his mother. Over
Years, through genetics, these stories sank into my bones.
I am a product of my parents, in figure and fact,
Self determined by Vocation, will and by my marrow.
My blood made the form, I must fit. Every sonnet
Yearns for love. It doesn’t have to be romantic.
 
 
 
Published in Crown of Thorns (Oneiros Books, 2013).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 
Eye 
 
 
From ‘Crown of Thorns’
Bethany W Pope
 
 
I
  
Water and blood swirled between fingers, down the black drain,
soap stinging the tattered flesh of your girlish vagina.
Your gasping mother drew back the cloth and never flinched
her Celtic blood would not allow surrender
to emotions. Her body stiffened as far
as pregnancy let it. Beneath her breast your unborn
sister kicked against her borrowed bone-cage, never knowing
that she would die before her birth, her heart broke for you
the way your mother’s never could. She laid her hard, strong hand
among your curls, the only comfort she knew,
calling for your father who looked, cursed his rage
and started drinking while she packed your lives in boxes.
He quit his job, loaded the car, left no addresses
for your Grampy to follow, though of course he tracked you down.
 
 
II
 
Growing flesh around the darkened hole death springs from,
the bark hardens around the hollow in the bole,
the secret place you love for no known reason.
Dressed in a chiton, playing the role of nymphic
servant to unseen Pan, you slide into the loamy darkness,
your wood-rot scented hide. Adolescent haunches
squat in soft soil. You have a shepherd’s pipe you bought
with two week’s allowance. Treated bamboo and garish
dyed bands, producing a sound your mind makes melodious.
The tree speaks with the borrowed breath of a wounded girl.
Saturday is for hiding, drawing strength from the earth.
Sundays still belong to Grampy, his evil, elderly
entitlement; right of the patriarch to penetrate
beyond the heart of innocence, which grows no armor-bark.
 
 
III
  
You never knew your spirit was twinned, body split
between a longing for purity you never
could feel and the urge to strut your span across the stage.
High-school was hard. You ironed your curls until they burnt,
worked at McDonalds to pay your parent’s rent.
Breasts grew at last, Grampy left you alone to plan your
escape, flee from your roots. You took secretarial courses
your father pushed (something to fall back on) and saved enough
to supplement your scholarship. Your torn spirit called
for theatre and dance, some skin to slide into, an ego
borrowed and strong, binding the wound he drove into your trunk.
You specialized in sluts and tragic heroines,
landed many paper parts, scraped the words into plates
you wore above your sores. They never healed, worsened, or closed.
 
 
 
Published in Crown of Thorns (Oneiros Books, 2013).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 

© Aprilia Zank

© Aprilia Zank

 
 
During World War II, Japanese soldiers kidnapped young girls aged 11 to 16 mostly from South Korea and China, forcing them to be their sex-slaves. Most of the women are long dead, but a few remain to tell their story and are still waiting for some kind of apology. This year, the Mayor of Osaka made a statement about how “comfort women”, were necessary. During this same war, one of the most horrific war-time brutalizations of women took place – The Nanking Massacre – also by the Japanese. In my poem, I wanted to address this relationship.
 
 
 
The Rape of Nanking by Men, Comforted by Rape
Sascha Aurora Akhtar
 
 
(December 13, 1937)In Nanking, an exhibition of atrocities (China) that
Cannot even be whispered out loud (w-a-r) waged by man (to win) for
Man to (win), to rise victors, trooping colours over territory captured, only
(How did) human Body become territory (how does)

ffffffffffffffffffffffffBattlefield fffffffffffffffff become ffffffffffffffffffff Woman ffffffffffffffff Body;

anyonecanunderstandthatthesystemofcomfortWOMEN(Mayor of Osaka)was
n-e-c-e-s-s-a-r-y to provide r-e-s-p-i-t-eforagroupof
high-strung,roughandtumble
 (a pride of cocks) “men” bravingtheir “lives” (2013)underastormofbullets

On Dec 13, 1937 in Nanking, an exhibition of (China) atrocities; in
Preparation, those girls (girlchild in the dark) pinioned(200,000), you
Assailed, you tore out of their safe havens, homes, you stole their
Lives, to create you say A System Of ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff trofmoc
ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff   trofmoc
fffffffffffff trofmoc fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff (Your w-a-r IS
with Woman) anyonecanunderstand. It suffocates to utter trofmoc murmur, it chokes
trofmoc ; spit

C fffffffffffff O fffffffffffff M fffffffffffff F fffffffffffff O fffffffffffff R fffffffffffff T fffffffffffff

fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff Woman, (who) comfort you?

fortheoperationof(MEAT MACHINE; THE)w-a-ritisacceptableandnecessaryto
ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff     Violate
Theveryhumanrightofthemostsociallyvulnerable: FEMALE
fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffAdultcheck01 fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffChild check01
It is the very significance of
Woman, you sought to extinguish her
Structure, you anatomized her assemblage, you
Dissevered her essentia. You sliver. stomp.fff stomp. fffffff stomp. fffffffff fffffff stomp.
Butchers, you wheting your tools parading your
Flags (on)Woman Body, the ceremonial
Battlefield is. girl.body.child.body.body anyone. fffffff
                                                                          girlchildwoman  *threat*
anyonecanunderstand.

In Nanking, an exhibition (20,000) of
Atrocity(child). Explicit(elders)Mutilation(anyone
Can)
Systematic(woman)Violation (anyone can)(understand)

ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff fffffffffffffffffffffRaped.to.Death.to
fffffffffffffffffffffff ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffraped.to.deathraped to

fffffffffffffffffffffff ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffDeath.
                                                                                                         Woman, (who) comfort you?

In Nanking ( fffffffffffffffffffffffff ).
 
 
 

© Victoria Bean, ‘Bang bang’

© Victoria Bean, ‘Bang bang’

 
 
Bearing Witness
Ellen Bass
 
For Jacki Phoenix

          If you have lived it, then
          it seems I must hear it.
                                        —Holly Near
 
 
When the long-fingered leaves of the sycamore
flutter in the wind, spiky
seed balls swinging, and a child throws his aqua
lunch bag over the school yard railing, the last thing,
the very last thing you want to think about
is what happens to children when they’re crushed
like grain in the worn mortar of the cruel.

We weep at tragedy, a baby sailing
through the windshield like a cabbage, a shoe.
The young remnants of war, arms sheared and eyeless,
they lie like eggs on the rescue center’s bare floor.

But we draw a line at the sadistic,
as if our yellow plastic tape would keep harm
confined. We don’t want to know
what generations of terror do to the young
who are fed like cloth
under the machine’s relentless needle.

In the paper, we’ll read about the ordinary neighbor
who chopped up boys; at the movies we pay
to shoot up that adrenaline rush—
and the spent aftermath, relief
like a long-awaited piss.

But face to face with the living prey,
we turn away, rev the motor, as though
we’ve seen a ghost—which, in a way, we have:
one who wanders the world,
tugging on sleeves, trying to find the road home.

And if we stop, all our fears
will come to pass. The knowledge of evil
will coat us like grease
from a long shift at the griddle. Our sweat
will smell like the sweat of the victims.

And this is why you do it—listen
at the outskirts of what our species
has accomplished, listen until the world is flat
again, and you are standing on its edge.
This is why you hold them in your arms, allowing
their snot to smear your skin, their sour
breath to mist your face. You listen
to slash the membrane that divides us, to plant
the hard shiny seed of yourself
in the common earth. You crank
open the rusty hinge of your heart
like an old beach umbrella. Because God
is not a flash of diamond light. God is
the kicked child, the child
who rocks alone in the basement,
the one fucked so many times
she does not know her name, her mind
burning like a star.
 
 
 
Published in Mules of Love (BOA Editions, 2002).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 
Dolls 
 
 
Pomace
Cristina Navazo-Eguía Newton
 
 
Nona is in the kitchen,
kneading the dumb dough, letting
the mummed oil drip,
siving the flour of hush,
the knives’ fangs as quiet in the sink
as when slicing the muscle of love,
the tegument of life pursed in a shell.
Nona is in the kitchen, the door ajar,
her heart zipped up in the lull of kneading
to the noise of me prised open with a tiny crack,
the snap of freshly harvested clams.

Behind Granddad’s shoulders,
the clouds wilt in the beautiful south,
where the bitter olives are pulped to oil,
following the lore of our elders: the branches
beaten by hand – no commercial machinery
to strip the trees – , then picked through
till clean, sent to the mill, ground to a paste,
then the malaxation process slowly bonds
one drop to another drop, before the paste is put
under pressure to extract the juice,
leaving the pomace oil behind.
Children learn all that at school.

It happens every month, sometimes
more than once. The resulting oil is called virgin
because no one seems to know.
A child sticks to her homework,
her chair. The water is got rid of in a centrifuge
where descriptive words are spun at high speed
like when we do the fairground rides.
Done quickly seems to preserve the flavour
in makingmakingmaking oliveoil oliveoil oliveoil.
 
 
 
Published in Cry Wolf (Templar Poetry, 2012).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 
The United Nations World Conference on Women 
 
 
Daughter
Cristina Navazo-Eguía Newton
 
 
One becomes a menial chess piece
locked at an impasse outside school
in waiting for the daughter –a quince bloom
merging the beauty of continents and histories –
released with the hubbub queue of home time.

I am pointed at, granted the honour,
and she runs into me, into my square of expectation
bringing her day away from us,
inches taller than we left her, tired of good manners
and time tables. Mine now is this thrill
of wren song, this high voltage danger

I need to carry safe and see through
past the playground, the traffic,
the time I live in.
 
 
 
Published in Cry Wolf (Templar Poetry, 2012).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 
Village 
 
 
Not Forgotten
Adele Ward
 
 
So he’s dead then, Brian,
my father’s stepbrother.
Funny, I can’t imagine him silenced.

Always the outspoken one,
the joker in the pack
of children, abused
as only a parent or lover knows how.

I can’t picture him older,
turning to the church,
finding it locked and asking the vicar:
Where does God keep his keys?

As a child he climbed –
agile as a monkey –
up the back wall, high
away from his father’s fists,

then reached out his arms to balance –
a miniature foul-mouthed Messiah – yelling:
You’re a bloody bastard!

He would have to come down sometime;
but it was worth it
to see his siblings’ faces far below,
upturned, admiring,
bathing in his glory.
 
 
 
Published in Never-Never Land (Ward Wood Publishing, 2011).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 
Football 
 
 
Ira Lightman
 
 
I’m learning from you
not to trust too soon,
to have the courage
to feel hurt.
When I’m interrupted
or neglected, me
I’ll ride along
with the other
story, forget
mine exists.
You resist
kidnap of attention,
turn to who you
become. Some
conversations they have
are bullshit, but
I wouldn’t
dare to let them know
I think so, as you show
you do, the
volume
up on your earpiece,
simply looking down.
 
 
 
Published in Mustard Tart As Lemon (Red Squirrel Press, 2011).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 
Children on the beach 
 
 
Have You Ever Tricked The Cat
Sally Clark
 
 
       into letting prey drop from its mouth
by pretending nonchalance
then making a grab
at something no more than fear and feathers?

And given the choice between the cat or you,
it throws itself at everything else
hoping that might give way,
and dives into holes too small to hide it.

And you want to say as you pick it up
‘I won’t hurt you,’
but when you speak you are all the predators
its mother and genes warned about,

and the stroke that reassures the tame
nearly stops its heart.
In the dark of your hand you believe it’s calmed
until you see that eye
looking back through your fingers.

That’s how it was.
My heart beating as if I ran
and his hand fluttering,
over my hair, my face, my neck, down
below my throat.

It was dark,
but I could not look at him.
 
 
 
Published in Solitaire anthology, 2007 (Templar Poetry).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 

© Virginia Erdie, ‘Giddy Gold’ from the collection ‘Not just an ICON …’

© Virginia Erdie, ‘Giddy Gold’ from the collection ‘Not just an ICON …’

 
 
Precatio contra violo
Ivy Alvarez
 
 
Lord, give me strength to lie down with the lion, suffer his talons to pierce me, rip me to shreds. Let me endure it to the end. Let Thy bright needles stitch me together again, even as I fracture and crack. Let him not attack my dog — I cannot bear it. She whines and whines in the corner of the room. My cries distress her. I cannot help it. The old sofa enfolds my body. His mangy mane tears my neck. The drip of rank meat, his muzzle, his back-barbed tongue: red. He led me to the back of the car, Lord. He pressed me upstairs, a tied scapegoat. He put a pill into my fizzing coke. He held my throat. I wanted to live, Lord, so I reached inside myself and switched off. And the drug took hold. I slipped on the linings of coats. I slipped on the road. My poor, holy dog. I fought with myself. I opened my chest, disembowelled and spilled. The dark was a carcass a lion dragged in. He slipped in my blood. I could cauterise the dark. The needles were white-hot, though I held on to me shrinking infinitely to a line in the road. My world is burning up, Lord, and I with it.
 
 
 
My body my experience my sexuality my choice 
 
 
Right Before the License Plate Game
Angela Readman
 
 
We drive all the way to the lake
in a green camper van. My sisters
play Happy Families up front.

I dream I walk into an ocean at night,
opening its arms like a giant white swan.

The smell of thermos coffee wakes me.
A tickle like feathers uncurling from my chest.
Mom’s friend standing near.
My tube top fallen down.

A look on his face that won’t let me catch it
before he yells, ‘Hey Sleeping Beauty’s top fell down.’
He laughs, ‘Look at her
covering her little poached eggs!’
 
 
 
Published in Strip (Salt Publishing, 2009).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
 
 
 
Welcome to Hollywood 
 
 
The Free Ride
Angela Readman
 
 
The sun falls into a movie backdrop.
I rub my blistered feet with polished fingers,
for the first time in a long time, wish for rain.

A sign says Welcome to Hollywood,
someone has added a question mark.
I walk long after the walk of fame sleeps.
Walk, Don’t Walk with heels in my hand.

When a cab pulls over, offers a free ride,
the driver’s gold tooth is sun before the storm.
His face takes on the neon that surrounds him;
strip club pink, convenience store blue.

Just a block and I am walking again,
after he says he doesn’t want nothing baby,
other than a golden shower.
 
 
 
Published in Strip (Salt Publishing, 2009).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

 
 
Child's drawing 
 
 
Postcard to a Future Husband
Angela Readman
 
 
I read somewhere
about skin, the comfort of facts.

In seven years no one will have touched me.
Every inch he has handled
will have shed itself,
drifted into my pillow, fallen silent
into secret snowflakes
that land on your tongue.
 
 
 
Published in Strip (Salt Publishing, 2009).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

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