Tag Archives: Cassandra Gordon-Harris artist

Protest Against Rape: Friday * 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


Jane Lewty
Don’t know if it’s just the myth made, but sure there was stars
(just inner gazework perhaps)    Later got up, wiped off   as if we’d simply stopped in a layby on the way to somewhere  Across the park, yes blood, there was null sky
null sky with its contiguous hate, your hate  In years, heard something like I know my
redeemer bless this disquiet it’ll make you, or like to think heard

thank you
oh thank you      you’re an easy undeadlocked code when/if asked about.

How To Prevent Rape

Pamela Newham
She is ninety four.
Lives with her grandchild in a shack in Mmakau
but no one is home when he breaks the chains
that keep shut her front door.

Three hours pass before he leaves.
In Setswana she tells a reporter from TV news,
“A person who can do this
does not deserve to live.
He has destroyed everything.”

The police in North West Province say
elderly women are to be issued
with whistles and pepper spray.

Her Dress Said Yes

Cassandra Jane Parkin
So, there was this party
          With, you know, like
                    And coke
          And it was all kinds of a mess
She was with her girlfriends
          I was with the guys
                    And then –
          Her dress
                    Said yes.

She was all, like, sleeping
          I thought I’d wake her with a kiss
                    (Because the whole night was
          just like that, and besides
She’d been looking at me earlier
          and I thought I couldn’t miss).
                    And, okay, I’ll confess –

At first it was hard to guess
          Because I was messed up
                    and she was messed up
                              and then –
                    Her dress
          Said yes.

Her dress,
          That flirty little dirty little
                    scarlet velvet number
                              And her red shiny fuck-me shoes.

Oh jeez, her shoes
          Her shoes had the power, man
                    The power
          To choose.

Well yeah, maybe, man, I don’t know –
          Maybe there was a moment when she said no
                    But it could also have been oh
                              (I mean, I’m not boasting, but oh would have been, like,
                                        contextually appropriate
                              you know what I’m saying?)
          But how could anyone hear
                    Over my ahs and my oohs
                              And over the sound of those shoes?
                                        Those fuck-me shoes,
                              and that dress?

That dress!
          It was one big old screaming yes.

And yeah, looking at it with a fresh eye –
          Well sure, man, I’m not gonna lie,
                    There were three of us and all –
                              And we went to town
                    We had ourselves a ball
          But we’re not – I mean, I’m not –

                    I mean, look, I’m a nice guy, you know?

I don’t need to – I’m not –
          she should be grateful – and –
                    look, it was just –
          It was her dress!
                    Her dress!
                              Her dress!
                    It screamed YES!

Oh come on, man! How was I supposed to guess
          That you’d take the word of some
                    passed-out chick all in a mess
                              Over the clear testimony
                    Of a pair of shiny fuck-me shoes
          And a flirty little, skirty little,
                    low down and dirty little
                              red velvet dress?

the shoes she was raped in

Sarah Hesketh
two odd cuts of meat
on the counter top:

do you want them? he says
his fingers pushing through the plastic bag
ten soft teeth

oh yes, she says
signing for them then forcing
the burn of memory to her heel

what colour were they? red of course
that’s what everyone will suppose anyway

© Sally Clark, ‘Size Zero or How To Disappear’

It Takes a Few Days
Amy MacLennan
She shops. Blue bands
to tie her hair back.
Nail clippers, sweatshirts,
socks. Two bars of Ivory.

The housework. She scrubs
with dutch cleanser,
no gloves. The bathtub almost
radiant. Even the drain.

A guy strips the board
from her window, replaces
it with glass so pure
everything can be seen.

She double checks her spelling
in the emails she answers.
Shared, not shard. Care, not came.
She’s always had trouble with beautiful.

© mai

Recurring Nightmares
Sarah James
No! Nein! Non! Nie! No!
All the (wrong) places, times, scenes
where limbs are forced at angles,
fear rammed down a face, a throat,
any bleeding hole, any bleeding excuse.

No! Nein! Non! Nie! No!
All the (wrong) places, times, scenes
where it is your lover, daughter,
sister, mother, Nan whose voice
is nothing, nichts, rien, nic, nada.

No! Nein! Non! Nie! No!
All the (wrong) places, times, scenes
where blame is a short skirt, the jaunt
to her walk, that smile in her eyes
placed back in her hands, tattered.

No! Nein! Non! Nie! No!
All the (wrong) places, times, scenes
where we have to watch this violence
repeat again and again, limbs pinned,
voices killed in our throats –


© Tom de Freston, ‘The Blue Lady and Him’

Going down there
Phillippa Yaa de Villiers
This is a letter scratched out by candlelight:
I leave it for all those who are also
confined, painfully pressed, split open.
Those who hold themselves tightly in their hands
so that they will not spill over
and drain away.
Fear eats hope like the night eats the day
leaving only crumbs of stars. Too far away
to be of any help.

I was raped at six, 11, at 13, at 17 and 19
I didn’t know I was violated because
where I came from
love was forced and
sometimes hurt.

The frail meat of humankind
can’t withstand extremes. We construct ourselves
around ourselves, making of our lives
a shelter.
When you build a house,
you place the window carefully;
when you grow out of a wound,
you see life through
a survivor’s eyes.
Rapes were my bread: I eat                              I understand.
Then later;            I understand,            I eat.
The marks on my house/body/shell are
the keloid memories of
African warriors: scars
deliberately inflicted, a sign of identity.
I read them like Braille.

When they found me I was filthy,
wild and mute. They asked me: what
happened? Compassion unlocked
the cage of memory, and words fell out of me
like the crumbs in Gretel’s dark forest,
pebbles of hope,
became light
showing me
how to get home.

I am healed now.
But I no longer
look the same.

© Cassandra Gordon-Harris, ‘Fragile Treasures’

I don’t know
Phillippa Yaa de Villiers
I don’t know
I’m not sure
I don’t know if
I was raped or not.
The uncle who held my hand and
wiped the ice-cream off
my black patent leather shoes
and then surprisingly stuck his tongue
between my teeth;
I’m not sure.
He bought me another ice-cream.

The time I got my new orange hot pants
with the yellow patent leather belt
and paraded in front him and he smiled and
told me I was beautiful and asked me when
I was turning twelve
and I laughed and said only after I’ve turned eleven.
Clamped in his caress, his eyes searching mine
asking Is that nice, baby, is that nice?
It was sore but he seemed to need me to say yes,
so I did, but it was sore, so I don’t know
if it was my fault or not
because I lied.
He always told me I was beautiful.

I’m not sure if I was raped or not
I wanted a massage, his hands are really strong
and he’s used to my body
he’s taken care of me before.
You can say one thing or 55 things:
I said thank you
because he was giving me so much.
I was really stuck with nowhere to live
he gave me more than I was asking for
I did really only want a place to sleep
and a massage
but I don’t know if I was raped because
that short word
is so much a piece of darkness
stuffed into a screaming mouth

I don’t know
I‘m not sure
He was my uncle
He gave me a massage
He was helping me out

© Malgorzata Lazarek

Kaddy Benyon
We had to run for the bus after confession,
where waiting for Mother’s silence
I’d made imaginary idols of saints, illuminated

by twenty votives I paid for with flickers
of prayer. We’d no time for my litany
of lies and spite and rage so the priest winked

and told me Next time. I reached for Mother’s
hand, already crammed with beads
clacking together: a metronome for OCD.

Her illness worshipped muttering; stations
of the cross mostly, but then anything
with a repeating pattern, lost in a hail of Marys.

She let me sit by the window, while, head
bowed she vowed to settle breaths above
the throb and grind of engine. Her hands knitted

together then apart, twisting and fidgeting inside
deliberate sleeves. She looked as odd
as the panting man in the soiled mac, uncurtaining

bushes when we stopped at lights. He grinned
up at me, presenting his puffy, purpley
grub. I covered up my eyes and whispered:

How soon is next time Mummy?                Mum?
Published in Milk Fever (Salt Publishing, 2012).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Lorraine Adams

Joanne Limburg
Out of eleven o’clock murk,
a voice:

Got the time, love?

Oh no.
I haven’t got the time.
Not for you.
I’ve been warned about you,

Mr Got the time?
Mr Got a light?
Mr Give us a smile
Mr Morning, beautiful sweetheart darlin’

Mr Measuring Eyes
Mr Wolf Whistle
Mr Honk Your Horn
Mr White Van Full of Hooting Apes

Mr Brainless Yob
Mr Sad Pissed-Up Fart
Mr Dirty Old Should Know Better
Mr Filthy Slimy Perv


Mr Don’t Cross the Park Alone
Mr Keep The Curtains Closed
Mr Never Sit Like That
Mr Your Knickers Are Showing Through

Mr Be Sensible, Mr Be Quiet
Mr Something To Cry About
Mr Smack You And Send You To Bed
Mr Chopper To Chop Off Your Head

Mr Hangman
Mr Judge
Mr Jailer
Mr Fear.
Published in Femenismo (Bloodaxe Books, 2000).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© René Bohnen

The Bicycle
Katrina Naomi
I was OK     nothing had happened
nothing bad had happened
I couldn’t get up from the bench
couldn’t do up my dungarees
It was cold     it was night
The man had gone     and that was good
I was OK     I could sit up
peel myself from the bench’s slats
which had pressed deep inside
It could have been worse
I was shaking     it was night
The bicycle was too heavy
My dungarees kept slipping
buttons were missing
I had to get home
It was so hard to walk
My head hurt     kept punching inside
my teeth couldn’t stop talking
It could have been worse
My jaw hurt and my breasts were raw
I couldn’t pick up the bicycle     its spinning wheel
couldn’t walk with the bicycle
I had to get home     to wash
sleep     throw these clothes away
I was shaking     I was cold
My dungarees wouldn’t do up
I would be alright     it was just
this bicycle     I needed
Published in Magma.
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

Hippocratic Oath

Christine Swint
Normal is a setting on a dryer, he said,
and should-hood is shit-hood, remember that.
Listen, you’re living in your head,

all filled up with that tripe you’ve read
about men in frock coats and silk cravats.
Normal is a setting on a dryer, he said.

Don’t take no for an answer in bed—
learn how to give and take a love pat.
You know, you’re living in your head.

Wear a dress that can raise the dead
the next time you come for our chat.
Normal is a setting on a dryer, he said,

so do what you want. Morality’s dead.
Look in the mirror. You’re getting fat.
If you’re not living in your head,

baby, my name isn’t Dr. W. Dubled.
Come sit next to Papa—this is where it’s at.
Normal is a setting on a dryer, he said.
Listen, you’re living in your head.

© Virginia Erdie, ‘Dora Exploited’ from ‘Not just an ICON …’

You Didn’t Rape Me
Michelle Gallen
properly. Afterwards I
stalked the streets wearing
short skirts, walked home down
alleys in lacey, low-cut tops,
and talked to strangers, drunk, alone.
Because you didn’t rape me,
not properly.

There was no police, no doctor,
no court case. No sterile swabs,
scraped samples or photographed bruises.
No counsellor. No compensation.
Because you didn’t rape me,
not properly.

There was no gun, no knife,
no broken bottle. No smashed bones,
torn skin or ripped, muddied clothes.
No bloodied face. No blackened eyes.
Because you didn’t rape me,
not properly.

There was only your slim fingers
on my wet mouth, your strong
brown arm on my trapped arms.
Your whispered yes Yes YES
to my stifled no No NO.
My muffled, swollen lips.

No. I agree.
You didn’t rape me.
Not properly.
Published in Mslexia.
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Ingrid Andersen

Object lesson
Ingrid Andersen

Beside the laptop with the incomplete assignment,
a framed picture of her, smiling amongst friends
– all in black gowns – at the Residence Ball.
From this angle, she is not visible
behind the glass.

The others are below in the quad
on their way to class;
her hand is too heavy to wave.
They wouldn’t see her in here anyway.

In her dustbin, still
the red plastic cup from punch
he brought to her room
after the Ball.

Before his crushing weight, the struggle, the choking, the tearing pain.

Before the silence.

They all know.

They also know she knows what happened
to the last girl who reported him:
slut-shamed, shunned, she
transferred out of College.

Football heroes don’t rape.

Her white sundress a flag, she mingles.

© Ingrid Andersen

Scarlet under the Moon
Maureen Jivani
As if such an act
constituted love:

(the hateful self
being the only thing
that stood
between dignity
and damage
in the deepening woods)

to present, an apology
of cherry-red gloves.

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
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

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.
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

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?
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
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.
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.

Protest Against Rape: Monday * 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.


© Lien Botha, from Portrette (1995)

© Lien Botha, from Portrette (1995)

Rape Poem
Marge Piercy
There is no difference between being raped
and being pushed down a flight of cement steps
except that the wounds also bleed inside.

There is no difference between being raped
and being run over by a truck
except that afterward men ask if you enjoyed it.

There is no difference between being raped
and being bit on the ankle by a rattlesnake
except that people ask if your skirt was short
and why you were out alone anyhow.

There is no difference between being raped
and going head first through a windshield
except that afterward you are afraid
not of cars
but half the human race.

The rapist is your boyfriend’s brother.
He sits beside you in the movies eating popcorn.
Rape fattens on the fantasies of the normal male
like a maggot in garbage.

Fear of rape is a cold wind blowing
all of the time on a woman’s hunched back.
Never to stroll alone on a sand road through pine woods,
never to climb a trail across a bald
without that aluminum in the mouth
when I see a man climbing toward me.

Never to open the door to a knock
without that razor just grazing the throat.
The fear of the dark side of hedges
the back seat of the car, the empty house
rattling keys like a snake’s warning.
The fear of the smiling man
in whose pocket is a knife.
The fear of the serious man
in whose fist is locked hatred.

All it takes to cast a rapist to be able to see your body
as jackhammer, as blowtorch, as adding-machine-gun.
All it takes is hating that body
your own, your self, your muscle that softens to flab.

All it takes is to push what you hate,
what you fear onto the soft alien flesh.
To bucket out invincible as a tank
armored with treads without senses
to possess and punish in one act,
to rip up pleasure, to murder those who dare
live in the leafy flesh open to love.
Published in Circles in the Water (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Victoria Bean, ‘Bang bang’, hand sewn Helvetica, unique edition

© Victoria Bean, ‘Bang bang’, hand sewn Helvetica, unique edition

Bang bang
Victoria Bean
I’m on my way
to Hades, ladies

you coming?
Ladies lie

on concrete
still and listen

while they cry –
it’s war baby.

So who’s the one
they can’t forgive?

The one who says
you’ll live, or

the one who says
they’re sorry.

© Cassandra Gordon-Harris, ‘On The Edge of Time’

© Cassandra Gordon-Harris, ‘On The Edge of Time’
Oil painting

I Give You Back
Joy Harjo
I release you, my beautiful and terrible
fear. I release you. You were my beloved
and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you
as myself. I release you with all the
pain I would know at the death of
my children.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the soldiers
who burned down my house, beheaded my children,
raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.
I give you back to those who stole the
food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold
these scenes in front of me and I was born
with eyes that can never close.

I release you
I release you
I release you
I release you

I am not afraid to be angry.
I am not afraid to rejoice.
I am not afraid to be black.
I am not afraid to be white.
I am not afraid to be hungry.
I am not afraid to be full.
I am not afraid to be hated.
I am not afraid to be loved.

to be loved, to be loved, fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.
You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.
You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.

I take myself back, fear.
You are not my shadow any longer.
I won’t hold you in my hands.
You can’t live in my eyes, my ears, my voice
my belly, or in my heart my heart
my heart my heart

But come here, fear
I am alive and you are so afraid
                                                 of dying.
Published in How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems: 1975 – 2001
(W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2002).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Victoria Bean, ‘Bang bang’, hand sewn Helvetica

© Victoria Bean, ‘Bang bang’, hand sewn Helvetica

Growing Grove of Laurel Trees
Valeria Melchioretto
Below the belt where the Gordian Knot is still uncut
ancient Aphrodite long since confused love and lust
while seedy Zeus is free to rule with phallic thunder.

No disguise is too sly as he hunts with crude desire:
He turns into a swan, a white bull or a pissy shower
exploits and cons and conquers through selfish power.

Did no one dare protest about these sickening deeds?
Phlegyas faced the Gods and was punished in return
seen by Dante in the circle of hell where the sullen dwell.

Poor Castalia got away by becoming a speaking spring
and those who drink from her can hear a lyric lament
others were spared as Gaia turned them into laurel trees.

Because white noise has it that in that oracular tradition
even a tree is more sacred than a woman’s dignity.
Endless list of victims: Coronis, Europa, Leda, Melia.

Unwilling nymphs are labelled ‘lying nymphomaniacs’
taken to shameful woods and dragged through mire
then banned to Lesbos, lonely rocks or harder places.

If offspring hatched from eggs foul play was obvious
but subtler hints were denied even by night’s furies.
Zeus begot Apollo, rape begot rape; the curse stayed myth.

© Alel

© Alel

From Philomela
Gill McEvoy
I touch the cigarette
to my arm.
Here. And here.

I cannot speak of it.

I could touch this fuse
to my chair,
watch it smoulder,
flame to roaring fury.

I told no-one.

The burned flesh is not
the heat of his hand
across my mouth.

The sour smell of match
is not the stink of his breath.

I didn’t go to the police.

I wasn’t asking for it.

I was not asking for it.
I have cancelled
the way my body could not fight
the rugby scrum of him.

The little heartbeat I will say
is my own heartbeat.

When its time comes
I’ll demand strong drugs.

It will be handed on
to someone else.

And none of this will have happened.
Back Street
They lead me to a table
where later they will sit and eat.

The women weave about with bowls and cloths,
fold my trembling legs to raise my knees.

One draws on rubber gloves.
She takes a pump, its ball bright orange
in that room of hush and shadow.

They close around me,
hissing through my parted knees
in their strange tongue,
each one familiar with this art.

Pain. The room goes dark.

Out of the darkness
someone whispers, “Come!”

They make me totter to the street.
I find my way alone,
clutching at walls.

© Malgorzata Lazarek

© Malgorzata Lazarek

Sophie Mayer
My mouth used to hold
your water. A vase I was (say:
vessel) all floral-spoked
& speaking: pure pure pure
as law. This

knuckle clavicle

chewed & throated to you. Choker,
much. Narrow as they say &

o my mouth

knuckle clavicle

unholds your water,
sweet source. Loosener,
marsh-runner, our lady of
statuary hung among
trees. Chatelaine of strange
fruit & the bloodied tunic.
Found object, little wing,
thin veneer of angel
on the verge. Kill me
now, before I turn, before
I fly. I

knuckle clavicle

mouth an O
cannot no
let him leave me
from you. No
nock me, fingers
to my fletch, forever
your girl, prayerful
this fall & broken no


that I am no woman no
dawn gives thanks.
Thirteen times
& strike.
Note: Phylactery – or tefillin – are leather arm bindings worn by observant Jewish men for morning prayers, which include an expression of gratitude to God that he had not made them female.

© Victoria Bean, ‘Bang bang’, hand sewn lower case Helvetica

© Victoria Bean, ‘Bang bang’, hand sewn lower case Helvetica

Shazea Quraishi
Once more this
pressing of bodies, his desire
beating against me as the eagle’s wings
against the air that lifts him up, up.

My body has learned to soften
and bend, but my heart,
like a child who will not listen, clings
to a soft, grubby thing.

After I have washed the sweat,
the trails of saliva from my skin,
I stand at the open window,
let the breeze dry my face.
Published in The Courtesans Reply (flipped eye publishing, 2012).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Diane Victor, ‘Little straight dress’

© Diane Victor, ‘Little straight dress’

Lesson from the Gospel
Helen Moffett
Last night he grabbed my breast,
jerked my hair, called me a whore;
this morning he kneels in church,
eyes shut, hands devout in prayer.
This diptych is no stranger to God’s house:
first, the outrages raining on egg-shell flesh
and reeling ears; next, the pose of public piety.

These events transpired half a life ago.
No helplines then, no thought of blaming
anyone but myself.

But God helps those who help themselves;
like countless others, I survived.
While church, state and law all looked aside,
I harvested a rustling crop of rage:
as a child who tilts a bubbling pot knows pain –
I’d know the stink of whitened sepulchre again.
Published in Incwadi.
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Virginia Erdie, ‘Tangerine Dream’ from the collection ‘Not just an ICON …’

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

Helen Ivory
My father made me a dress
from patches of sky
on my mother’s old sewing machine.
He stitched them together
with lengths of her hair
and carved all the buttons
from her neat white teeth
but I would not give him my heart.

My father made me a dress
from the light of the moon
pinned into place
with her fine finger bones.
He made me a dress as bright as the sun
and sewed her gold wedding ring
into the hem
but I would not give him my hand.

My father offered me
the pelt of his dog —
how quickly his knife
freed that beast from its skin.
I climbed inside while it was still warm,
zipped it up tight
then walked into the fire
so he could not give me his love.
Published in Waiting for Bluebeard (Bloodaxe Books, 2013).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Cassandra Gordon-Harris, ‘First Breath’

© Cassandra Gordon-Harris, ‘First Breath’
Oil painting

Karen Jane Cannon
You cloud lenses, suck
colour from the earth to enhance your glow.

Your sister moon brings peace, monthly flows
but you burn with a desire to steal

the glow of young girls, inflict
wounds too deep to salve.

You eat away what the moon has given.

Persephone on pomegranate seeds,
keep her safe in her underworld winter. Let other girls

throw away their clothes, be betrayed
by cancerous rays. Hide

in the shadow of a sundial, worship
a plummeting vial of mercury.

© Patricia Wallace Jones, ‘Loss’

© Patricia Wallace Jones, ‘Loss’

From ‘Demeter’
Emer Gillespie

For nine days and nine longer nights,
I searched everywhere.
In shopping malls I put up posters of my daughter,
‘Missing’. In Westfield, gangs of girls linked arms
and passed them by without looking.
The hive hummed on without her.
In ancient times the Minotaur was locked up
deep within the bowels of the Earth.
A winding maze, a Labyrinth,
designed by Daedalus, father of ambitious Icarus,
kept him in his place. The price?
Seven boys and seven girls brought to
satisfy his appetite for human flesh.
All know that Theseus defeated him.
The Minotaur is dead, but the Beast lives on.
This annual harvest of our girls –
year in, year out, it comes about;
no one knows who next or when.
At least in ancient times the victims
found some glory. Their plight, their sacrifice,
bought freedom for the rest.
Now we lose our perfect daughters one by one.
Each sordid story soils our whole society.
I knew someone had seen just her sex –
not my Persephone.
Published in The Instinct Against Death (Pindrop Press, 2012).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

A Prayer for my Children
Geoffrey Philp
When you find yourself in a faraway land
surrounded by men, animals that mutter strange
sounds, do not be afraid: neither you, your parents,

nor your ancestors have ever been alone.
So trust the earth to bear you up, follow
the wind as it leads you through valleys

clustered with trees heavy with fruit –
some that seem familiar enough to eat,
but you still aren’t sure they are the same

as the ones you left on the other side
of the river that you’ve now forgotten.
Eat. Feast on the bounty. Feed the fire

that burns away the knot in your stomach,
sets ablaze the horizon, all that your eyes
can see – that has been promised

to you since your cry pierced the morning air:
your parents bathed you with kisses,
baptized you with caresses,

swaddled you in care before you uttered
your first words to the moon, sun, stars,
wobbled your first steps into unknowing –

all the while rising into your inheritance.
And if you awaken under the branches of a cotton
tree, cradled in its roots, draw a circle around

yourself and all those whom you love, cross
yourself three times before you step over
the threshold. Welcome the ancestors,

all the kindly spirits who have followed you,
your parents across many seas, oceans,
and deserts; entertain them with strong drink

and soft food: rice, yams, bananas, the ever
present rum to bless the hands that have lifted
you up, and sanctified the place you now call home.
Published in Dub Wise (Peepal Tree Press Ltd, 2010).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.