Tag Archives: Malgorzata Lazarek artist

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: Tuesday * 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.


Emmy Verschoor, 'Feeling small in a chaotic world'

Emmy Verschoor, ‘Feeling small in a chaotic world’
Acrylic on canvas 90cm x 90cm


Clare Best
I am the page ripped from the book
missing and unknown

I am a key without a lock
a peach inside a stone

I am the child running the track
and the sharp right turn

I am quick to learn how not to speak
I am flame that will not burn
Published in Excisions (Waterloo Press, 2011).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Theresa DiMenno

© Theresa DiMenno

Zoë Brigley
In the forest, golden light falls on pocked wood, speckled branches and damp moss.
How bodies are like that too: stretched by pain, inked and marred by indelible scars.
               *          *          *
That tree in the town where she used to live,
not far from a ruined castle, and the moat
mouthing abandoned shopping trolleys.
How she stood under the sycamore,
seedy bungalows grown up around it.
How she lived in the century-old tree
and knew the wind blow through her.
The shivering of three-fingered leaves
like a hundred jangling pains.
The growing began with the first rape:
that hurt peculiar to violation by a lover;
the particular knowledge employed
for pain or pleasure. She grasped herself
hardening: a woman in thin, smooth bark.
Wound in sopped sheets, she closed again
so nothing would enter, not ever.
               *          *          *
He is behind her now. He bites,
snatches away. He embraces her face
and fists. The incline of her dress fluttering,
blown back; branches pressed by his hands.
She thinks of the others: Syrinx – the reed-woman,
transformed into a mournful sound;
Pitys turned to pine, rocked by the North Wind;
and Daphne who was at least a sweet laurel.
We are all who have pleased too well.
“Don’t hurt me.” The bark of a prayer.
He almost has her. Now he’s sure that she’s caught.
The gale blows through her face, her tumbling hair.
Shadows of will trip in the breeze. Nothing to be held but a hand of leaves.
               *          *          *
How trees are like that: stretched by pain, inked and marred by indelible scars.
On a lover’s bed or deserted street, she remains a woman in smooth, thin bark.
Wasps' nest 
A Wasps’ Nest
Pascale Petit
“Only weak people see a therapist” he repeats.
And to stop myself from walking out

I send the warrior inside me
to search for a wasps’ nest.

I’m answering back now, asking him if
there was anything he would have changed.

He’s told me his mother was a bitch
and what the priests did in the boarding-school,

and I know that he punished my mother.
But he’s run out of breath,

he’s spitting in his jar.
A few wasps zoom into the air.

Then I see it – big as a head
and what I have to do is

hit the wasps’ nest hard.
And keep on hitting it with my fist.

Inside there’s a fat queen laying more stingers.
She’s at the centre of the combs.

Out fly her workers, diving into my hair,
stabbing my face.

I hit harder. My fist swells.
Somewhere in the nest there’s the room

where the queen will eat her daughters
when they challenge her,

there’s the buzzing sound
Father hears when he can’t breathe.

The sound I hear when I want to leave
and never come back. Not as a weakling.

I’m smashing the cell where Father lives.
The punching only stops when I pass out.
Published in The Zoo Father (Seren, 2001).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Malgorzata Lazarek

© Malgorzata Lazarek

The D.A. Has Polished Nails
Kirsten Dierking
Tap, tap, tap,
her fingers on

that handsome desk,
diplomas dusted,

Too bad, she says,
you didn’t manage

a look at his face.
You’re not giving me

much to work with
you know.

Fingers tapping.
What color was he?

The crackling orange
of fire licking the edge

of the bedclothes.
The scarlet of rages,

fevers and scratches.
The silver of knives.

The brassy bad luck
of lightning strikes,

the grizzled rumble
of lingering thunder

long after it’s over.
The color of bruises

or cross-stitched scars
or a hemorrhaged eye.

Tap. Tap. Tap.
You’re not giving me

much to work with
you know.

No one’s been scraping
under her nails for

a skin sample.
Published in One Red Eye (Holy Cow! Press, 2001).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.
The Fish
Amali Rodrigo
Community Panchayal directs rape accused to marry victim

– Press Trust of India, November 2004
She can remove her bra and panties
beneath the tent of a salwar kameez without
an inch of skin made visible.

She lowers her gaze in the presence of strangers
reads their feet like palms; cracked, pampered,
shod or barefoot.

She wants a husband whose feet
are not split at the heel like her father’s
or caked in mud like her brother’s.

1 Month Later:

Her husband-to-be has feet smooth
as de-scaled fish. The astrologer says
her first born will be ‘famous’
I think they mishear ‘miracle’.

Her family hears about a girl
who hanged herself by a dupatta and hides
all of hers. She drinks gallons of milk,
the way the Shiva Lingum is cleansed
at temples. Her bridal sari is red.

The priest blesses them with a coconut, scatters
rice for fertility – he wasn’t to know I am hiding
in the darkness inside her. She thinks his feet
are like newspaper parcels of fish,
faces sticking out, nails like flat fish eyes.

He takes her home with him that night.
His fish-feet mount hers.
I’m only a few cells along, but I know
something isn’t right

from the way she stares at his feet.
3 Months:

She leaves all his shoes in the sun
to rid them of their fish and cabbage smell.
She eats a bag of figs, then pistachios,
then walnuts and retches with such force

that I’m afraid
of being wrenched free of her.

Her mother comes to take her back home.
It doesn’t last long because all day her father
mutters like a prayer –
what will the neighbours think.

Before she leaves she sneaks her old dupattas
from the linen cupboard in with her clothes.
No one sees what she takes away with her.

I swim in pumice when she scrubs her feet.
In this house, the smell of fish doesn’t go away.

Big Fish Little Fish she murmurs to herself as she scrubs.
5 Months:

She turns sixteen today.
I don’t hear voices. Maybe he is mute.
I have not seen his face, but I would

know his feet anywhere.
7 Months:

I give myself vertigo looking at feet
upside down. I sleep curled
the way she does. We are like seahorses.

I give myself vertigo again doing hand-stands
to see the sky

when she cries outside in mangosteen-coloured nights,
we hang like bats from the sky.

His little toes are always turned sideways
for the weight of him.
The big toe has wiry whiskers on the knuckle,
like cat-fish.

The sound of fish breathing. Wet sound of fish kissing.
3 Days before My Birth:

My mother can’t sleep because I space-walk
inside her. She says:
The stench is unbearable and gets out of bed
(he is asleep).

She returns with the axe set apart
for cracking coconuts.

I must bury the dead fish she says,
looking at his feet.
I must bury the dead fish.

I am almost a miracle.

Salwar kameez – a traditional dress in India with a flowing tunic and loose pyjama like trousers.

Dupatta – a long multipurpose scarf that accompanies traditional dress and is a symbol of modesty.

Shiva Lingum – is a phallic representation of the major Hindu deity Shiva.
Published in Poetry London.
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Theresa DiMenno

© Theresa DiMenno

Malika Ndlovu
Daughter Anene, sunflower of Bredasdorp
At least 9 times in one morning I have heard your name
Shuddered at the details, the desecration of your body
Your temple violated by your brothers, our deranged sons
1 by 1 they witnessed, goaded, pinned and groaned
Used their hardened hands for inhumane purpose
Lost themselves as minute by minute your family
Never knew that as night fell, they were losing you
Even the sky was numb, there was no rain
Except your cries and fading tears
Running out
Of hope
Of life
Of time

Now reporters, police, community leaders and government
Repeat their statements of shock and devastation
Phrases that puzzle and amplify the situation
Not of a small town but an entire nation
Editing their piece of the story to platform their thoughts
Their declarations of intolerance and vigilance
Thousands more stunned into shaking head silence
A sigh, like a last breath, stealing our words
Hardening our backs as we feel the ricochet
Of a history of attacks dating back further
Than we care to remember, yet similar in their impact
On a collective psyche so shattered, that we think
This story thankfully is not our own, that your suffering
The bones beneath its horrific truth are best left alone

But you must know, beloved brutalised one
That there are many more, who will not forget your name
This traumatic vibration across our hearts, in our bodies
That we will listen for what lessons we can learn and teach
Deeply consider the useful questions to be asked
We will weave poems, songs, dance this February 14th
With onebillionrising all over this troubled globe
Saluting your courage and resilience to the end
In our silence, our prayers and meditations
In our speaking into this darkness
Because we believe we must all mourn
Just as hard as we must work to manifest
A healing, a less bloodletting dawn
To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair
Finuala Dowling
I just wanted to say on behalf of us all
that on the night in question
there was a light on in the hall
for a nervous little sleeper
and when the bleeding baby was admitted to your care
faraway a Karoo shepherd crooned a ramkietjie lullaby in the veld
and while you staunched
there was space on a mother-warmed sheet
for a night walker
and when you administered an infant-sized opiate
there were luxuriant dark nipples
for fist-clenching babes
and when you called for more blood
a bleary-eyed uncle got up to make a feed
and while you stitched
there was another chapter of a favourite story
and while you cleaned
a grandpa’s thin legs walked up and down for a colicky crier
and when finally you stood exhausted at the end of her cot
and asked, “Where is God?”,
a father sat watch.
And for the rest of us, we all slept in trust
that you would do what you did,
that you could do what you did.
We slept in trust that you lived.
Published in I Flying (Carapace, 2002).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Peter Hughes

© Peter Hughes

For Emma, Who Waits,
Joyce Ellen Davis
who considers murder,
her own blood dampening the straw.

In a fury as fierce and deep and hollow
as her girlhood gone to pieces

she clings to the unspeakable
things his fingers said as they ripped

the gingham: the stopped mouth, the stifled
tongue, the forced knees, the lost button.

The lost button.
She considers how the pitchfork might rise

from that Collins boy’s ribs, thinks
how her sewing scissors would slip easily

into the startled skin
of his bearded throat.

There is no pity from the angels sleeping
in their tender innocence.

No waking angel commands HALT! From the rafters.
No flaming sword drops fire from the loft.

Only the barn owl’s yellow gaze stares
back at her as the heavy wings of shame fall

across her naked breasts. How quietly she lies
as her clenched fist clings to the found button.

© Cassandra Gordon-Harris, ‘Low hills’

© Cassandra Gordon-Harris, ‘Low hills’
Oil painting

The Farmer’s Daughter
Michelle McGrane
She knows the mustiness of hay, and the clank of the pail in the barn at first light;
the corralled horses’ warmth and the pale eastern sun shining through the birch copse;
the path to sweet meadow grasses beyond the sea of nettles and brambles;
the sunken fenceposts, the weathered clapboard and the gaps in the floorboards.

She knows the smells of perch sizzling on the wood-stove, molasses loaves
wrapped in rum-soaked cloths, and plates piled with sawmill gravy and biscuits;
the lamplit porch and rusted chairs, the earthiness of mended boots and turnips,
the clicks and whirrs and rustles of insects in the wisteria.

She knows the rattling pickup’s headlights, the riff of sweat and moonshine
on the shawl she finds in the hickory’s shadow the day after her sister vanishes.
Published in Canopic Jar.
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Naomi Woddis

© Naomi Woddis

Grace Wells
In silence I’ll descend the mountain road.
They’ll not hear the gate or the lift of the latch
as I enter the black cottage where the only light
is her own dimmed glow. But I know my way, know
he is there to the left watching the film she has begged
him not to show. Any moment, the scene
where the football jock holds the head
of that woman beneath the pool
because she won’t suck his cock under water.

And I can feel the water tear the lining of her nose,
taste it in her mouth, its throb fill her lungs,
so the gasp that echoes down the years as she finally
bursts the surface, might be my own. I can still see
her crawl away from the edge, but I’ll leave that actress
limp away, for it is not her I have come to rescue,
not her I have come to rescue but my own self, hunted
to the bedroom shadows. The children curled in cots

and no sanctuary except that last crouched corner
of the house in the hole she burrows for herself
by the floor, quaking, beyond tears, her mouth,
her lungs, her penis-choked throat denied air.
What can I say to her? A ghost-self I have no tongue.
I hover, extend my arms, the arms, images
of the grown, safe children. Scoured of faith
she will not believe, I offer her blind eyes the world,
but nothing will let her rise from this moment,
only that I stretch out my hand, lay it
on her head, on the short stubble of her hair.
Published in When God Has Been Called Away To Greater Things (Dedalus Press, 2010).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Theresa DiMenno

© Theresa DiMenno

Grace Wells
In winter I started, in those sparse days of low light.
I went to the back of the back field, hidden, hiding, and I began.

Ivy filleted the brambles. Elder grew awry, hawthorn
hobbled, root bound, fumbling over the tumbled wall.

Bracken encroached on the hill, spalted and matted, spare
and sparse and brown. It was January,

I was writing of the dark things he’d done; mornings
began with the tongue sealed to the roof of my mouth.

I prized free an old rose, overgrown, snarled up, thorned.
I trod the green of unseen bluebells back into the ground;

debris by the armload and sheep at my back, eating the dark
leaves where they fell and I didn’t think of cock and cunt

and the strings he pulled to move my puppet hands.
It was thorn and thicket, briar on briar till the loppers broke

snapped blade blunt in the bound knot of stem, ivy trussing trees
that wept and called out and no one heard

when I cried in the mornings, in the small room
we called the studio, sun pouring through the windows,

my white tissues heaping like snow. I wasn’t just weeping.
I spat. Rocking on my heels, fists at my eyes and on them

the scars of blackberry vines sewn through the old hedgerow,
thrusted deep, binding tighter, over, under, over

an impossible maze, impenetrable forest: undefeatable creature.
I cut and pulled, reeling wires of briar behind me, piling,

walling myself in, then sifting it all again, forking back and forth
over the field, building a bonfire higher than a man.

I was deranged. Time against me. The days short and new months
Falling fast, so I was driven, pursued. The red fox

of ambition never far off. I didn’t know it would take a year,
a whole year. The cured hedgerows leafed and emptied,

the black pool of fire’s scar grown over before I’d write
the last word, close those covers,
walk once more into the shimmering world.
First published in When God Has Been Called Away To Greater Things (Dedalus Press, 2010).
Reproduced with the author’s permission.

© Naomi Woddis

© Naomi Woddis

promised info
Nia Davies
1. people stick to death, she said
the lips are always mobile, they are agents
you need to pay attention

2. networks are great for making good things happen, the earth &
networks are great for spreading info
and for finding people who agree with you

3. a fortune, of lyric, good health
he had five character witnesses
slowly after hours of

4. it’s really so peaceful here on the internet,
except in moments when

5. Salubrious Place is a street in Swansea that is particularly dull
strangerhood you can find you anywhere
all hours, minnows
absinthe blue

6. each of these witnesses was a friend’s mother, or his mother’s friends
the real thing

7. I have learnt not to ask why too many times
it is simple
and difficult to reverse disgust

8. it was very easy to cut them out
notions can be stripped away

9. some of my emails carry no meaning and are irrelevant here
the incident is symbolised for me by a gate
networks great for buying anything you like

10. people stick to ‘truth’
the minnow lyric, statement &
five pairs of lips speaking
what they said is

11. you need to tell the truth, she said
who knows why I chose a gate
at the end of a front garden

© Lauren Jivani

© Lauren Jivani

I cry when he tries to put his hands on me or kiss me
Daniel Sluman
you said       his face coming & going in storms
as you told me how his nails slipped into you

like wine    you singed your eyes shut

dreamt of a perfectly-suited husband
but the image was interrupted by his grunts

& all the flowers turned    into themselves

in disgust      the hole-punch moon   mute
as you stared beyond his shoulder

& all that feeling dissolved away

your mother’s voice a penny shaking
in your head    both our heads

when I try to kiss the mascara from your eyes

& you shake so hard   saying it’s not you
please understand it’s not you

© Patricia Wallace Jones, 'The Women in the Window'

© Patricia Wallace Jones, ‘The Women in the Window’

James Wood
eald is thys eorthsaele/ond eal ic eom oflongad
I remember the suits
He used to wear
To the office: now he’s gone.
In the garden, he’d root
Up all the deadwood, weeds,

Cut and trim the grass
To a fine edge. They give me tea
To keep me awake in this home,
And pills that help me forget
My marriage, that big mistake.

My dress white, his black tie:
I still nod off sometimes,
Remembering his arms pinning
Me down to the ground,
His heart on my heart

And my mind elsewhere. There
Were drinks, then he’d beat me,
Then after, the blank promise
That he’d never dare
Do it again. Now I see

How wrong he was. And when
They told me he was dead
I felt his fingers spelling out
My name in hell. I knew then
Nothing could be said

To rid me of him. Outside
The rain falls and they’re getting drunk
On the green where we’d put up
The Maypole. The tears
I’ve cried are all the love

I ever knew. Now I’m rain
On this nursing home window,
Slipping away into nothingness:
I came from the sky to the ground
In search of a refuge I never found.

© Lorraine Adams

© Lorraine Adams

The Tear
Janet Rogerson
The tear was one inch
below her right eye.
Left undisturbed it would glint
and wobble when she talked or laughed.
It would stay there indefinitely,
she was used to it.
People who didn’t know her would offer
a tissue. Bold, good-looking men
would sometimes brush a rough hand
softly across her cheek. Her eye
would fill up like an actress
and a fresh tear would fall
so quickly down
and stop abruptly
in the exact same place,
this always affected them.
Scientists were fascinated, doctors
could not explain it,
though there had been tests.
She was invited to conferences
and even asked to appear on television.
She had learned to accept her unusual
affliction, and the attention
it caused; people called
her love and tilted their heads.
There had been a time
when she had felt so ashamed
she would constantly wipe the tear away
until her eye was scarlet and swollen.
One thing she had never told anyone:
if she wiped the tear away herself
the droplet burned her skin like
she imagined acid would,
though it left no scar.
A second thing she had never told anyone
was what they did that night, all those
years ago, the day the tear appeared.

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.