Tag Archives: protest poetry

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: Thursday * May be triggering *

Before the reader embarks on reading these poems, the editors stress that some content may be found disturbing, troubling or even distressing. Sexual violence is an emotive subject, and some writing about rape is as exploitative as the crime itself. Such writing in the context of politics, the media or literature can constitute a “double violation” for the rape survivor who lives the experience for a second time: the experience of “triggering”. Encounters with sexual violence as a subject for literature demand caution, care and respect, but an interrogation of “rape myths” is necessary. The poems selected break the silence of the status-quo, which defines sexual violence as a freak event rather than part of a dominative “rape culture”. This protest is the beginning of a conversation that seeks recuperation, healing and redress.
Please note that submissions are closed.
The introduction to our protest can be read here.
Please refer to our list of International Resources for Rape Support here.

© Theresa DiMenno

© Theresa DiMenno

Sarah Crewe
amity= friendship

a flag happy population    like dagenham on sea only

less grey    more    great white    equal    display of

misplaced patriotism    equal    whitewash/no

talk of iraq on the heathway/no

vietnam chat on the gangway

this is a seasonal wealth complex

so let me say chrissie wasn’t so much attacked

as swimming with bad intent&

wearing a corpse flower costume&

waving her arms lasciviously&

shouldn’t have been out alone&

barefoot&you say accident they say uh, what?

but you say hunted& they say riot&

summer parade=uprising
From sea witch.

© Tom de Freston, ‘Swimmer’

© Tom de Freston, ‘Swimmer’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

over her slow worm face       creep
under her spiny
back    creep

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

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

© Theresa DiMenno

© Theresa DiMenno

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Theresa DiMenno

© Theresa DiMenno

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

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

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

© Theresa DiMenno

© Theresa DiMenno

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Theresa DiMenno

© Theresa DiMenno

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

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

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

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

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

© Sally Clark

© Sally Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Cassandra Gordon-Harris, ‘Three Moon Lullaby’

© Cassandra Gordon-Harris, ‘Three Moon Lullaby’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was sentenced to seven years,
but served ten.

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

Count thirty stripes of your silver.

© Naomi Woddis

© Naomi Woddis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He showed me his pride: cymbidium orchids –

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

Epiphytic, he called them.
Parasites, I thought.

Hold out your hands.

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

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

Look. That’s where I watch you play.

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Naomi Woddis

© Naomi Woddis

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

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

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

There are worse rapes than this.

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

There are worse rapes than this

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

There are worse rapes than this.

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.

Against Rape

© Tom de Freston

© Tom de Freston

From 4 to 10 November, Peony Moon’s contents will deal with sexual violence
and rape and may be triggering to some people.
If you would like to show your solidarity please join us on Twitter
Against Rape
 is a protest, an international collective of poets and artists speaking out against sexual and interpersonal violence. The online campaign was initiated on 2 October 2013, co-ordinated within a month, and will run on Peony Moon for seven consecutive days, beginning on Monday, 4 November and ending on Sunday, 10 November 2013.

Each contribution – poem, artwork, photograph and message – from around the world has been received in the spirit of solidarity. This is not poetry and art for poetry and art’s sake, but a protest. The contributors are multigenerational, of all genders. Some are prize-winning poets and artists; others are students having their first poems published as part of this demonstration. We value each voice.

Against Rape features poems about date rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, incestuous rape, child sexual abuse and rape in war. This is poetry of witness that exposes rape myths and rape culture, which deals with the rape of children and women, and describes the impact of post-rape trauma. Men are rape survivors too; we wish we had received some poems that dealt with this. Sexual violence is not only committed by men against women and children.

Rape is a violation of basic human rights, a contravention of the rights to dignity and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. It is an assault against the individual, the family, the communities and the societies in which we live. It is unacceptable that survivors are often still blamed for the atrocities committed upon them, and shamed into silence for fear of ostracism and retribution. In June 2008, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously for resolution 1820, describing rape as a tactic of war and a threat to international security. What we realised as we read the submissions is that sexual violence makes every day into a battle zone.

Rape is not about sex: it uses sex as a tool of power, the same way we have seen some police forces use shields and batons against peaceful protestors. It is not an abuse of power but its pure expression. The collusion between the status quo and social systems of power explains why most rapes – those that occur within power structures such as the family, schools, prisons, the military, corporate entities – go unprosecuted. Rape is what power does.

Feminists coined the term “rape culture” to refer to the pervasive, coercive place of rape in the cultural imaginary, the ways in which it is used to threaten and discipline those who have relatively less power in a given relationship or society, particularly women of all ages, children, LGBT people, and people with disabilities. Referring to rape culture enables us to talk about the way in which sexual violence perpetrated upon bodies is produced within a framework of exploitative and violent language, images, and narratives that seek to control how we present and move our bodies.

We are all victims and survivors of rape culture: it affects how we interact with each other on a daily basis. It affects our languages as well as our bodies. As Andrea Smith says in her book Conquest, the language of colonisation is one of rape, with its references to “penetrating virgin territory”. Implicit in so much of our culture is this sexualised image of power, with its brutal aim of totally eradicating opposition, not only through physical damage, but through a multilayered silence.

Rape is not just the instance of violent assault, but its ramifications, which, in rape culture are bound up with shame and vilification. Rape culture’s endorsement of power means that any survivor who dares to be other than compliant, silent and erased risks being held responsible for her rape.

It is into this silence that Against Rape speaks. Ovid and William Shakespeare knew this: the classical myth of Philomela is presented sympathetically in their work, with admiration for the silenced survivor’s determination to bear witness in any way she can. Gill McEvoy takes up the figure of Philomela as part of our first day of poems, which gather around the idea of rape myths.

On our seventh day of poetry and art, we begin with Tamil poet Rajathi Salma’s ‘No Traces Left’, translated by Kalyan Roman, from the recently published Salma: Filming a Poet in her Village (OR Books, 2013), in which she writes: “What refuge remains for a woman/ whose traces are wiped clean?” Rape culture leaves its traces in all of us; Against Rape is our attempt to offer a refuge. The poems are often shocking, stunning, sickening – but there is hope in hearing all these voices raised together.
Michelle McGrane and Sophie Mayer
1 November 2013

‘Zimbabwe thunder’

Poet and performer, Jenni Nixon, lives in Sydney. She is a graduate of the Independent Theatre and worked as an actor for many years, touring with the Queensland Theatre Company. ‘Zimbabwe thunder’ is included in her recent performance poetry chapbook, Agenda (Picaro Press, 2009).
Zimbabwe thunder
Jenni Nixon
boy billionaires in Zimbabwe
can’t buy an egg
twenty-five billion Zim dollars
won’t buy a newspaper
King Despot is in his counting palace
counting all the bodies
ninety percent unemployment
amnesty to his henchmen
activism in a time of cholera
protest brings arrest
generals give the orders
BOOM BOOM go the guns
unpaid teachers cannot feed
or clothe themselves     schools close
distant thunder     river undercurrents
flow around rocks     over mud flats
locked away in stinking cells
dispossessed in land invasions
white farmers killed by looting
     ‘war veterans’
land lies fallow
stagnant sewage and water
smoke rises on burning corpses
enter another medieval age
King Despot Mugabe’s birthday bash luxury
long silent queues register to vote
hope in Zimbabwe
change will come
Zambezi River
     deafening roar over the Falls
Mosi-oa-Tunya – ‘smoke that thunders’
is the people’s voice
Published in Agenda (Picaro Press, 2009).
Read more about Jenni.

Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008)

Sadly, I’ve just heard English poet, playwright and children’s writer, Adrian Mitchell, has passed away.

“I want to speak, to sing to total strangers.  It’s my way of talking to the world or a small part of it.  So I use the language I use to my friends.  They wouldn’t believe me if I used some high flown literary language.  I want them to believe me.”

– Adrian Mitchell (in an interview with Nick Watson originally published in The Argotist magazine in February 1996.)

News about Adrian Mitchell on Bloodaxe’s website here.

Watch Adrian Mitchell reading “Telephone”, “Especially When It Snows” and “Death is Smaller Than I Thought” here.


Ted Hughes on Adrian Mitchell:

“Adrian Mitchell is no more naive than Stevie Smith, but like her he has the innocence of his own experience … real inner freedom and the courage of his own music.  Among all the voices of the Court, a voice as welcome as Lear’s fool … Humour that can stick deep and stay funny.”

John Berger on Adrian Mitchell:

“Nobody else writes like him.  And it is becoming more and more evident that his achievement endures … Nobody has ever departed with such language for such a destination … Mitchell is a joker, a lyrics writer, a word-spinner, an epigrammist, a man of passion and imagination … Against the present British state he opposes a kind of revolutionary populism, bawdiness, wit and the tenderness sometimes to be found between animals.”

Angela Carter on Adrian Mitchell:

“Joyous, acrid and demotic tumbling lyricist Pied Piper determinedly singing us away from catastrophe.”


Read more about Adrian Mitchell here.

Listen to Adrian Mitchell’s audio recordings at The Poetry Archive.

An interview with Adrian Mitchell at The Poetry Archive.

Adrian Mitchell reads his famous poem protesting the Vietnam war,”To Whom It May Concern”, here.