Tag Archives: Virginia Erdie artist

Protest Against Rape: Saturday * May be triggering *

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

Please note that submissions are closed.

The introduction to our protest can be read here.
Please refer to our list of International Resources for Rape Support here.
My Dream Is 

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

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

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

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

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

© Aprilia Zank

© Aprilia Zank

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

ffffffffffffffffffffffffBattlefield fffffffffffffffff become ffffffffffffffffffff Woman ffffffffffffffff Body;

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

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

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

fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff Woman, (who) comfort you?

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

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

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

fffffffffffffffffffffff ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffDeath.
                                                                                                         Woman, (who) comfort you?

In Nanking ( fffffffffffffffffffffffff ).

© Victoria Bean, ‘Bang bang’

© Victoria Bean, ‘Bang bang’

Bearing Witness
Ellen Bass
For Jacki Phoenix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: 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.