What am I after rape?
The shivering mass of flesh
that was myself
has long since begun to unfurl,
though my edges are torn,
a leaf caught by a sudden frost.
For a while,
I pretended I was Me,
no different than before.
If I drank enough,
I’d stop feeling him when I closed my eyes,
the vomit hid my grazed palms.
And then I found myself
inside a killing jar
as I tried tearing out the roots
of my sleepless nights and
eatless days. The vomit hid nothing.
I retched up his face into the gutter and cried.
I stare below at a body I don’t know,
miss-happen and scarred.
In my left hand is a crown that
I could wear, burnished with pearls
and rubies that read out
I am ashamed of a half and a whole of me.
I find myself off-kilter.
Once, before the fall,
you thrust a scarab in my chest
and asked why I didn’t come to you.
Why didn’t I tell you? Why didn’t I Why didn’t I-
I stammered out a drowning breath and
have you not been listening to a word I just said?
I fell to my knees like a rotting stem.
I haven’t been uprooted. I have been dissolved.
I am crying in the arms of family-strangers.
Body folded, lop-sided,
not wanting to be touched,
but lacking the strength to say
to them, too.
I shudder as you hold me,
as you expect me to soften in your arms,
mould around you like a child,
so I sit, bent-over and bitten-lipped. …
They call me a
daughter of a Trump supporter
the same way I call you a
son of a bitch
I hear them spit it out in corridors
crossing themselves with
In my mind, I steal other people’s children. The soft, round baby boy on his grandmother’s lap, feet small and fat like bread rolls. I can smell his skin. I could reach out and grab his fingers and run and smother him in my arms. I imagine holding him close, skin to skin, experiencing what I should have felt years ago. I wonder how old my children might be now. What year is this? Eleven; four. What do I have to show for it? One tiny ultrasound, memories, and a hollowness that rings out whenever I’m in a five-mile radius of a child. I swallow a mouthful of beer and dig my fingernails into my thigh. I make a comment to my husband about how cute that baby over there is, and try to focus on playing Draughts. Of course it’s not just when I see a Beautiful Bouncing Baby. Medical questionnaires can be just painful. Have you ever been pregnant? I tick ‘yes’. I move on to the next question, toes curling in my shoes. And God, when people ask ‘do you have children?’- well, what should I say? ‘Yes, but they’re dead’? ‘No’? …