“Writers across the globe speak out against sexual assault and abuse in this powerful new poetry anthology, edited by Sue Goyette. These collected poems from writers across the globe declare one common theme: resistance. By exploring sexual assault and violence in their work, each writer resists the patriarchal systems of power that continue to support a misogynist justice system that supports abusers. In doing so, they reclaim their power and their voice…
The collection could not be more timely. The work adds a new layer to the ever-growing #MeToo movement.
Resistance underscores the validity of all women’s experiences, and the importance of dignifying such experiences in voice, however that may sound. Because once survivors speak out and disrupt their pain, there is no telling what else they can do.”
“What we did not know in 1972. What has changed.”
It’s too late. He has jumped me, fallen on me, almost as
in love, catching his weight in his hands as they smack
against the grungy linoleum tiles I’ve wanted to replace.
The kitchen wall is rippling. The chalky ceiling bulges
as if it needs new plastering; as if something is trying
to pound through, something that can’t be contained.
A flash flood, a fire? My spine slams against the door.
My skull is permeable. I know what’s going to happen.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. Time expands to
include all the random possibilities of thought, of world.
Tectonic plates collide. I know that he erupts explosively,
a system under great pressure from without, from below.
His face balloons massively through the mist. I know him.
I know that drawn-down mouth, mask of Greek tragedy.
How often I have traced the dimple in his chin, a line from
nose to mouth where God pressed His finger: the philtrum.
His fingers close, blunt tips touching, the heels of palms
meeting as if in prayer. Relentless hands ring my throat.
Gold wedding ring presses deep into my gullet. Even in
absolute panic, my body responds to his closeness, dearly
familiar and almost kind. My breath stops, is stopped. My
breath holds itself, forgets itself under his thumbs, then
gasps. And is forced quiescent.
I have already disappeared up the smoky trail, out the top
of head into wide blue sky. A buzz as of bees in the cool
expanse of air. Strange croaks seem to start in my gullet
and travel up with me into the vast and empty. I am flying.
Mewling, I hover, open my new eyes to glimpse our roof, so
puny from this height. Beyond him, beyond myself, above.
Violent shaking startles me out of freedom: a sudden updraft.
I’m being pulled down the vortex of consciousness back into
a body I thought I’d surrendered. The sound in my ear, carol,
carol, and no song but choking, roaring. Nothing but his voice,
loud as Poseidon in a seashell in my ear. He’s really done it now.
I swim in an ocean of blood. Swirling red currents fill each cranny
of consciousness and this time I go under, diving, divining down.
When I emerge, he is gone but the room is swirling around me
in colours of other travels. Turkish scarlet cushions. Moroccan
striped curtains dance a jig of molecules that confuse my senses.
I am lying on the couch. I shut my eyes again, not to see. Not
to hear. His footsteps, running closer. Water, soaking my head.
I look at him. A yellow cast of fear lies over last red flares of rage
on his face. But the hands that hold the basin barely tremble. “If
you’ve quite recovered,” he announces, his voice oddly strangled.
“I’m off to town. Just take it easy. You’ll be all right!” He commands.
Irony of statement, concern of question or relief: it doesn’t matter.
Pain neatly divides head from shoulders. Voice creaks like something
inanimate outside its box. Words, the ability to make words— gone.
Phrases flutter and dissolve. “I’ll be all right.” Something automatic,
something ancient in me, is attempting re-entry. “All right. Just go.”
He is already gone, a flash of yellow bike. Silence except for
that buzz of wasps in my head. Wasp-words ring in my ears.
Can either of us remember what it had been about this time?
His jealousy of my phantom lover, the one that got away…
Who knew for sure what happened. What is this complicity
between us? Already it’s as if nothing at all had happened.
We can talk to no one, certainly not each other, about
the sudden black holes, the mine-fields in ordinary
conversation that suddenly erupt. Because most often,
they are not there. The house is simply a house, the scene
domestic with cat and kids, and cauliflower on the stove.
I can talk to no one. I cannot talk. When I tried—family or
friends—all told me that it was none of their business. Not
to interfere. Not to know. I made my bed. Now lie in it. Lie.
When I did call the police, they listened intently to my story.
“Is the perpetrator your husband, ma’am?” “Yes.” “I’m sorry.
We do not interfere in cases of domestic assault. Thank you
for calling the Precinct.” The dial tone still rings in my ears.
And where could I go anyway, on my own with two kids
and no money and a body that will not move. Shame— I
wrap it around me to keep warm as if it were my own,
protecting me from the eyes of neighbours, hiding black
and yellowing bruises under sleeves and stockings. What
have I done? Dishes, drying in the sink. What has he done?
The fingers I’ve studied so closely, bald sentinels drumming
action. Beating to their own rhythm, the jazz that syncopates
sudden movement. My glasses hang by a wire arm, frame twisted.
Retribution, then contrition. Pain is finite after all. He comes back
begging. I pride myself on the ability to forgive that’s been bred
into me. A flip of power and I get whatever I want; he does what-
ever I want. Until resentment steams over again. Next time. No.
There will be no next time. There’s never going to be a next time.
This I believe on faith. This he believes on faith. When he returns
after the kids are asleep, he knows he has changed, knows his ire
has disappeared forever, as if it never was. I know there is no more
fear. I pray there is no more fear. We hold onto each other all night.
without a word. Stealthily, while his breathing deepens, I practice
opening and closing my throat for when the words come. If I could
speak. For when I will speak. My jaw creaks on its wrenched hinge.
His thumbs are imprinted on either side of my windpipe like black
sentinels. For days, I wear a long turquoise scarf and go around
pretending I am Isadora Duncan. Pretending I could fly. Secretly,
unwinding my scarf, I inspect the delicate progression of bruises.
A circle of yellow surrounds the thumbprint. I think I can make out
the actual whorls that are the perimeter. Black fades to purple, then
softens to a yellowish centre. In the mirror, that face that is not mine
looks out at me from the telescoped distance of time, wrinkled thin
with the patience of years. Her eyes clear and almost wise, assuring—
she is somebody I will become, the face I will grow into someday.