Thursday, April 28, 2011

A prose poem from the Southerner in me

All Those Who Ever Did Me Wrong Are White:
Why I am Nice to Black (and Brown) People

I don’t suffer under a burden of responsibility for all that I am a Southerner. It is in my blood to know that my great, great granddaddy Lev must have hurled his share of racial epithets, even if he was too poor to be a slave-holder like my great, great, great granddaddy from Virginia likely was. I hate it, but I don’t hold it in my bones. I think it is mostly because I identify, for all my pale pinkness, with the darker of my human sisters. For us, it was white men who reached into our drawers and pulled out whatever caught their fancy, with no account of the age of me or that slave gal.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Where He Put Things

He put his hand over my mouth,
assuring me with shushes, “Relax, you’ll like it.”

................................I didn’t, any more than you enjoy reading this.

He put bruises on my thighs,
my underwear down around my knees.

................................Bear [witness] with me here.

He put his penis inside me,
along with quite a few abrasions.

................................Breathe through the lines, don’t panic.

He put my arms up over my head, pinning me,
so skilled he must have had practice.

................................Stay with me.

He put fear in my gut, terrors in my nights,
and post-traumatic fugues in the mess he left of me.

................................Attend to my words.

By extension, he put pills down my throat,
cuts on my arms, and me in bed all day.

................................Softly. Gently. Unwrap the pain.

He put trust out of my reach until
he sat me on the psychiatrist’s couch.

................................Sit beside me. Listen.

He put me into training class to advocate for others,
strangely, leading me to college and grad school.

................................There are more of us here who can’t speak.

He put words in my mouth.
“Hold on.” “It’s not your fault.” “It gets better.”

Friday, September 10, 2010

Survivor Statement

The mother in me
would remove your lungs
by teaspoons over
a number of months,
watching your breath
grow precious.

She would have you
live long years,
seeing those
whom you have loved
die in your eyes,
waking you often
to view reruns.

The woman who
put her child to sleep
brushing circles
with her cheek on
a tiny head of baby hair
would hood you
and beat you on bare feet with
bouquets of barbed wire.

The sensible liberal
who is carrying my purse,
containing a card for
the ACLU and a copy of
the New Testament (NRSV),
petitions nightly to God
to deny you entrance to Hell,
sentencing you to a lonely
oblivion, conscious of your loss.

We dream of these and other
gruesome punishments for you,
often shocking the little
girl in me who had her own
nightmare offender, but we shush
her protests. She is not a mother.
The only thing that might
make it any bit better
is to never have been born—
you or I—it hardly matters which.

*not based on my personal experience, but someone is in this place, somewhere.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Why War Poetry is Like Rape Poetry

I have thought, ever since I began reading and writing poetry that poetry written by the warriors who return from battle and the poetry written by those who have experienced rape are eerily similar. This phenomenon was referenced in a piece on This American Life by a person who experienced rape and war and suffered PTSD. Listen here when it is available.

I am referencing other works in this poem as well:

Here, Bullet by Brian Turner

Daughterfuckers by me

Why War Poetry is Like Rape Poetry

Aside from the obvious

rape is a weapon in war
and a very cost-effective
high-yield weapon, at that

Aside from that

there is the trauma
the left-overs
the night-sweat screaming

And I am talking about the warriors here

not the populace
not the collateral damage
the war kind or the rape kind

‘cause I am a warrior, too, you know

ordered, without control
marching where and when told
my body not my own

I read Here, Bullet and I see myself

perched on a housetop
peering through scopes at the enemy
not sure who he was, is

I write Daughterfuckers and I see a soldier

told to suck it up
hiding the traumatic pain
wondering where to put the anger

It’s a wonder we survive at all

when we do, if we do
and the words we write-verboten
who wants to hear about that, anyway

Studying Music after Molestation

he would seduce me after my music lesson
offering attention and trauma in unequal measures
I would play scales for Blanche
and then pay the piper for him

Tommie would wonder why I was so ungrateful
stopping the lessons so soon
so late

my sister would have loved to play longer
but she didn’t have the advantages I was offered
lucky me

now I sit in a classroom listening to piano concertos
and fugues
I relate

hiding in the clefs and trebles are the notes
I recorded so deeply
this sonata’s third movement is especially chilling

I study music appreciation
tone, pitch, rhythm, timbre
all are here and now
it’s the history that trips me up

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Deserving of Justice

I am no big fan of the death penalty. I think poor people get executed and rich people get away with it. DNA testing has proved we were about to execute some people innocent of the crime they were set to die for. I am appalled that we could be so wrong.

If we have the death penalty and are going to use it, we need to have some rules for who, when and in what cases we use it. If the rule is that we don't impose the death penalty for any crime where someone was not killed, then so be it. I think that is a reasonable way of thinking.

Our Supreme Court has overruled the use of the death penalty for perpetrators of child rape. They are concerned that we should not use capital punishment for anything other than when a victim is killed.

Oh, except for treason and terrorism and ....

Talk to a 5 year old who has been ripped open by a man whose penis is as big as her forearm. That, Big Nine, is treasonous and terroristic.

I have no problem with putting down the kind of animal who would do that. I can't imagine why anyone else would.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Cold Day...

A Curse on those Offended by Rape Poems

You dare not stitch my lips
mending the part that offends,
whipping the edges of my condemnation,
hemming in thick layers of guilt.

I reject pointy fingers
and sharp intakes of breath,
hurtful as the pain
of forced intercourse.

Slashes in secret places
do not easily suture up.
We bleed far longer than
the stains on bandages suggest.

She did not dress
to have her wrist snapped
or toss her hair
inviting gangbangs.

Don’t ask her what she was doing
there, the same as you I reckon,
minding her own business.
Pray you don’t have to give account.

I will keep on counting meter
to match the thrusts of his hips
and dare you to keep pace
or outlast me. These lines

are not free verse. So having paid
I will stand and deliver
paying no mind to anyone not broken

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Whole Life

How I Prepared for a Poetry Reading
Domestic Violence Awareness Month, 2007

Crying in bed
Was just practice
for the tears they shed.

Dodging bullets was a drill
for weaving through a crowd
to stand before the one woman
I know wants to say something
but may not have the feet to walk.

I ate too much then for comfort.
I can work the room to dispense some,
skipping the cheese and crackers.

Worrying that he would kill us this time
prepared me to take into consideration
the fragile soul who is here somewhere.
I look around the room as I speak
and I spot her.

She is why I am here,
why after the journaling and the therapy
and the hunting for a peaceful spot
to live out the life I have created that
I came out three times this month
to speak before a crowd,
not my favorite Saturday pastime.

She does not write poetry
or hides it at home if she does.
People think she is ok.
She is a great employee.
She brings cake to the sick.
She laughs like anyone else,
but inside there is a crime scene
where soul murder has taken place.

See right there, the fast swallowing,
her eyebrows flicker when I talk about his hands.
She won’t fidget, but I see.
I know the signs from the inside out.

She is why I am here.
My whole life has prepared me
to speak to her.
Despite it all, I made it here,
loud mouth intact, still laughing,
thriving in my chosen spot,
never afraid to lay my head.
It was almost worth it.
Today, here, safe and whole
I can see there is more healing to do
and it is not mine this time.

The Woman in the Parking Lot
After Poetry Therapy

I can’t say
the things you say,
but they are true for me.

I had an un…
The words catch in her throat.

I had an uncle, too.
I don’t know how you do it.
Don’t stop, we need you.

And bright tears spill
out of her
onto the asphalt.

Can I hug you?

Always ask if they don’t.
Always ask.
Because they were tampered with,
bothered, touched, hurt,
all the euphemisms for soul murder,
so ask first.

And I do hug her and she
smells like hope and fear,
feels like promise and despair.

She will be skittish now.
She has said what she has not
to anyone else alive.
(three of us in this secret now)
I will be her first.

Don’t stop. We need you.

I do it for me and for you,
you know.
Once I couldn’t speak

but I wrote poems, lots of poems.
You keep writing, too.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Jo said she was sorry, that her words meant nothing. I have lived for weeks on the words of someone who cares. Words mean everything. Thanks, Jo.

Words for Us Girls

Whisper I love you
Say I adore the way your mouth looks
Come here, beautiful

Here, let me get that
You have waited long enough
You deserve better

I am so glad I am here
You make me feel safe
Hold me

It's a girl
She's perfect

I just had to tell someone
I just had to tell you

You're welcome
Praise GOD!

Thanks for saying it
out loud
It happened to me and I can't say it
out loud

I am not going anywhere

You will get better
You look so happy
You smile all the time now

Even when you cry,
you look beautiful

There, there
I've got you...I've got you.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Bad Daddy, Big Daddy

They say you were a wonderful man.
Dead at 53,
leaving a wife and

Do they count the 5-year-old
you were flying to meet?
So sweet of you
to bring her a doll,
to teach her maybe,
the ways of a baby explorer,
since you have "done it plenty."

"always gentle and loving;
not to worry;
no damage ever;
no rough stuff ever;
I only like it soft and nice"

Pillar of the community,
Assitant U S Attorney,
lover of children,
I commend you into the hands of GOD,
who also loves children.


"A federal prosecutor charged with traveling from Florida to Michigan to have sex with a 5-year-old girl committed suicide on Friday in prison, his lawyer said.

At the time of his arrest, the authorities said, Mr. Atchison, of Gulf Breeze, Fla., was carrying a Dora the Explorer doll, hoop earrings and petroleum jelly." NY Times

The NY Times Article

North West Florida Daily News

The Criminal Complaint

The Indictment