Thrift Store Special

teddy1

If I hung in a storefront

I’d have no label

It was torn off in the wash

The store owner lied

Trying to cover a great crime

I’m not gentle cycle, nor wash below 30c

I don’t fluff up well in dryer

Or need ironing on low heat

I’m a thrift store special

Good for a gander, then better cast off

Stuffed in the back of your closet

Forgotten until you move house

When you hold me to the light

Exclaiming; where did I buy this?

A little wistful, a little disgust

Just like a spare thread can run

Through any knit and mar its form

I was shrunk on hot and stretched in cold

Long before you grabbed me out of the lucky dip bin

It was the elongation of my experience

Like wool is malformed turning huge in water

Expanding and reducing, I am the sheared sheep who took off

When the shepherd came to my turn

I never backed down, nor avoided spitting in their eye

My fur smells of energy and emptiness and freedom and neglect

You wear me when you want attention

Or to be someone you’re not

And I’m sequins gathered in a pearls bosom

The knotted mohair and impossibly soft angora

But most of all, I’m the time you left your possessions behind

And rode in the dark without lights

Imagining your bicycle a horse and you …

with your dress catching in the spokes covered in oil

You just wanted him to catch fire on your edges

Sounding the cavorting need you had to bloom beneath

Then you were a water-lily and even years later

You are reminded each time a candle is lit, the smell of wax

How he burned your fingers with his inelegant desire

And you opened like origami to his bewitchment

Then you were a dragonfly, passing through fountain

If I hung in a storefront

I’d have no label

But you’d purchase me all the same

Over again

Smiling

At the memory of

Something you couldn’t quite grasp

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The song of rape

It took one finger to break into her

one finger to make her feel violated and dirty

two to make her scream

the boys laughed afterward mockingly

why you so upset girl? we didn’t deflower you

you should thank us bitch

or maybe we should just do what we came here to do

they pinned her down, her tights stretched between her legs

like her fractured hymen

she saw the beginning of tears and inside felt

the raw and hurt center cry out

don’t come back don’t ever come back

they were only eleven years old

lying on the floor in the outside toilets

staring at the stars hardly there because of all the smog

her lungs filled with hurt

they were her friends

until they became rabid dogs

she didn’t know what switched the switch or why

they felt she was there to poke and prod

they were too small and she was too small and everything about it

was premature

which meant

waiting until it happened again

she wasn’t a victim but some things reoccur

as if on some awful cycle

sometimes she’d shudder thinking about

their little hard cocks

trying to pry their way in

the way it felt to be hurt like that

with unwashed fingers scrabbling and opening

the parts of her nobody should

she could visualize the cement beneath her

the smell of urinals and their unwashed genitals

if they had known enough to put them in her mouth

they would have

thankful for small mercies she knew

kids these days wouldn’t be so innocent

they see porn before they know how to spell

pornography

what ideas they must get and how

many bad things go on behind closed doors

or even ones held shut by little boys

seeking to immitate older brothers

she would have impaled them with

her rage if she wasn’t so ashamed

so she said absolutely nothing to anyone

least of all the teachers who would have

called her a slut who asked for it

even at eleven years old.

***

When she reached fourteen

the Golem returned

held her down, muffled her mouth

stuck it in like a needle threading through skin

her scream pierced every limb

and nobody heard

nobody wondered why

she wasn’t home for dinner

her plate was left in the fridge

she was emptied of the last piece

of her soul

left gasping where her privacy had been

legs spread and men hustling in

one after the other took their turn

after all wasn’t it a party? Make it count!

her face closed off and remote like she was dead

some of them were small and bony

their penises hardly large enough to feel

between the soreness and the swelling

others bore into her like a metalic truck

thrusting her back onto her thin tail bone

hands around her neck

fingers pinching her nipples and breasts

they filled her with a disgusting smell

she was never going to be whole again

or clean

and when it was over, it had just begun

face after face, cock after cock

a tape on repeat of her worst nightmare

they came, they came and they went

the only evidence there staining the bed

and her rubbery legs unable to flee

tied and sodomized like a string of beads

she flew out of her crumpled body

a bird of wing and feather only

she saw someone she almost recognized

torn and ribboned and splayed

a garish doll, a parody, a destroyed shape

someone she was no longer

as she lifted, higher and higher, beyond that point

no pain anymore just the thick blush of shame

hidden in plumage

she felt nothing but

a choking word on her tongue

WRONG

WRONG

WRONG

her child’s form

her hardly grown self

the silence of nothing

then it did not matter

what time she wasn’t coming home

all the world was quiet now

movement had stilled

the door was shut

nobody knocked

nobody unbuttoned their pants

and sank to their knees

lifting her up for one more final

free fuck

as if she were no more than a hole

not a human

not a worthy soul

immitation the greatest form of flattery

is not

she was cold now to the touch

her spirit somewhere in the stars

it took one finger to break into her

and a record set on repeat playing

over and over until it scratched

and could not play

anymore

the song of rape.

For all the survivors whose voices are quashed.

What they have to learn

The teacher hadn’t enjoyed teaching in a long while

ever since her notions and reality rubbed against one another

exploding the myth she held in teaching college, of making a difference

her students

whom the administrators asked her to refer to as clients

wanted to pay for a degree, not to learn

we don’t have time to study they lamented

we are too busy with everything else which is, so much more important

the students

did not respect her because she earned less than

they believed they would earn in a few years time

she wanted to say DREAM ON but it was no longer acceptable

to tell the truth

especially with college administrators

(who were paid well, to shuffle papers from desk to desk)

watching in the wings

she recalled why

she had wanted to be a teacher

at eight she’d been sent to a foster home

where the ‘father’ decided to show and tell

using his fingers in wrong positions

she ran away and lived

underneath a bridge for the night

listening to the stars wink on and off

and the weave and fall of the world

the next day they found her, dirty and lost

spanked her for making up lies about being abused

and sent her to another foster home

this time the mother

starved her lean

told her she was fat and ugly

when she hardly weighed in

got her to clean and cook and scrub

she preferred that kind of reality

it didn’t involve lies it was honest in its

taste of cruel

when summer was over and she returned to school

a new teacher had begun work

she had the faraway eyes of a dreamer

and her voice was soft like bird song

without saying a word she knew the children who

had been neglected and abused

she’d encourage them often and whisper in their ears

this may seem like this is all there is

but there’s so much more!

one day you will be free to escape your confines

you can shrug off your sadness and become

anything you want

so when the time came for her to age out of the system

she didn’t bring flowers and a card for her foster-mother

instead she packed her single bag and left before

morning showed in the sky

the room was bare and emptied but somehow

it didn’t look so different to when she’d lain there

trying to take up the smallest space

funny that we can inhabit a place for so many years and

when we leave it’s like we were never there

a wraith who didn’t get heard or couldn’t

break out of her little mincing trap of potted meat

she hated the flabby jowls and empty eyes

of those who pretended to keep

her safe

being old enough now to look after herself she

enrolled in teaching college hoping one day

she could reach a child who sat at the back of class

with dirty socks and a mouth full of regret

but time moves on and things change even as they stay the same

kids become hardened, demanding, insolent

hurry up, please it’s time!

parents throw expectations like rocks and call educators

pathetic losers who can’t do, so they teach

she wondered

is cruelty a vein, like in a rock

inherited over time to savage and destabilize

our yearning for safety?

standing there, in her cheap hose and one good pair of shoes

the scuff blacked out by polishing

she saw in the sassing faces of her classroom

a loss of care for changing the world

her own longing to reach through time and alter

one person’s trajectory lost

in the hustle bustle of uncaring formula

spitting out diplomas and marching forward

not thinking at all

about what they have to learn

Written for World Teacher Day. In appreciation of teachers.

How many women does it take?

It was raining the day the movers truck pulled up

piling furniture into the back, exposed to wet streets

everything dirty and unfamiliar

when you take your safety out of its box

when you unlatch your secrets

and expose the insides of a locket

sticky mouths seek to further that exposure

until nothing of your peace remains

but the belly of your secrets on display

as if you were sitting in class without underwear

as if the abuse etched in your soul were a t-shirt

as if his fingers weren’t in the dark but had been

dipped in luminescent paint and everywhere they went

left their grimy imprint / yet you think

this horror may have been the very best thing

as wretched as exposure may taste

at least it wouldn’t be a case of disbelief

how many women does it take?

for one person to not hesitate

how many must say;

he did this / that happened / we are not okay

because of this / why do I have to prove / with gore

and soiled soul / the truth / why isn’t it sufficient that I say

why why why

did he lay a hand on me?

how many women does it take?

a juror in the Bill Cosby case disclosed the reason for his guilty verdict;

I believed he was guilty because he said he had drugged girls

hearing it from the horses mouth got my vote

are we bidding on a horse? Did you check the inside of his mouth?

what of the SIXTY women who spoke?

their voices do not warrant proof?

were people just speaking words?

to deaf sign posts stating;

move on / get over it / don’t make a fuss / why should we believe you?

one person has lied before / you must be lying / that’s our automatic default

what hope then

for one girl?

one single soul

violated in the dark

of a house when all is moved out

and she is left inside a shell, within a shell

the echoes of trucks taking memories

somewhere else

how many women does it take?

to be heard.

Family photo

Draw a line in sand

She’s the border of one side and the other

At times unteathered

Without prediction

There’s a mystique to change if it’s bidden

And if not …

Galloping down flights of stairs in Wellington boots

Doors unlatched, bodies surge toward the wild

Leaving behind tables of cups and saucers

A black current stain on her dress, she didn’t

Care what others thought

Letting little boys see her private parts, beneath the weeping willow

Hers was the reaction

A swinging, uncovered, naked lightbulb

Denied its right to be switched off, to sleep without searching hand

She learned, the way of obedience, had a sharp taste in her throat

Better climb out, scale the walls, tear your hands than

Be mounted with his collection on a pinkering wall

To dessicate and lose color, for each pulse of his filthy yen

A gamble necessary to quit and never look back

Running on bare feet with feathers in her mouth

If she left the earth would she sink or float?

Going over the edge, empty-handed and savage

Yet .. children survive

Incomplete and clean of doubt

Their enemy known, in the family photo

The road

At first the road seemed seemed impassable

Such a long distance with no sighted end

90 pounds was

A hollow eyed effigy, struggling not to drown

100 pounds was

A sickened mouth, forcing itself to swallow and chew

110 pounds was

A hunger to gain lost appetite, swill of food laying heavy with each urged step

120 pounds growing muscle

Punching the fuck out of weakness and despair

125 the goal, she fought, her joints bloody and plastered together

When she arrived, her body, her mind, her vibrating soul, she stood and cried

At the distance she’d travelled, cracked knuckles captured in dried clay

Stretching like bad memories, bleached by unrelenting sun

In spite of this, still, a flower is able to bloom

I said no and you said yes

I said no and you said yes

The first time was before I can remember

adults do not have dominion over children’s souls

but that’s what happens when you touch a child and cause her to be unwhole

the second time was in nursery school so I suppose your foray of my body had begun

as I emulated what was done

in the back of a toy caravan with my pretend boyfriend and he liked it a lot

made me feel dirty though, I did not know what that meant at the time

seeded a doubt in the core of my person, like a rod of copper slowly turning green

the third time I lay face down on a dirty carpet and three boys played marbles across my back

they got the idea from a porno mag their father hadn’t hidden very well

and their kid sister watched from the doorway, and I told her with my eyes, go to your room or you will be next

I said no and you said yes

it became as normal as something bad can be, I wanted to see her, so I had to cross the gauntlet and you were the gatekeeper

nobody believes you when it is easier to disbelieve and go on thinking respectable people don’t lie

you taught me to hate games shows as they were our background noise

and grandma would come in laughing and I’d see the guilt in her eyes

sacrifice the daughter, sacrifice the child, sweep the dirt underneath the bruises of generations

at nine I fell in love for the first time with a boy who wiggled above me but he of all, respected my desire to be unmolested and we hung upside down from the monkey puzzle tree holding hands

I said no and you said yes

James Brown was your name like the singer, and you didn’t take no for an answer

you climbed my bunk bed and pulled down your pants and if the door bell hadn’t rung you would have got your way

I wonder who came after me and if they were saved by the bell?

I said no and you said yes

yes yes yes you know you want this

no no no I really don’t

but you asked for it, you tempted me, you flirted, you caused me to have a hard-on, this is YOUR FAULT

I kissed a boy in the garages outside school and it felt dirty and wrong because it reminded me of what others had done

before I made decisions of my own

I said no and you said yes

I felt guilty about touching myself because of the Jahovah witnesses and the Mormons and the teacher who stapled my confession together and said we won’t talk of it

when I tried to tell her, this is what happened to me

and you didn’t feel guilty about playing yatzee and karatee on your father’s bed with the nylon sheets and the little bobbles they made when you made a tent and put your fingers in

and you didn’t feel badly when you lied and said you would only touch and instead you went too far and before I knew you were pinning me against a table

I said no and you said yes

children who are violated don’t always know what’s best for them

they are broken and they are scattered and they are stomped on and they hate how they look when the light is on

but they want to fit in and they want to be normal and sometimes in trying they get it all wrong

the neighbor told my parents; your little girl is using bad words and teaching my boys how to curse

and I said fucking hell what does it matter?

but it did, it mattered a lot, to stay in the confine of childhood and not grow up

because growing up meant it was real and you had to deal with it and whilst you were a child

nobody believed it could happen anyway so you could pretend it did not

I said no and you said yes

yes yes yes I know you want to

no no no I really don’t

and my second boyfriend said he wouldn’t go too far

but he did and he did and he did

and I ran through the streets holding myself up and I shouted to the trees that had fallen because of the high wind

why do people pretend? because I didn’t understand and it was a language impenetrable

but I was not … impenetrable

I was just a place of conquer

I wanted to find a lock and keep myself closed

but they kept battering down the door one after the other

because patterns are sometimes all we have to show

for the cycle of abuse

I said no and you said yes

the last time was in a public street

dragged off and soon the roads diminished and the woods were thick

he moved like a silver fish cutting his way into my secrets

I lay staring at the knife

he told me, I won’t cut you if you are nice

I was very, very nice

no no no

yes yes yes

the policeman said; I have to ask, it’s my job, did you want to have sex with this homeless man?

and I pulled up my torn skirt and my ripped hose and my shredded blouse and my dismembered bra and my bloody underwear and I said

if you can even ask that question

you will not recognize justice if it comes

no no no

I said no and you said yes

the last time and the first time and all the rest

when children become girls, become women, become less

than the worth that is owed them

yes yes yes !