Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

Trigger warning: this poem examines societal experiences of and reflections on rape. It includes graphic imagery.

The original formatting of this poem is limited by’s platform

I saw a show, once: a woman told a story. She told of how she was raped after a company party. By a coworker. She lay limp. She didn’t know she could say “no.” She didn’t know. Later, she came to call the experience “rape.” She just didn’t know. She just didn’t no.

I saw another show, once: another story. This woman was lying in bed, asleep, at home, alone. A man knocked down the door. She heard the crash. She froze. She knew. Tall, dark, heavy, he appeared in her bedroom doorway, and he raped her. She was claustrophobic, she said, and that was the hardest part — to be trapped and buried. His huge weight bearing down and when he was done, he wasn’t. He made her shower. He made her do other things, and she weighed her options, and knew to fight was futile. But she stayed

sure, and when he hid her in her closet, told her to count to a high number, she counted for a while, not to 100, then ran to her kitchen, spit in a bag, saved his DNA. Precious evidence. The police said, “Celebrity. Local. Radio. Serial rapist.” His sexy voice entering homes of women citywide. “How do your boyfriends, people you date now, deal with it?” asked the man who interviewed her. “Well,” she said, “I find that the more okay I am with it, the more okay they are.”

I talked with a friend, once: an Empowered, Educated, Sexually Liberated, Liberal Feminist. A coworker. She said, “What men don’t realize is that women think about rape every single day. I think about rape every day.” Down every dark hallway, every empty street corner, every new man. “I used to say I would rather be skinned alive than raped,” I said, and wondered, “Why?” “Because it is about gender,” she answered, and I knew she was wrong.

Weeks later, we talked with some men: willing men, men who were willing to listen. We told them what it was like to be a woman, to live in a man’s world, to work on your period, to use power tools, to be excluded. We didn’t talk about rape. “Why didn’t you bring that up?” I asked my friend at the end, only one man left listening. “Most women don’t report their rapes,” she replied, “I didn’t report mine.”

I read a story, once: about a yogini, a female yogi. She had vowed, for life, to give her sex to God. She slept all night with windows wide open, doors unlocked, body naked as the day she was born. One night, a man stole in through her window, brandishing a knife. She recognized rape. But she had made a promise. In one split second she decided: no man would make her break her vow. And so she grasped the knife. Bare palm, sharp blade penetrating naked flesh, she became one with him, held fast, mirrored his every move until, afraid of what he had witnessed, the man fled. They never found him, this fearful man. She never worried. She bandaged her hand, dealt with her trauma, continued to practice her yoga. Windows open.

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