DON’T WRITE A POEM ABOUT RAPE
by Julie Buffaloe-Yoder
For the editor who told me
rape is not a fresh subject
(he knows who he is).
Rape is a cliché.
Unless it happens to you.
But don’t write a poem about it
or the editor might say
it’s just not fresh.
Rape is not fresh.
It’s been done too much.
It’s too emotional, confessional.
There are too many words.
People are not shocked anymore.
Don’t write a poem about it
especially if you were in the dark
university parking lot, a little more than tipsy,
and he forced you into his car with a gun.
Dark parking lots and guns are so overdone!
Don’t write a poem about it
especially if the digital time on his dash
was 12:00. It’s too much like the Twilight Zone
especially if those stiff red numbers
still ring in your brain sometimes
when you’re in the grocery line
and you drop everything you got, and the tomatoes
and the peaches, and the can of cream corn
go rolling down the aisle.
Don’t say he drove you down a dead end road.
Don’t tell how he bent your fingers back,
slammed them with the door over and over.
How heavy-handed can you get?
Don’t tell how he took the right to bare your arms,
your legs, your goose-bumpy little nipples,
and when he ripped your shirt in loud red shreds
you were trite enough to worry
what people would think about you.
For God’s sake, don’t say you were a virgin.
Honey, save it for the Movie of the Week.
Don’t tell about the fistfuls
of sand and gravel in your open mouth,
your open face, up your open legs.
It’s just not fresh.
Maybe try a different point of view.
Don’t tell how he held the gun so tenderly
in your ear, under your tongue,
deep inside the stretched-out skin
of your nostril, and you could smell the click
as he cocked it, and you could taste the click
in your throat as he made you call him Lord.
With the right music, it might work for a porno flick
but not for a literary journal.
Don’t tell how you looked up at the full moon
with its mouth torn into a little o
as you waited for it to be over.
Don’t you know the moon is overused?
And there are inconsistencies if you say
you almost laughed out loud
cause you were a stupid little twit who thought
who actually believed the first time would be romantic.
Don’t write a poem about it. Just don’t.
Especially if you went crazy when it didn’t end
and the only defense you had was to black out
and dream the damnedest dreams about a book
you used to have when you were a girl
and you dreamed a little song about the silvery moon,
the moon on the breast of the new fallen road
the Carolina moon that kept shining, shining,
shining on the one who’s raping you.
And when you woke up, it wasn’t over
but the Goodnight Moon was gone,
and you saw an old woman in the distance
come out on her porch to hear
what all the Hell raising was about,
turn out the light and go back inside
and you might’ve thought Good Night
to the Old Lady Whispering Hush,
but that’s too obvious, and anyway
we’ve heard that story before.
Don’t say he dragged you down the road by your hair,
the gravel chewing your back to bits.
Good Night Bowl of Mush, it’s just
the caveman syndrome. Get over it.
We’re sick of wenchy women poets
who are always bashing men.
And the part where he was gentleman enough
to drive you back to your dorm
just doesn’t fit the character.
Don’t say he told you he’d kill you if you breathed
a word, then asked your forgiveness, told you
not to worry and go get some sleep.
Would he really say that?
Don’t say he drove off in a limp line of smoke
as the sun came blinking over the horizon
and you staggered and puked your way back to your room,
knowing you wouldn’t make it to Psychology class that day.
Don’t talk about the guilt for not turning him in.
Take your ass to a talk show or a support group or a priest,
stop throwing the reader around.
Don’t tell the never ending end
of your whiny little poem. Get a grip.
Especially if your roommate laughed and said
Why would anybody want to rape you?
And the counselor said you’ve got to take control
of your life, and your boyfriend tried to understand
why even his understanding would never be enough,
why even his softest fingertips would always be too much.
So you drank yourself into a quiet rage
and now six years later it’s backed up in a corner
of your throat, bristling, sideways, ready to lunge
at the thickest, closest, slickest, hardest vein.
Nobody wants to hear about it anymore.
And the editor doesn’t care that
you’ve already cut half the words
and many of the details.
It’s still too sprawling, too baggy,
too talky, not fresh.
Go tell it to Ginsberg, we’ve
got a comma to perfect.
But if you’re that damned stubborn, go ahead.
You’ll write the poem alone
and it’ll live in a junk drawer
swelling up like a belly
under a pink pile of rejection.
Serves you right.
So stop acting like a bitchy female poet.
It just won’t work. It’s just not fresh.