Emari DiGiorgio's first full-length collection, The Things a Body Might Become, is forthcoming from ELJ Editions in July 2017. She's received residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, Sundress Academy of the Arts, and Rivendell Writers' Colony and a poetry fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. She teaches at Stockton University, is a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Poet, and hosts World Above, a monthly reading series in Atlantic City, NJ.
On the Cave Wall, the Great Black Bird Carries a Girl Into the Sky
Whatever the boy had done to her, we'll never know.
It was just this once, or it wasn't. When he returned
to the village, how could he explain her absence —
who hadn't noticed the way he looked at her —
and it was no secret that they'd walked off together
earlier in the afternoon. How to explain how everything
pulsed within him and how she turned away,
dismissing his ardor splayed at river's edge. And so,
he blamed that tiger of the sky: the one they'd all seen
knock a Gaur — three times its size — dead, with one
soundless blow. The boy stood with sunset bleeding
into horizon, told how bird drove girl aground,
how her eyes rolled back, like transparent eggs,
and how immediately sand soaked red around,
and as he took a step toward her, it sank talons
into pelvis, carried her away: the story becoming
more real as he told it. And he ran through jungle,
at first following the shadowed wingspan, which
quickly outpaced him, and then drops of blood,
which fell as fast as his tears, and he stopped
only at cliff's lip where he sobbed. People gathered
and sharpened spears. The girl was gone. Elders
painted the wall. The boy'd been so brave. They'd
clip its monstrous wings, set its entrails ablaze.
Women and children wept; hunters raided its nest,
cooked its eggs, set traps and beat the bird to death.
For weeks, they cut open each eagle’s belly, half
waiting for the girl to emerge whole. Soon the bird
began to pluck elders gathering herbs and children
from fields. The boy, now a man, dreams of the girl
by the river, how he held her under until she sank,
how she surfaces — cedar-stained, bald, with bulging
eyes — to press her swollen black lips to his own.
What's terrible is that this poem continues to be relevant. I would like to say that I wrote it in response to a particular woman's rape and how the justice system failed her, because at one time that was true. However, in the US and around the world, women who are assault victims continue to be silenced, literally and metaphorically. In this poem, I am imagining an alternative retribution for the perpetrator.
Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published monthly by Glass Poetry Press.
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