Shannon Connor Winward is the author of the Elgin-award winning chapbook, Undoing Winter. Her writing has earned recognition in the Writers of the Future Contest and the Delaware Division of the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship in literature, and has appeared in (or is forthcoming from) Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog, The Pedestal Magazine, Thank You For Swallowing, Literary Mama, Star*Line, and The Monarch Review, among others. In between writing, parenting, and other madness, Shannon is also an officer for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, a poetry editor for Devilfish Review and founding editor of Riddled with Arrows Literary Journal.
You're safe with us. You can confess
the things you found exploring with the lights out.
What comes behind the door.
What a beating gets you
for tattling. Small thefts are less
subject to penalty than wasting time.
It's okay. The man who robbed you at the train station
wore a suit, and asked permission.
We understand resistance first, a token 'no'
the force and pull
of bigger things. We have all stood moon-eyed
at the ticket kiosk. All those buttons.
Rape is, after all, a bid for attention.
Undressing was only part of a game. We didn't even think
about the rest of it. We know
you didn't mean to cry
for help. Come see the flower
beds broken when we came running.
It's dark, we can't always know
what's beneath us. Come see the garden, trampled white, see,
the stripes of belts, of dollars
and handprints, see, see
what you have done.
No, it's okay. Chin up, doll.
This is how we learn.
I've been struggling with how to talk about this poem. As a writer and a Gemini, I'm open about almost everything. One of my favorite lines is from Ani Difranco's song, "Providence": Words are vitamins and life is short. Yet even having written about them already in the poem, some things just don't want to be said in clear language — not because of The Things themselves, but because of how other people reacted to The Things — what they said, or did, or didn't do. I don't want to hurt people I love, even for letting me carry The Things on my own, or letting me believe The Things were my fault, or wonder if The Things weren't just all mixed up in my head, because what does an eight-year-old really understand? Things Like That don't really happen, do they? Except they do happen. One in five women have survived Such Things, only many of us don't talk about it, for all of the reasons I'm still not talking about it, except in poetry.
The subject of rape culture was brought up in a poetry forum I subscribe to — just a throwaway comment, an aside, but it sparked such obstinence and venom from people denying rape culture even exists, I was shaking for days. When I disagreed, I was told I need to get my head checked and accused of "playing the rape card." I got over it, because that's what survivors do — but I think some folks are due their vitamins. I hope the poem lands where it can do some good.
Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published monthly by Glass Poetry Press.
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