The Writer Dreams of Rivers

[CN: rape, self-injury]


winter-river

“Survivors understand full well that the natural human response to horrible events is to put them out of mind. They may have done this themselves in the past. Survivors also understand that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. It is for this reason that public truth-telling is the common denominator of all social action.”
–Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery

In a dream, I come across a toad in the woods. Squat, warty, with flat blank eyes. He belches up a stone that clatters over my feet. A ruby, I recognize when I bend over to look: big as my fist and red as death. I reach out to pick it up, to pop it into my mouth for safe-keeping, and grab the toad instead. I do not realize my mistake until I feel the toad sitting belligerent on my tongue, plumping up his blotchy abdomen to fill the space from my lips to my throat. When I look back for the ruby, it is already gone.

I wake up choking.

* * * * *

Most of the photos I have from my childhood live in a large document box, clustered together chronologically in clearly-labeled archival folders. My mother—trained historian and daughter of a news-photographer—made just such a careful box for each of us during the years after my grandfather’s death, merging countless stacks of inherited photos with her own files as she worked to organize his legacy. An inch into the box, in a folder simply labeled “GRADE 2,” one finds not photographs but a carbon-copy report typed onto two sheets of onion skin paper, preprinted with the words: CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION.

I remember this report, even though I’d never read it until recently. Or, more precisely, I remember taking the tests that led to it.

And I remember Mr. Morley.

Continue reading “The Writer Dreams of Rivers”

White Woman, Interrupted

 

womens-march-poster
[Poster by Hayley Gilmore.]
7 days.

It’s barely been 7 full days.

Some say the world was made in 7 days.

The new US president—aided, abetted, and manipulated by the unholy choir of white supremacists and power-drunk opportunists that surrounds him—seems bent on tying, if not beating, that world-creating record as he sets about the process of destroying it.

Holy crap. I mean…

HOLY CRAP.

How to even begin to resist?

With the Word, I ‘spose. If I’m sticking with tradition, I begin with the word. And in this situation, that word is me. My resistance must begin with me.

* * *

Let me be clear: I want to save myself.

First, last, every day in between. Myself.

So do you. It’s human nature; it’s survival instinct; it’s why we don’t yet breed in cannisters but cling to the fleshy stickiness of bodies and lusts, new life emerging blood-covered and squalling.

I want to save myself most, and so do you.

Now. If I misunderstand this basic fact, I can’t serve justice. It is my own judgment that I confront in the mirror at the end of each day, after all.

Continue reading “White Woman, Interrupted”

Writing in a Time of Plague

The first time I wrote on this blog in my truest voice, it was a declaration of independence from audience. “I am done speaking to the bodies of men,” I pronounced; “To the helpmeets of men.” I decided to write first and foremost for myself and, as a distant second, to address an imagined audience of other women who had survived sexual assault. Anybody else who wanted to listen? Was certainly welcome to do so, but I would make no adjustments for their comfort.

As last year began winding down, however, I started itching to leave this stance for greener, less plundered, pastures. Tired of five years of filling-in-the-blank “current occupation: rape survivor-in-recovery,” bored with my own intimate overexposure and the incessant “I… I… I…” of confessional writing.

I wondered what else I might want to say, if I no longer felt compelled to foreground the issue of violation.

And then my country elected a rapist as president.

ratking

Continue reading “Writing in a Time of Plague”

Unbearable Weight

Yesterday, another Black American was executed on the streets by police.


9/20/16, Charlotte, NC: Keith Lamont Scott, age 43

I have not looked closely at the details of this latest shooting in North Carolina yet. How a father sat waiting in a car. How a gun book in a poor black man’s hand became life-threatening in other men’s eyes.

How frail my nation, quaking from its birth in fear of the literacy of black voices. When has a book in a black man’s hand not been seen as provocation for violence?

Witness North Carolina’s own penal code, passed in 1830-1:

Therefore,  Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same,

…That if any slave shall hereafter teach, or attempt to teach, any other slave to read or write, the use of figures excepted, he or she may be carried before any justice of the peace, and on conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to receive thirty nine lashes on his or her bare back.

But that is knowledge for another time. Today all I can picture is Scott’s young child, skipping home from school towards a beloved parent and finding death instead.

I cannot yet endure knowing more.

9/16/16, Tulsa, OK: Terence Crutcher, age 40

I have not read yet all the details out of Tulsa, where a police department with a documented history of planting drug evidence has just planted released drug evidence against their latest victim.

Since I learned that even from the air above, a policeman in a chopper had concluded that the black man having car trouble looked like “a bad dude,” these words from the slain man’s twin sister have played on repeat in a corner of my mind: Continue reading “Unbearable Weight”

The Suspect Has Been Identified. The Suspect Has Been Killed.

It turns out to not be a firearm in the sense that [a firearm] fires real bullets,” Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs to reporters, at a press conference following Wednesday night’s fatal police shooting of Tyre King


According to police witnesses, 13yo Tyre King had a bb gun in his waistband.

According to early reporting, Tyre was a man who had just started 8th grade at Linden STEM Academy.

Children today grow up so much faster.
Black children today grow old so much faster.

*

At 13, I started 8th grade too. Shooting spitwads from the back of Mr. Taylor’s 6th period, were those men? Was Lance Trumble a man the day he drooled into the English teacher’s water glass when she stepped out of the room?

Was I a woman when I laughed?

Adulthood comes unlikely early to those whose fruition is feared.

*

A spitwad is not a bb is not a Glock 9mm.

*

Columbus, Ohio, is the same department that served and protected 12yo Tamir.

Tyre is the second Ohio citizen Bryan Mason has served with a bullet and protected out of life in four years.

According to policy: Office Mason has been placed on paid administrative leave and will be receiving psychological support counseling. According to policy: Officer Mason will be offered leave time to assist in recovery from a traumatic experience.

What support counseling available for the King family.
What trauma recovery offered to Tyre.

Nothing ages a child faster than death.

Water Is Life

Here is a sentence I never expected to type: I am transfixed by North Dakota.

Specifically, I am transfixed by the events unfolding in North Dakota right now.

For those of you not yet in the know, North Dakota is where the Standing Rock Sioux, other Native American tribes, and their supporters are gathered in protest of a multi-million-dollar oil pipeline project being built across reservation lands, destroying cultural heritage sites and endangering local water supplies. [Here’s a primer, current up to five days ago.]

Honestly, I’d be hard-pressed to locate North Dakota on a map. Both Dakotas fall into my schema of the US states as “one of those square ones in the middle,” and on days like this, I wish my early teachers had felt a little more oomph to teach us the states, instead of the European map I had to draw year after year. (Pointing out Yugoslavia on a topo has proven to be not quite the necessary life skill my Sedgewick Junior High social studies department apparently expected.)

But these past few weeks? I cannot look away.  Continue reading “Water Is Life”