Love Letter, Unsent

sink-baby
Photo of the author being given a bath. Presumably by the author’s mother.

Dear Mom,

I miss you.

It has been exactly a year since we last communicated. I recognize our estrangement remains fully my choice, that I have only to pick up the phone and you or dad would without doubt answer. I think about that option every day.

I miss you—deeply—every day.

And, every day, I remember: sometimes we face decisions where all the options are bad. All that anyone can do then is choose the least shitty of the shitty outcomes.

And so I choose to orphan myself.

For me, losing you remains the least-bad option available.

* * *

I remember clearly that it was Valentine’s Day, the last day I replied to any message from you. One of the texts you sent, amid that final flurry of texts, simply said “Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you!” And I’m sure you thought that was innocuous. I’m sure you thought that, THAT, was a message I couldn’t possibly take issue with.

And so I would give you what you wanted.

But this is not how love works. This is not how anything works.

Continue reading “Love Letter, Unsent”

Cunt.

Most days, my morning starts with coffee.

Other days, it begins with finding myself being equated to a Nazi mass-murderer by some random online stranger, who happens to disagree with me about the need and function of public protest in any functioning democracy.

So, yeah. That.

I wondered, as I stared at my computer screen this morning: why am I the one in this exchange feeling trapped and tongue-tied? Why this stab of pain at witnessing the shameful barbarism of another human’s ill-informed—and ill-intended—imagination?

I have been trying to write about shame for days, y’see. The way it clots the throat. The way it steals intent and stillbirths action.

When functioning properly, shame polices the edges of propriety. It’s the tool our social herds use to cull those whose behavior transgresses the untransgressable. But often when we speak of it this way directly—“Have you no shame?”—we are merely evoking the presence of its absence, trying to summon the effects of a boundary on someone who has long since abandoned our thought-to-be-agreed-upon rules.

Shame is a double-edged knife, sharpened even through its hilt. It cuts in unpredictable directions, as often burying itself in the flesh of the sinned-against as in that of the sinner. More often, perhaps.

Still unsure what I’m getting at? Ask any rape survivor.

Ask if they felt shame.

sheela-na-gig_kilpeck_church_sequence

Continue reading “Cunt.”

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”

Oracle

 

john_collier_-_priestess_of_delphi-2


Oracle

The Pythia, Oracle at Delphi, was (scholars report)
the most powerful woman of the Ancient World,
sought out by royalty and commoner alike to answer their questions
and predict their fates, prognostications she offered them
in dactylic hexameter as elegant and epic as any Homer wrote

though (others footnote) every fortune the Oracle uttered was claimed
to come out as hysterical raving in need of translation by her priestly keepers—
acolytes of Apollo and collectors of the payment each pilgrim brought
in tribute to the God and to his Voice—

the truth lying, as it always does, somewhere between
frenzied gibberish and enigmatic prophecy,
between priestess and priests
between woman and man. Continue reading “Oracle”

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.