A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
If I had been a ten year old stranger
and you had tripped me in a dark alley, say,
downtown, instead of our mutual living room
I’m sure I would have screamed.
If, in the alley, you had straddled me as fast–
your knees clamping my elbows into asphalt,
not the blue Chinese dragons
of our living room rug,
I might have been quiet there, too.
When you opened my mouth
with your heavy flat thumbs,
filled it with pain and flesh–
I would have choked in the alley,
as anyone would choke.
But if you had groaned then, and stood up,
walked away from the dark street
leaving me to vomit and shake alone,
I might have been saved.
I could describe you to policemen.
Perhaps their composite would match your photo
in the Harvard Reunion guide.
Your fingerprints, lifted from the collar of my dress,
might be found in Coast Guard files.
If they never found you and there was no trial
I could have gone home to people who loved me:
horrified, enraged, they would plot revenge
and rock me to sleep in soft arms.
I would have been frightened, maybe forever,
of alleys, strange men, and the dark–
but encouraged by the world, who would hate you on my behalf.
I would have been as safe as a ten year old can be.
Instead, I rose quietly from the Chinese rug
and went upstairs to wash.
No sound escaped me.
I couldn’t afford to throw up,
and it wasn’t the first time.
Copyright 2000 Molly Fisk. From Listening to Winter (Roundhouse Press). Reprinted in Vox Populi by permission of the author.