After the most recent rape, K’s scared she’s more the theory of a girl
than a girl. A girl who counts the rabbits’ heartbeats
& only eats the broken pretzels.
Her terrible smile ground tight as the scuttle
in her walls: she’s not sure
if it’s squirrels, pigeon wings on tin,
bones shifting awake. I watch how she touches
her hair when she thinks nobody’s watching.
Her hand tugs harsh at her collar
before she steps in.
She knows she’ll get lunch & cancer, that she doesn’t give a fuck but will. We’ve learned how to pin butterflies, care less. We do sad, stupid things, then later watch younger people.
There’s much to put in her little reliquary of belief, much outside.
Too many fraught doorways on every block. Too little silver. The deli that one summer with those muffins. Highway where the truck broke down. Hallway where that girlfriend’s hands garlanded her waist like parrot wings. In each room, she fights the urge to leave.
At a bar, strangers start to sing a song she once loved.
All we’re not is enough. She tells herself that.
She tells herself that again. There’s the surgeon’s
lamp, the exit wound,
the hurricane beneath her tongue.
There’ll be years & valleys of whiskey
& variegated versions of clouds & truths.
In her orchard, a metronome.
Fruit ripens & falls & some people
sometimes eat it. Darker people gather, ship.
Between the trees, a child
coughs or maybe laughs.
NINA PURO's work is forthcoming or recently appeared in cream city review, Harpur Palate, Indiana Review, Jellyfish, Pleiades, Third Coast, and other places. She has a forthcoming chapbook, Two Truths & A Lie (dancing girl press), lives in Brooklyn, works as the publicist for Persea Books, and is bad at thinking of clever third-person quips to put in places like this.
Curatorial note: The following poems are a response to a call for poetry about rape culture for the annual Delirious Advent Feature; the call is in turn an immediate response to the Rolling Stone story “A Rape on Campus” about rape culture at the University of Virginia. However, they are also part of a larger conversation about rape in poetry communities. Curated by Jessica Smith and Susana Gardner.