One of the most enriching, forward-thinking, fastest-growing online creative communities flourishing right now is the Poetry community, especially in those scenes that center on marginalized voices — Women, POC, Neurodivergent, and LGBTQ. Poetry Spotlight is a feature aiming to showcase the work of some of the most talented creators we’ve discovered making waves on the Internet literary circles, inside or outside the mainstream. Installment #16 is dedicated to the work of American writer Rax King.
Rax is a dog-loving, hedgehog-mothering, beer-swilling, gay and disabled sumbitch who occasionally writes poetry. Her 2018 collection The People’s Elbow: Thirty Recitatives on Rape and Wrestling is available from Ursus Americanus Press, and Rax can personally guarantee that when you read it, you’re going to cry. Her work can also be found in Yes Poetry, Dream Pop Journal, and Five:2:One.
[Excerpted from The People’s Elbow: Thirty Recitatives on Rape and Wrestling (Ursus Americanus Press, 2018)]
I think about the first time I felt violated, and knew it enough to know that what I was feeling was violated. Did it hurt? Did I know it enough to hurt?
A man wanted me and he beat me, once, and now my stomach is rotting.
Men like to watch me orating, weaving together strands of metaphor and orchids and baby’s breath, as they relax into the silky bed of funeral flowers that they wheedled me into building for them. Men like to drool sheepishly over the gratuitously graphic descriptions I offer them of black eyes, sore legs, vomit, and blood. In this way do men stake their claim in my rape: by making it palatable, even toothsome, to themselves. But they can find nothing savory in me as I am now, stoic and bloodless, holding their gaze and intoning monotonously. This is how I take myself back.
To be violated is a pliable, sensuous state – easier, certainly, to be violated than to violate – to be violated you needn’t be creative at all. You needn’t think, you needn’t plan.
People spend their entire lives chasing the best possible thing to give themselves over to. They seek out professional massages, orgasms with other people, drugs. Anything to be taken, to be handled. To be violated is to be handled. It feels positive, almost – like being attended to.
It can be soft. It can be a delicate mewling or a low beg. Sonorous, purring, wheedling, reasoning. Come on, baby. A deep voice and a wandering hand. It feels foreboding, too, like it could be so wicked, it could be so hateful, but only if I won’t play along. It could hurt me so much but seems like it never has to.
No flowers grow in me now. Nothing blooms and nothing prospers, but nothing bleeds or oozes anymore, either; that’s something. I am only flat steppe and hollow earth. Nowhere to raise crops. Nothing to feed pigs. My grin is a fault line opening up in the sour ground.
There is so much that I no longer think about, not because it panics or traumatizes me, but because it starves me. Worms wriggle in my stomach and gnaw idly at the walls, eating away at my hunger. I loved food so much! Spongy cakes glistening with pristine icing, and patches of slick mozzarella smothering a crispy crust, and fat gobs of butter slobbering on everything, everything gorgeous, everything lively! The food I eat is flat and colorless now.
Sex gapes inside me full of shadows and jagged rock, but it always did; I was always afraid of sex. When I force myself to feel the ways I’ve really suffered, the pain socks me hardest not between the legs, but in my rancid gut.
And sometimes, by the way, sometimes it’s me. Sometimes I hear a voice not my own, a delicate mewling spitting unctuous out of my own mouth. Too sonorous for my own wretched throat, too wheedling for my own nervous mind. Come on, baby. And I grin my drought-crack grin at some poor bastard.