Spell Criminal With a ‘K’

Trump, the other day, was speaking at a rally, and he said,
‘She has no memory of how she got to the party.
Should we trust that she remembers the assault?’

There are those who have the privilege
of forming memories
editing autobiographies
and tearing out the pages
that make their worm bodies squirm
in the cocoon that raised them
from which they call
rotten silk over
what I know

So I will start with what I do not know
I do not remember
the dress and flats for preschool graduation
second grade and who I sat with at lunch
when my mom began brushing the Latina
out of my curls
when I told myself I could not kiss Sabrina
because I was supposed to kiss Richard
and maybe didn’t want to kiss either

to bury myself
in woodchips and honeycomb
until the fast forward
to high school when homecoming is a sweat smear
and the bottomless pit of sophomore year
behind the tapestry I taped up for the outside
looking in

And the answer is ‘yes.’ And I’ll tell you why.

The five year old, the nine year old, the teenager,
the woman remembers
fist flurry against the dog
fist thunder around her skull
fist explosion beside her ear
fist rattle inside her brain
almost loud enough to numb
every hotspot for a lightning strike

Jolt to the back
Jolt to the back
Jolt to the spine

skin charred after being told
it should be metal
it does not notice the fingers
of sparks on her neck
her belly
the chest that won’t
grow until the teenage phase
and it never does
even after the hurricane

And I also know this woman is smart because she’s a
psychologist — she’s no dummy. If someone is
assaulted or experiences trauma, there’s science and
scientific proof — it’s biology — that people change.
The brain changes.

The rain dries and I don’t grow
no blossoming, no flowers
to pluck
someone calls my name and no one walks across the stage
I have transformed, transfigured
This is evolution
This is my initiation to the wild
circle under the blood moon
my sisters, my brothers, my fellow survivors,
give ourselves
give our oath
the girls, the silent boys, the humans drawn without lines
turned skin to fur, we gave
our tongues and teeth

We are fangs and growls
we are animal now
the hunters made us this way
we are a pack
inhabiting the space
where ancestral bones lay

What it does is it takes the trauma and it puts it in a
box and it files it away and shuts it so that we can
survive the pain. And it also does a lot of other things.
It can cause body pain. It can cause baseline
elevations in anxiety.

I can’t tell you of an intruder in my fox den
but the wolverine can
the raccoon can
the Bengal tigress can
the mother bear and her cubs can
Christine, Stefani, Amy, Fran, Tyler, Maya can

The mammoths are no longer here
to speak
but I know they have a truth
to tell
for them, I can

They demand to know how we distinguish camouflage
and the answer is we don’t:
the faces are imprinted on our irises
the bullets are embedded in our flesh
under the fur
but they still want to take a sword to our skin
and check

It can cause complete avoidance of not wanting to
even remember or think about what happened to you.
But what I believe that I have seen is that when this
woman saw that Judge Kavanaugh was going to be
possibly put in the highest position of power in the
judicial system of this country, she was triggered, and
that box opened.

We keep the bullets and their holes
sometimes the lead turns us to decay
sometimes we plant metal and grow
a mountain,
sometimes they call it a cloud.
But mostly they assign a name
a hunter’s name, with our blood
we evolve
a century later, a mountain range
we climb Everest, surpass Elysium
we founded Olympus Mons and from the peak

we scream Our Names
We rattle the stars,
we are the next great flood,
we march on every cocoon
screaming Our Names

Sometimes we ache
when a lock clicks
when floorboards moan
when hunters take aim
even with empty guns
when we tell the story of the mammoths
when we see taxidermied heads over fireplaces
when their fireworks detonate and music blares
and they take one of us
to shoot us all over again

but still we will roar Our Names
bleed and bleed and bellow Our Names
and no hunter will ever climb this mountain
no puppet president will mount us
The rapists/hunters/president/judge will never own
Our Names.

And when that box opened, she was brave enough to share it with the world to protect this country.
Lady Gaga

Artwork by Yung Cheng Lin

A Letter on Men, to Harry Styles

Helena Hauss.jpg


You were the first. My first. Headfirst, stinging eyes, scathing skin. The first time I wanted wanted. What is a girl’s obsession? What will – what can – it do, become, transcend? As soon as I recognize it, there is a crater of longing in my heart, overstuffed, leaking and ravenous. My first obsession was never about you. Maybe it was about me.

The compression of my girlhood: learning smallness, imbibing my unimportance through gulps of everyday America. Everyday trauma.

My father told me I needed a mantra if I was to ever successfully meditate. Ever successfully chill. I am incapable of chilling. I unfurl meaning from anything. I make somethings from nothings. Everything is so much, all the time, and I hang onto casual by its threads, frayed and slipping. There’s a book I love: Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton. He writes with a stillness I cannot cultivate; he writes about the sublime. I contorted you, Harry, into my own sublime, reaching it, scraping its lavish edges, delirious with its fragrance, its undulating and rose-glossed mouth.

Thinking of you made me happy, full. I didn’t need to worry about the consequences that women are always warned will come from our desire. I could be scarlet hot for you in secret. I wanted to think about you more than I wanted you for real. I made poetry of the too-much kind, the kind that scares boys and parents. We wrote fanfiction, so many of us, thousands, and read, shared, clicked, liked, offered feedback. We obsessed, devoured, hungered. We were incessant. An ecology of girl-want, of desire accepting desire. How we cleaved out a space for ourselves, a bunker buried underneath the dirt, our writing spinning us like Penelope and her threads. We never stopped. We spun and unspun. The spinning was the point.

Sappho was stung with love and so was I; you stung every crooked shutter in me. I crashed into the strangest parts of being alive. Somehow, you made me matter to myself. Do I outgrow this kind of lust- the conceptual fuck? Making you into what I want. Making you into someone impossible, because men in reality so constantly disappoint me. I cannot go outside at night, or even midday, in Paris or any city, without that disappointment accumulating. I haven’t gone outside in shorts and a tank top since I was 12. Not freely, not unconsciously, at least. Hypervigilance starts early for women. We tarp ourselves in self-consciousness, try to make our limbs untouchable, but nothing stops the whistles or calls or the dagger voices and fingers of men. A woman walking in a city is a revolution.

When Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed, my ongoing dissertation on “The Existential Exhaustion of American Women” grew by ten pages. When Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed, I sat on the Metro and screwed my eyes shut, struggling to breathe. I was silent glass, not wanting anyone to look at or touch me, not ever again. When Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed, not a single male in my life contacted me to ask if I was okay. I did this with the people I cared about, the women who had known their own Brett Kavanaugh, or maybe multiple. The people who had watched his hearing and perhaps felt their own traumas reverberate like gunfire through their bodies – a reinvasion. When Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed, random women on the internet made me feel warmer and more supported than any of my male friends did. I didn’t want to resent these men for not knowing, immediately, the riotous and chronic malady of being a girl in America. I did not want to feel hurt, but I did. I do.

Harry, sometimes (more and more nowadays) I want to crawl out of myself and abandon all of my whimpering skin, because it doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to them, their brazen eyes, carnivorous gaze. Swallowing me up. I am exhausted. Can anyone blame me for wanting refuge from the sickness of a culture? From the echelons of fear, white-hot and bloodlusty?

At thirteen, I loved you, but a close friend of mine, a boy, said, You know, Sofia, you’re one of the smartest people I know, but I feel like One Direction is really dumbing you down. A girl’s intellect and happiness cannot coexist. The intensity of my adoration somehow mitigated the intensity of my brain. I cannot love something and truly say I am a Smart Girl. At thirteen this was made clear to me. At eighteen I know better, but my subconscious still needs to catch up.

Fragmentary writing reflects my womanhood more honestly than clear un-stumbling prose. I cannot perfectly say so much in so little, but I have tried. For some stories need telling, otherwise they fester? This form of writing – unthreaded, scrambling to reveal itself even to its own writer, feels most true. Fragmentary writing is also a hallmark of Romanticism. In Maurice Blanchot and Fragmentary Writing, Leslie Hill writes: “The time of the fragment, in other words, is never the fullness of the present. It is the time of between-times: between remembering and forgetting, continuity and discontinuity, obedience and objection; and what speaks most powerfully in the fragment is no doubt precisely this unreconciled tension between the artwork and its unravelling, between its gathering and its dispersion, between time past and time still to come.”

Is there a violence about fragmentary writing that scares the most entrenched and straight-edged of institutions and power structures? Most accounts of trauma emerge in fragments, not linearly or chronologically. Many cannot bear these fragments to be brought to the metaphorical surface. But this is what constitutes the survivor’s memory. It is jumbled and dismembered and everywhere. That does not mean it is inconclusive. That does not mean it is untrue.

I want so badly to hurl a hardback book at a gleaming mirror, dare it to break, crumble its peace, fracture my reflection, launch my own disrepair, cracked and kissed and in a jutted pile around my feet. How America seems to me a fragmentary planet, not coherent or summarizable, not neatly regurgitated, its history too dissonant. Or, rather, its histories too disparate, because my America does not look like yours and vice-versa. How womanhood never looks like any shiny one thing, but everything, most vibrant in its sharpest parts, and that sharpness, the most cutting stuff, is different for each of us. The cutting stuff is the most truthful part of womanhood, the stuff we’re not supposed to vocalize, but here I am, Harry. I am articulating the cutting.



Artwork by Helena Hauss