Friday, April 25, 2008

untitled poem: "how great it was"

Raped isolated silent
I counted the years
she spent in that place
and no one ever knew

but the natives knew
that the whore had been

that is why she was

called a whore

and treated as such

and no one in her family knew
where the rumour started
or that is was true

she said that someone
had bothered her
but that's all
because you don't want anyone to know

that the missionary's wife
can be taken down
and he didn't want to know either
because that would spoil his perfect family

so there it is
a successful professional man
who still doesn't know why
his wife doesn't want
to go around
and tell everyone
how great it was
to be a missionary


eclexia said...


I know crying for someone doesn't make difference concerning the pain they suffered (especially when they don't know you and don't know you are crying for them), but sometimes it feels important to stop and hear and share in another person's pain and just be hit in the gut with how awfully wrong and painful and, well, awful their suffering is.

I don't know. The feeling going through my head is something akin to honoring the awful reality of their suffering, but that's not really the right word for it. More like the equivalent of honoring for stepping into and facing the reality of horror. I guess it's like by putting it down in a poem here, you are refusing to minimize this woman's pain by ignoring what she has suffered. That is the part that feels like honor, even though, again, it's not a super fitting word, semantically, I don't think.

Somehow, it feels like you've shared in her grieving and invited us to grieve with her, too.

J. K. Gayle said...

thank you, Eclexia.

how does one share? can man speak for woman? a poem, an other's words for another, is a listening. it is the only fitting honor--listening, in silence, after horror.

but we've heard the unspeakable in Ursa Corregidora, the titular protagonist of one of Gayl Jones's novels. It's her honoring explanation of the horror of a man over women. (Speaking of Jones, you know she has a more recent novel called Mosquito, which I mention in honor of your posts, and Lingamish, and those who suffer from malaria. The novelist writes after a terrible experience, and those who want to listen can try to read this very difficult fiction or the newspaper reports about the author.)

Sometimes writing even an academic essay is a kind of listening. It's always an attempt, when it's another's words, to honor them.