Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Walk

I remember that I was alone. Usually, I walked home from school with my friend, but for some reason, she wasn’t with me that day. I was on Belgrave Avenue, and the weather was sunny and mild as I journeyed home from junior high in my safe, Southern California suburban neighborhood.

I remember looking ahead and seeing two older high school kids—one boy and one girl—walking towards me on the sidewalk. As they got closer, I recognized the girl as the older sister of a classmate of mine.

I remember moving to the right to let them pass by.

I remember that as I did, the boy reached out, grabbed my crotch, and jabbed his finger up. Hard.

I remember that it hurt.

I remember feeling my heels lift off the ground as I balanced on my toes to try to escape his touch.

I remember that the girl giggled as the boy jerked his hand away.

I remember hearing his voice behind me as he walked on, asking me if I was going to cry and tattle like a little bitch.

I remember feeling flushed with shame.

I remember thinking that maybe if I had been a different kind of a girl—a tougher girl, a popular girl, a prettier girl—it wouldn’t have happened. Or that at the very least, that other girl wouldn’t have laughed.

I remember that in the split second it took me to decide not to tell anyone, my brain flashed to earlier, more innocent playground memories that nonetheless taught me that a tattler was the worst thing a girl could be.

I remember taking a deep breath and thinking to myself, Well, I guess this just happens sometimes.

I remember that I shut my thoughts down and kept walking.


Full disclosure: Donald Trump was never going to have my vote.

Everyone who knows me well knows that my political leanings mean that even in a normal election, there’s really not much of a chance that I would lean Republican.

I am as susceptible to confirmation bias as anyone else. And I understand that sexism and misogyny exist across the political spectrum, as evidenced by the dude who, in the comments section of an online news article, told me and some other women that we needed to take off our vagina goggles and get real just because we dared to say that although we campaigned for Bernie, we would vote for Hillary if she were the nominee. I resisted the temptation to shoot back something about his penis periscope, and logged off instead.

And believe me, I don’t pretend to think that by sharing my one creepy childhood memory, I will change anyone’s vote, and I am not looking for anyone to persuade me to change mine.

All I can say is that ever since I heard Donald Trump’s words on those Access Hollywood Tapes, that thing that just happened to me that one day when I walked home from school in seventh grade, that thing that I haven’t thought much about in decades, has surged to the surface of my consciousness and stayed close. And I find myself simmering with rage.

At Donald Trump’s sense of entitlement to women’s bodies.

At his declaration that he can kiss them without permission, even grab them by the pussy because he is famous.

At his admitting, no—his bragging—that he sexually assaults women. That he can do to women what that boy did to me.

At his dismissal of his own words as locker room talk, as if there is some kind of locker room immunity clause that men can use in a pinch as needed. (And anyway, he wasn’t in a locker room; he was at work—at a gig where he was invited to cameo in a soap opera because of the very celebrity status that makes him feel so entitled to women’s bodies.)

At his argument that we shouldn’t believe a woman who has accused him of assaulting her because she is unattractive and she wouldn’t be his first choice, thus spinning an accusation of sexual assault into a boast about his ability to get the really hot chicks, as thousands of people at his rally clapped and cheered their approval.

I disagreed with Mitt Romney and other past Republican nominees because of their policy positions, because I didn’t share their diagnosis for what ailed the country and how to fix it, but even my most negative reactions to them fell within the normal range of election year my-team-is-better-than-their-team/my-candidate-is-better-than-their-candidate hyperbole. I never felt physically sick inside when they walked onto a debate stage or spoke from behind a podium.

What I feel when I see and hear Donald Trump now is different.

I am amazed that he hasn’t had to resign his candidacy. I feel disgusted and anxious about what it means—what it says about us—that he could actually be President of the United States.

At best, he has only bragged about sexually assaulting women. At worst, he has actually sexually assaulted women.  In either case, he now chooses to attack his accusers by demeaning their physical attractiveness.

I am lucky. In the grand scheme of things, what I experienced that one day in seventh grade didn’t leave much of a scar. And I realize that some women have to defend against the same or worse on a regular basis, a reality of assault that is woven into the fabric of what it means to be a woman or a girl in this world.

I understand that when we vote, we all must weigh what we are willing to put up with politically, and what we are willing to trade away, in order to pursue our vision of the America we want in the winner-take-all electoral system we have.

Though I might struggle mightily to understand it, I respect the fact that some of my friends and family will vote their conscience and vote differently.

But this election, I am taking my seventh grade self with me when I go to the ballot box, and we are going to speak out loudly along the way.

And when I vote, it will not be for just the lesser of two evils. It will be for the greater good, for a country in which women and girls don’t have to talk themselves out of their own anger, suck in their breath, and keep walking because it just costs too much to speak up. 

I am seething with anger because we have to clear the low bar of Donald Trump losing this election as a first step. But that’s OK. After thirty-four years, I am finally getting comfortable with this rage.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Freshman English

Image from de.wikipedia.org

Robert Frost, I stopped loving you when I started hating him—
the professor who wore the same polyester slacks to every class,
and ranted about his stepmother and dot matrix printers
(he loathed them both in equal measure),
who said listen here missy when he didn’t like my questions,
and collected our papers but never returned them,
who dismissed Dickinson as useless,
and found shampoo pointless—
It was all his fault. He filtered all your images
through the pool of sweat on his upper lip
and the green stuff stuck between his bottom teeth,
leaving only snow and bugs
and cows with shriveled udders
and boys who have no business using buzz saws
and middle-aged men who wander in the woods
worrying about walls and whining about apples.
I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let him sully
your pristine New England verses. But I was too tender.
I was only eighteen. And you seemed so old.
And he was so mean.

Friday, April 24, 2015

On the Table

For you it was never
in the cards it has always
been too hard to keep them
straight or find them flush
the strain can be too much when
you are more likely to blush
than bluff even when you
played poker for pennies
with your grandma and
all the cousins seemed to
be having fun you shifted
in your seat at the intensity
and wished for go fish
a game of polite requests where
no one tells you to up your
ante and in the end
everything is paired up and tidy
and though you now see
the value in stashing an
extra one up your sleeve
when your only aim is
to please it can be so hard to
choose so you wind up feeling
like you are just shuffling the deck
chairs on the Titanic
trying to remember the
words of that damn Kenny Rogers
song praying to get to the part
where you can walk away
or please God
maybe even run

Venus of the Little Spokane

Sculpture by Rick Davis
Image by Jesse Swanson

You may think you can
Ride her or
Float on her surface
But she rises
From the river
Flips your kayak
Right over
And laughs
At your plans.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015


photo credit:gizmodo

Beyond the wood
an elderly woman
seems to seek a son
killed in the battles.
Down the street
the men dig,
remove the cloth,
Among ordinary things,
she becomes
an emblem, takes


NaPoWriMo prompt for day 21: Write an erasure poem. I took mine from Virgina Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. The original text is below. Rather than hold the non-erased words in place, I chose to move them around and re-arrange them a bit:

Such are the visions.  The solitary traveller is soon beyond the wood; and there, coming to the door with shaded eyes, possibly to look for his return, with hands raised, with white apron blowing, is an elderly woman who seems (so powerful is this infirmity) to seek, over a desert, a lost son; to search for a rider destroyed; to be the figure of the mother whose sons have been killed in the battles of the world. So, as the solitary traveler advances down the village street where the women stand knitting and the men dig in the garden, the evening seems ominous; the figures still; as if some august fate, known to them, awaited without fear, were about to sweep them into complete annihiliation.

                Indoors among ordinary things, the cupboard, the table, the window-sill with its geraniums, suddenly the outline of the landlady, bending to remove the cloth, becomes soft with light, an adorable emblem which only the recollection of cold human contacts forbids us to embrace. She takes the marmalade; she shuts it in the cupboard.
“There is nothing more to-night, sir?”

Gem State

Child support goes unpaid. Baby sleeps
safe from Sharia law, fills her belly with freedom.


For context, click here.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


He brings her buds that have barely bloomed
She sees how tight they sit in his fist and is afraid