For my Mother, Who Was Never Really Raped
They held her down, face in the loose dirt near home plate, a few hours after
dusk, and took turns, first one boy, then the second, until she was sufficiently
split, and they spent, quickly as boys inherently are. She had bruises, of course,
and there was blood, and she remembers crying enough to create a mud paste
where she kept her cheek imprinted until certain she was alone. Alone
in a way new to her, apart even, from the heaviness between her legs
to the lead of her hair, matted, losing its soft wave to damp dust and growing dark.
She told me this story, with no variation in tone or length, from the time my own
first bleeding announced itself, to four days before my wedding. Offered as warning
of a man’s need/evil/hatred/desire/greed, any of the words most demonic,
and, for her, most base. There was nothing eloquent about my mother.
Believing stories carries us down the quickest waters into one pool after another
of calm , of stations resembling rest, sometimes clarity. Hers was the truest myth—
the kind wherein there is no happy resolution, just a lesson to move forward
or submit to slow burning, fading, erasure. Truth comes later, after the ever-after
has expired into crumbs, too stale to consume, too fine to walk over with soft feet.
As with all myth, my mother’s story, a woman’s story, held only a richly imagined
disaster. The betrayal was never in the telling, rather in the final admission
that her belief in this swirl of detail was vaporous, a landscape unseen, weirdly
desired, needed for her to feel whole, rooted. This is the gift given to her daughter:
Faith in what is repeated, recognition that branches break from weight we offer
by Kelli Allen
Editor’s note: This poem tackles the complicated pain of inter-generational trauma (via internalized patriarchy) with a richly described narrative.