I am the woman
who laid anesthetized
while the dentist raped me.
One of the women.
I could have been Calisto or Cassandra
Leda or Io, Persephone or Philomela
but I was some kind of Ana,
from some century, some country, some race,
with no feature to my slacken face—
the I in me a she, immobilized, rendered irrelevant,
and he, the usual shape-shifter,
no Sopdu, Lord of the East,
protector of the mouth of the (almost) deceased.
Women like me, she, they
are born with the decree etched
in (he)art, gene, scroll:
the world is your fathers’
and you must learn the shifting
of his rules, his authority on flesh.
Be on guard in darkened streets,
in sunny rooms before a mid-day meal,
and child, you must remove your soul
from your body and bear the weight of his.
When we wake we speak, write, tweet #metoo,
we gather, shout:
men, this is your nightmare, too,
shake yourself and dismantle
the weighted blanket of history and myth:
Zeus, Apollo, Dionysus,
the soldiers of Rome,
the generals of Srebernica,
the Weinsteins and Cosbys,
fathers, uncles, brothers,
male doctors and dentists,
teachers and farmers,
young and old men, clergy-coy-men,
circle the globe in step with stealth,
in a rhythm that mimics heart.
People like us, you, he she they,
people start!, erase their edict
so everyone can sleep.
Bibiana writes poems, short stories, novels, and plays. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions and Answers
What poetic techniques did you use in this poem? How much attention do you pay to form and metre?
In this poem, as in many that I write, I use the subject/theme to help me determine the poetic technique that will best reflect the subject matter. Specifically, I used a lot of repetition in ‘I am the woman’ because I really wanted to drive home the repetitive aspect of rape, not only that it happens/has happened to so many, but also that it is historically repetitive. I pay a lot of attention to how the poem sounds, so alliteration and rhythm are very important to me, as is internal rhyme. I also use end rhyme, usually only sporadically, as I think our brains find it satisfying, like a small sugar treat we recognize and appreciate, especially if in limited quantities.
How did your writing process unfold around this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it?
I began writing this from a very personal perspective, thinking it was going to be a poem about my experience but as soon as I wrote the first two lines I realized it had to turn and include the others. I also began the poem with very little consideration to poetics and just let the words come, without editing myself during the first draft. Then I returned to it many times, reworking sections, not only to make the writing clear, but also to clarify my thoughts. I went from a version which totaled 1066 words to this final draft which is 227 words.