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Beth Fehlbaum

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Don't Write a Poem About Rape
by Beth Fehlbaum   
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, June 28, 2008
Posted: Saturday, June 28, 2008

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A powerful, heart-wrenching, amazing poem by Julie Buffaloe-Yoder, reprinted here with her permission. Julie submitted this poem to an editor, who returned it with a note, telling her that "rape was not a fresh subject." Click on Julie's name to visit her website & see the full story behind the birth of this poem.




For the editor who told me
rape is not a fresh subject
(he knows who he is).
Rape is a cliché.
Unless it happens to you.
But don’t write a poem about it
or the editor might say
it’s just not fresh.
Rape is not fresh.
It’s been done too much.
It’s too emotional, confessional.
There are too many words.
People are not shocked anymore.
Don’t write a poem about it
especially if you were in the dark
university parking lot, a little more than tipsy,
and he forced you into his car with a gun.
Dark parking lots and guns are so overdone!
Don’t write a poem about it
especially if the digital time on his dash
was 12:00. It’s too much like the Twilight Zone
especially if those stiff red numbers
still ring in your brain sometimes
when you’re in the grocery line
and you drop everything you got, and the tomatoes
and the peaches, and the can of cream corn
go rolling down the aisle.
Don’t say he drove you down a dead end road.
Don’t tell how he bent your fingers back,
slammed them with the door over and over.
How heavy-handed can you get?
Don’t tell how he took the right to bare your arms,
your legs, your goose-bumpy little nipples,
and when he ripped your shirt in loud red shreds
you were trite enough to worry
what people would think about you.
For God’s sake, don’t say you were a virgin.
Honey, save it for the Movie of the Week.
Don’t tell about the fistfuls
of sand and gravel in your open mouth,
your open face, up your open legs.
It’s just not fresh.
Maybe try a different point of view.
Don’t tell how he held the gun so tenderly
in your ear, under your tongue,
deep inside the stretched-out skin
of your nostril, and you could smell the click
as he cocked it, and you could taste the click
in your throat as he made you call him Lord.
With the right music, it might work for a porno flick
but not for a literary journal.
Don’t tell how you looked up at the full moon
with its mouth torn into a little o
as you waited for it to be over.
Don’t you know the moon is overused?
And there are inconsistencies if you say
you almost laughed out loud
cause you were a stupid little twit who thought
who actually believed the first time would be romantic.
Don’t write a poem about it. Just don’t.
Especially if you went crazy when it didn’t end
and the only defense you had was to black out
and dream the damnedest dreams about a book
you used to have when you were a girl
and you dreamed a little song about the silvery moon,
the moon on the breast of the new fallen road
the Carolina moon that kept shining, shining,
shining on the one who’s raping you.
And when you woke up, it wasn’t over
but the Goodnight Moon was gone,
and you saw an old woman in the distance
come out on her porch to hear
what all the Hell raising was about,
turn out the light and go back inside
and you might’ve thought Good Night
to the Old Lady Whispering Hush,
but that’s too obvious, and anyway
we’ve heard that story before.
Don’t say he dragged you down the road by your hair,
the gravel chewing your back to bits.
Good Night Bowl of Mush, it’s just
the caveman syndrome. Get over it.
We’re sick of wenchy women poets
who are always bashing men.
And the part where he was gentleman enough
to drive you back to your dorm
just doesn’t fit the character.
Don’t say he told you he’d kill you if you breathed
a word, then asked your forgiveness, told you
not to worry and go get some sleep.
Would he really say that?
Don’t say he drove off in a limp line of smoke
as the sun came blinking over the horizon
and you staggered and puked your way back to your room,
knowing you wouldn’t make it to Psychology class that day.
Don’t talk about the guilt for not turning him in.
Take your ass to a talk show or a support group or a priest,
stop throwing the reader around.
Don’t tell the never ending end
of your whiny little poem. Get a grip.
Especially if your roommate laughed and said
Why would anybody want to rape you?
And the counselor said you’ve got to take control
of your life, and your boyfriend tried to understand
why even his understanding would never be enough,
why even his softest fingertips would always be too much.
So you drank yourself into a quiet rage
and now six years later it’s backed up in a corner
of your throat, bristling, sideways, ready to lunge
at the thickest, closest, slickest, hardest vein.
Nobody wants to hear about it anymore.
And the editor doesn’t care that
you’ve already cut half the words
and many of the details.
It’s still too sprawling, too baggy,
too talky, not fresh.
Go tell it to Ginsberg, we’ve
got a comma to perfect.
But if you’re that damned stubborn, go ahead.
You’ll write the poem alone
and it’ll live in a junk drawer
swelling up like a belly
under a pink pile of rejection.
Serves you right.
So stop acting like a bitchy female poet.
It just won’t work. It’s just not fresh.


Web Site: Courage in Patience by Author Beth Fehlbaum

Reader Reviews for "Don't Write a Poem About Rape"

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Reviewed by Denise Edwards 8/25/2008
Very brave to write this story. As one who has been there, more than once, I can say that the healing begins when you can speak and write about the violent act! It takes away your trust, your feeling of being save, and the ability to feel you are worthy. I know. It's along, painful fight, but it can be won, and you will win it, because women are made of indestrucible material! you can bruise us, but we wont be destroyed! It's past garbage, but sometimes finding the right disposal is hard. Keep looking, my dear sweet child, because it is there, deep inside you!

Love and warm hugs!
Reviewed by Linda Law 7/18/2008
The sad part is the rejection of such a soul wrenching crime... Always be ashamed oh victim.... lest our virgin ears be filled with truth. Honorably written, graphic perhaps...but how else can rape be reported? This is a beautifully written work of a horrific painful life staining event. lindalaw
Reviewed by Clarrisa Ward (Reader) 7/9/2008
Wow. That is so sad. What a horrible thing to have happened. What a beautiful poem.
Reviewed by David Allen 7/1/2008
Powerful! I have covered crime and the courts as a reporter for more than 34 years and have seen how normally good men and women shrink from listening to reports of rape and abuse -- "too graphic" they say. "Oh, she must have led him on," others will smirk. It's the reactions of people like your editor taht cause victimized women to refrain from reporting rape, freeing the bastards to prey on their next victim.
Reviewed by Gene Williamson 6/30/2008
Incredible! I would like to think Beth's account of how an editor
responded to her Rape poem is impossible. Sadly, it's all too
incredible. It's one thing to reject the Rape poem, but to do so
with such vitriol, such close-minded, pompous, ignorance, and
the kind of hate that is dangerous to be on the loose, is incredible.
That editor, in fact, should be hauled into court for sexual abuse.
All of that said, let me add, Beth, that your Don't Write a Poem About
is some of the best, most powerful, writing I've read in many a year.
I hope, we all hope, that soon our society will the evil of rape
as seriously, and with as much anguish, as you do. Incredible. -gene.
Reviewed by Gwendolyn Thomas Gath 6/30/2008

Right we better not do that it might be too damned right if we did, oooocould gather all the rapist up and burn them to bits, but then that wouldn't be right wouldn't be too fresh, nope too fresh at ALL!

This poem is right ont point and the utmost to me, it should be heard and read by all that could stand it.

But then we know that wouldn't be fresh they have read all the stale poem before.

We shall all continue to try to triump over this notorious EVIL reeking and reaping mankind/ but more or less WOMAN KIND!!


Reviewed by Lloyd Lofthouse 6/30/2008
If I had a choice between combat 'again' and going through what the author of this poem experienced, I'd pick combat.

The feeling of helplessness and fear in "Don't Write a Poem About Rape" screams from the page. You can hear the raw pain--both physical and mental--the sense of helplessness renewed by the editor's callus comments. I feel it would be impossible to erase or ease this with a few words from a stranger, but I can’t help myself. I have to respond. Those words on this page are the only way the author has to cope--the only way to start healing and regain a life lost.

What is frightening here is that this editor has seen so many poems about rape, that he has become inhuman and in league with the rapist. Maybe he was a rapist once. What does that tell us about our culture and our society? Although I would never wish this same tragedy on another person, maybe that editor should experience the same thing to understand what this can do to destroy a person's life--making it uninhabitable. It is no wonder that we find the traditional method of publishing going out of style where it is possible for jaded editors and agents to lose touch with their own humanity as they wade through the slush pile rejecting poems, books and short stories because the first sentence sounds like so many others.

I have a sixteen year old daughter and if this happens to her, I can only hope she comes to me and lets me know.
Reviewed by Keith Rowley 6/28/2008
This is the world's vomit, the stench of violation and desolation of the soul. It pushed me to tears of pity and revulsion and a screaming lust for revenge.
May Beth keep telling her tale - again and again and again until the world listens and screams her agony to the heavens. And F***k those who don't wish to listen.
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