Sestina for Misogyny, Rape Culture, and Revolution

Jaclyn Dwyer

My English teacher put his fist to my chin as if to punch

me in the face. He gave my jaw a nudge and said “you’re a doll,

kid.” His name sounded like pervert but he taught me to love

Hemingway, ran to keep his buttons closed, but still couldn’t know

what it’s like to spin into a waterspout spitting psalms. Getting raped

is a storm like this, like getting in a car accident on the way to school.

Getting raped, pulled over in a parking lot on the way to school

sprays a shrapnel injury, body splintered while eating cheese. No punch

or scar, just a pathetic blur pooled across his backseat. Rape

made me a Dalí clock telling all the wrong times. Raggedy Ann doll,

Peter Pan collar wilted like lily petals pried open. The nuns didn’t know,

didn’t excuse my tardies. I closed my eyes while ladies shouted LOVE,

rich ladies in tennis skirts, lipstick blazing O mouths, O, LOVE

O, while mine melted, a defeated sunset I had to reapply before school.

Getting raped is a determined bird flopping half-winged in high grass, a know-

it-all too afraid to raise her hand to ask, a gnawing appetite, a sucker punch

spooling through your bones, a basement flood that claims your favorite doll.

Waking up to a rape is uncovering a mutation in your DNA. No rape

kit to understand how everything untwists, recoils, reshapes. Rape

comes back to get you. Big Bad knocking the doors of everyone you love,

my husband’s ex-girlfriend. My husband. My every sister. Rape is dol-

phin slaughter you lament before all-you-can-eat sushi. High school

drop-out returned to drop a second time. Rape is a punch

card Hallmark doesn’t make. There are no congratulations, no

get-well balloons, not for you whose name we aren’t supposed to know

but goes viral all the same. I sat with my legs open while unraped

ladies wiped sweat from pastel visors and went home to rum punch,

and daytime TV. Getting raped is a blinding eclipse, it’s latex gloves,

paperclips rubberbanded to a spitball slingshot in the school

bully’s hand. Rape is a red mouth turning blue. They got all dolled

up to sweat. He kept doing it until I was dead weight he needed a dolly

to lift and gave up. That didn’t stop the spectators. Don’t you know

rape is a relationship and a sport? After rape, I came home to my Playskool

dollhouse. Can you win rape? I was fourteen and a half, but after the rape

I said fourteen. Rape is an apocalyptic antiwrinkle cream. After rape, love

grows sticky. My skin spilled clear across the kitchen, tacky punch

I still can’t stop touching as if by stepping and restepping I can punch

the spot away. Our whistles fail us. Where are you when we need you, love,

because right now your friend or mine, me or you, is somewhere getting raped?


about the author