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Roots and Branches; Missoula Rape Poem

Roots and Branches; Missoula Rape Poem image
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(Editor's note: Marge Piercy was in Missoula, Montana recently to read some of her poetry. Extremely moved by Missoula women's accounts of the lack of official response to assaults on women, and after a sleepless night, she wrote the following poem.)

Missoula Rape Poem

There is no difference between being raped and being pushed down a flight of cement steps except that the wounds also bleed inside.

There is no difference between being raped and being run over by a truck except that afterward men ask if you enjoyed it.

There is no difference between being raped and losing a hand in a mowing machine except that doctors don't want to get involved, the police wear a knowing smirk, and in small towns you become a veteran whore.

There is no difference between being raped and going head first through a windshield except that afterward you are afraid not of cars but half the human race.

The rapist is your boyfriend's brother

He sits beside you eating popcorn.

Rape fattens on the fantasies of the normal male

Like a maggot in garbage.

Fear of rape is a cold wind blowing all of the time on a woman's hunched back.

Never to stroll alone on a sand road through pineweeds, never to climb a trail across a bald spot on a mountain without that aluminum in the mouth when I see a man climbing toward me.

Never to open the door to a knock without that razor just grazing the throat.

The fear of the dark side of hedges, the back seat of the car, the empty house rattling keys like a snake's warning.

The fear of a smiling man whose pocket is a knife waiting to glide its shark's length between my ribs.

The fear of the serious man in whose fist is locked hatred.

All it takes to cast a rapist is to be able to be able to see your own body as jackhammer, as blowtorch, as adding-machine gun.

All it takes is hating that body your own, your self, your muscle that softens to flab.

All it takes is to push what you hate, what you fear onto the soft alien flesh.

To bucket out invincible as a tank armored with treads without senses to possess and punish in one act, to rip up pleasure, to murder those who dare live in the leafy flesh open to love.