Feminist Friday: The poetry of abuse

**I apologize. TW: child sexual abuse. This post was pre-scheduled to publish and I inadvertently disregarded adding this TW in my last edit.

Every so often I pick up one of my old textbooks on gender, or feminism, or feminist theory. Most of them are designed to not only provide historical, and factual insight into those topics, but they also include selected readings by a variety of authors and activists.

I was thumbing through one of my favorite texts looking for something meaningful to share on the blog for Feminist Friday. Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings, by Susan Shaw and Janet Lee, took me through a number of classes and provided almost endless resources for required papers while filling me with renewed passion as a feminist researcher/ sociology student.

The tenth chapter in this book discusses gender violence. Like the rest of the book, this chapter ends with readings that speak to this subject. Today I’d like to share a piece of poetry by Grace Caroline Bridges from 1994. I am having great difficulty finding any information about this author. The internet lists a few college essays written about the poem, but those are located at sites that are not fully accessible so I have no way of knowing if a bio might be a part of the essay. Other searches of Bridges name lead me to a few anthologies of women’s writing –  places like Amazon or Goodreads, but no actual documents that stand alone as a bio. Because of the moving, horrific, and powerful words associated with this poem, I would like to know more about Bridges herself. If anyone has any information that they could pass on I would appreciate it.

I haven’t been able to find any sort of copy of the poem to paste here either, so I will do my best to format the work as closely as possible to what is printed in the text by Shaw and Lee.

Lisa’s Ritual, Age 10*

Afterwards when he has finished

lots of mouthwash helps

to get rid of her father’s cigarette taste.

She runs a hot bath

to soak away the pain

like red dye leaking from her

school dress in the washtub.

 

She doesn’t cry

When the bathwater cools she adds more hot.

She brushes her teeth for a long time.

 

When she finds the corner of her room,

curls against it. There the wall is

hard and smooth

as teacher’s new chalk, white

as a clean bedsheet. Smells

fresh. Isn’t sweaty, hairy, doesn’t stick

to skin. Doesn’t hurt much

when she presses her small backbone

into it. The wall is steady

while she falls     away:

first the hands     lost

arms dissolving

feet gone

the legs

dis-     jointed

body cracking down

the center like a fault

she falls inside

slides down like

dust

like kitchen dirt

slips off

the dustpan into

noplace

a place where

nothing happens,

nothing ever happened.

 

When she feels the cool

wall against her cheek

she doesn’t want to

come back. Doesn’t want to

think about it.

The wall is quiet, waiting.

It is tall like a promise

only better.

*Shaw, S. M., & Lee, J. (2012). Women’s voices, feminist visions: Classic and contemporary readings. New York, NY. McGraw Hill.

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3 thoughts on “Feminist Friday: The poetry of abuse”

  1. A thought about why you may not be finding biographical info on the poet: this may well not be the name she goes by in the world. Abuse and DV survivors often publish under alternate names or (if the abuse was during childhood) change their names upon adulthood. Dylan Farrow, for instance, hasn’t gone by that name in many years; I believe she takes great care to not have it and her current name publicly linked.
    Even publications that make a big point about “real names only!” have exceptions in their policy for cases of writers discussing abuse.

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