It’s been over eight months since allegations of abuse against poet & novelist Gregory Sherl first came to light. You can read many of these words here, some words by Kia Groom here, more words from Kat Dixon here & here, and words from myself here, here, & here. I’ve written poems about this here & here. A domestic violence relief fundraiser was started here.
But it’s increasingly clear that our words don’t always mean a whole lot, and this is true not just for us but for victims everywhere. We are questioned, silenced, minimized, ignored. And anyone who engages in this silencing is an accomplice to the crimes themselves, upholding the systems that normalize and thus perpetuate such violence. We speak about this publicly not only because Gregory Sherl is a published author who tends to prey on women who admire his work but also because violence against women is a human right’s issue. We speak about this publicly because these are public issues. And we speak about our rape and abuse not because we think we are special for having endured it but because we know we are not.
It’d be nice if it went away. It’d be nice if our words were enough. But we don’t live in a nice world. We live in this world.
And I live here, in this apartment. This is my home. This is what it looks like.
This is where he stood when he shouted at me for wearing a T-shirt to bed. I wasn’t supposed to wear a T-shirt to bed. I was supposed to be naked. This is where he stood and this is where he raged. This is where he stood the first time I heard how big his voice could get.
his voice that you haven’t figured out how to describe but every time you think about it you see him with his black hair screaming across the sky of your brain, you see him with his black hair, you see him and you wonder why the sky doesn’t have more holes in it, how that blue stays so blue
This is where he screamed I NEVER WANT TO FUCKING SEE YOU AGAIN.
This is the collection of books from which he took one and threw it across the room. I wasn’t supposed to have slept with a poet before him and I especially was not supposed to own any books from this poet. I would show you the book but I had to throw it away. I didn’t want to throw it away. I knew I didn’t do anything wrong by owning this book. It was still in a box. I’d just moved in. But it was my fault, it was my fault, I was very very bad for having this book.
This is the dashboard of my car where he slammed his fist after I said I didn’t want to pull over and put my mouth on his cock. It was 2 AM, some highway in Missouri or maybe we were already in Iowa. I’d driven the 14 hours to his apartment in Mississippi because he couldn’t pack his suitcase and I really thought he might die if I didn’t come to him. He was always almost dying. I had his local police department in my phone, in case of an ambulance, in case of emergency (I was the emergency, I needed the ambulance). And when I said I couldn’t make the drive he tried to break up with me. But then he didn’t, he didn’t mean it, he said he said he said, he said he just loved me so much. He needed me. The night I arrived was the first night he raped me but I’ll tell that story another time. I drove most of the way back to Minnesota and when I said I didn’t want to pull over and put my mouth on his cock this is where he slammed his fist and said Jesus you’re so fucking cruel. I cried and he ignored me for hours until suddenly he didn’t. Suddenly it was as if it never happened.
This is my shower and this is where he screamed Are you going to fix this?! This is all your fault. Now take a shower with me. Have sex with me and fix this.
This is the chair he kicked over on Mother’s Day. This is where he told me I was such a cold person. I wasn’t feeling well. At the time I was really struggling with my anorexia and the thought of a Mother’s Day brunch was too overwhelming. I said I’d rather stay in and make pancakes, less calories. I started making the pancakes and joked, Hey, how come I’m making the pancakes? It was not a good idea to make a joke. This is the chair he kicked after he knocked everything that was on the table off of it. This is the chair he kicked after yelling at me for making him feel guilty for not making pancakes. YOU’RE SUCH A COLD PERSON, YOU KNOW THAT RIGHT?
This is my sofa. This is where he spent the day ignoring me because I got up and left the house without having sex with him and didn’t want to have sex with him immediately upon my return.
The black bag is his, collecting dust in my bathroom. I don’t yet know how to touch it.
These are his coffee mugs. I don’t know how to touch them yet either. Just the other week I got rid of his soap. It is a slow process, this gathering up pieces of myself, all this scrubbing and cleaning.
Now you press the word rape flat against your tongue and feel your chest shatter into fragments, so many pieces of bone you will spend the rest of the night sweeping up with your hands, the rest of your life weeping, for the rest of your life you will always have been raped.
This is my bed. This is my home. This is where he raped me. This is where I go when I want to feel safe but some nights I remember too much. The sheets have been washed but I know his dead skin cells are in my mattress because that’s what dead skin cells do, sink down and burrow like the mini corpses that they are. I don’t always think of it this way but today I do because today I am tired of pretending. Or maybe I am just no longer able to. Today my chest split open like a tree struck by lightning and I know it’s because every night I sleep on top of so much of his death. Our death. My death. At least it is death, at least it is death, at least he is not here to wake me in the middle of the night with his cock, trying to enter me from behind and then yelling at me for not being wet enough in my sleep.
Maybe some people look the other way because they don’t want to get involved.
That choice is a privilege victims of rape and abuse do not have.