This is for Maricruz Ladino and Olivia Tamayo.
This is for Consuelo and Magui and all those who declined
to give their last names, for those who spoke
and those who remained silent.

This is for Alejandra, who drives through red lights
and needs medication to sleep at night,
whose words at the sentencing trial translated to:

It’s like a wound that’s there
and it’s always becoming sore again
and it’s bleeding.

Her fingers are still stained with raspberry juice
but she ties sweaters around her waist
so when her mayordomo says Que nalgotas tienes
he can’t touch her beneath the layers.
Even when the heat scorches fruit on the vines
and her skin blisters with hives
she blankets her body,
ties a bandana around her head, face, neck like a niqab.
She covers her eyes with dark glasses.

Filling her bucket with fruit she tries to forget
that day in August, when the raspberry plants were so overgrown
that she couldn’t see down the row
and there, in the shady arbor of vines,
her mayordomo stood waiting for her.

When the police found his pants
streaked with her menstrual blood,
he claimed it was berry juice.

Did she know when she fled her mountain village
that she’d have to pay with more
than the bucket-weight of berries?

The grocery bins are filled with organic raspberries
that Alejandra can’t afford to buy.
When she sees them,
she looks away.

Lily Dayton

Step-mothers get a bad deal in fairytales, as my mother herself has often ruefully remarked. In fact, in many stories – Hansel and Gretel is an example – it was the children’s own true mother and father who abandoned them in the woods. Some 19th and 20th century collectors and editors found this too hard to stomach, and changed the mother figure to a stepmother as some way of softening the brutality of the stories. We would all prefer to believe that no true mother would abuse her child. But the fairytales were more realistic than the editors. As Alison Lurie wrote, in ‘Don’t Tell the Grown-ups’: “The fairytales had been right all along – the world was full of hostile, stupid giants and perilous castles and people who abandoned their children in the nearest forest.”

Katherine Langrish
Fairytale Reflections

Did you drag me to the dumpster
like a Glad garbage bag full of trash,
glad I was drunk enough to
fuck and chunk over
the edge, a sack
of action toys?
Did pine needles prick
the fingers you used
inside of me, dirt beneath
nails scratching me
as if you were a grizzly bear
digging for seeds,
my vagina your den?
Did the fact I had no choice
make you flinch when
you entered me?

Laurie Kolp

Ordered to lift your skirt

December 29, 2019

During the day you will therefore be dressed, and if anyone should order you to lift your skirt, you will lift it; if anyone desires to use you in any manner whatsoever, he will use you, unmasked, but with this one reservation: the whip. The whip will be used only between dusk and dawn. But besides the whipping you receive from whoever may want to whip you, you will also be flogged in the evening, as punishment for any infractions of the rules committed during the day: for having been slow to oblige, for having raised your eyes and looked at the person addressing you or taking you —you must never look any of us in the face. If the costume we wear in the evening – the one I am now wearing – leaves our sex exposed, it is not for the sake of convenience, for it would be just as convenient the other way, but for the sake of insolence, so that your eyes will be directed there upon it and nowhere else, so that you may learn that there resides your master, for whom, above all else, your lips are intended.

Pauline Réage
Story of O


December 22, 2019

come in my mouth when I’m passed out and roll me on my side
you know, choking hazard
when the morning comes again you come on my eyelids
so that I can’t open them
I will hear a crow outside and think about what I am doing here
I probably hate myself
I mean right
you say I hate a lot of things
feel my consciousness spread out, a gutted fish
and this jersey sheet underneath, warm and wet
like thick folds of flesh like a spiral ham
I used to not like hot foods, but now I do
I used to bury my hate of others in my stomach
but now I just hate cold cereal

Alexandra Naughton

desire passes through me

December 14, 2019

It is not normal that a girl teaches her boy, but I am only showing him what I want, what plays on the insides of my eyelids as I fall asleep. He comes to know the flicker of my expression as a desire passes through me, and I hold nothing back from him. When he tells me that he wants my mouth, the length of my throat, I teach myself not to gag and take all of him into me, moaning around the saltiness. When he asks me my worst secret, I tell him about the teacher who hid me in the closet until the others were gone and made me hold him there, and how afterwards I went home and scrubbed my hands with a steel wool pad until they bled, even though after I share this I have nightmares for a month. And when he asks me to marry him, days shy of my eighteenth birthday, I say yes, yes, please, and then on that park bench I sit on his lap and fan my skirt around us so that a passerby would not realize what was happening beneath it.

– I feel like I know so many parts of you, he says to me, trying not to pant. And now, I will know all of them.

Carmen Maria Machado
The Husband Stitch

Dream House As Erotica

In the late spring, you surprise yourself by asking her to cover your mouth as you come. She does, pressing a firm palm against your crescendoing howl, and it’s as if the sound is being pushed back into your body so that it might suffuse your every molecule. When you are ebbing, and try to inhale but can’t, she lets go, and you can feel the lingering tingle of unlanguage.

After this, you ask her to talk to you in a low, raspy stream while she fucks you, and she does: switching effortlessly between English and French, muttering about her cock and how it’s filling you up, pushing her hand over your face and grabbing the architecture of your jaw to turn it this way and that. She shaves her cunt smooth, and it glows like the inside of a conch shell. She loves wearing a harness; you suck her off that way and she comes like it’s real, bucking and lifting off the mattress.

You don’t know what is more of a miracle: her body, or her love of your body. She haunts your erotic imagination. You are both perpetually wet. You fuck, it seems, everywhere: beds and tables and floors; over the phone. When you are physically next to each other, she loves to marvel over your differences: how her skin is pale as skim milk and yours, olive; how her nipples are pink and yours are brown. “Everything is darker on you,” she says. You would let her swallow you whole, if she could.

Carmen Maria Machado
In the Dream House

unspeakable results

November 18, 2019

One need only watch totalitarians at work to see that once men gain power over other men’s minds, that power is never used sparingly and wisely, but lavishly and brutally and with unspeakable results.

E.B. White
Party of One, On Democracy

Loving me is difficult

September 2, 2019

Loving me is difficult.
Because sometimes
I shed my skin too quickly
Trying to forget what it feels like
To be held by the brown callous palms
Of uncles, friends and strangers.

My new skin never remembers
The coolness of your touch
On the parts of my body where you need maps and lights to navigate safely.

Loving me is difficult
Because sometimes
When it hurts too much to become
I wear masculinity like a cloak
And refuse to leave enough room for you in the spaces between my fingers

I forget the taste of your mouth
And allow bitterness to drip from my lips
The kind of bitterness that tastes like hate

Loving me is difficult
Because sometimes
I ask you not to say “I love you”
Afraid that it will sound a lot like
The first one I ever heard
I will be 8 again, trapped beneath the taste of sweat and disgust.

I forget, that your I love yous
Sound like caresses and taste like nectar.

Loving me is difficult
Because sometimes
I package my anger and grief neatly
And hide it in my sternum
Waiting for it to become potent enough to poison you

I haven’t learned how to stop eating my emotions.
Or how to stop throwing them up on your lovely blue dress.

Loving me is difficult
Because sometimes
When you kiss me
I slip marriage into your mouth
And refuse to perform the Heimlich
When it becomes lodged in your throat

I forget that you choose me every day
And choosing me in a wedding dress won’t change a thing.

Loving me is difficult
Because sometimes
I forget to see the world in you

I forget that your pupils are galaxies
And you are wind.

Loving me is difficult
I am still learning to not pick at my wounds.

Charli Cleland

A Case File

August 6, 2019

She explained how she had blown
off the legs of her father with his own shotgun and,

with the help of her bruised and weeping
mother, dragged him out back behind the barn, heard

the cows moving in the stays, as they
lumbered toward the pig pen, five hogs waiting

with eyes like dinner plates. They could
smell the bleeding. Her father was nothing but moans

and whimpers spreading ribbons of
red in the snow. Over the fence they threw him

then walked back to the house. I looked
back once, she said. Mama gripped my shoulder, turned

me back toward the mudroom and told me
there was no reason to worry, he weren’t coming.

The way they both strode tall, accomplished, regal
down the red carpet father had left for them.

The last kindness he’d done them, their eyes shining
through the early silver morning.

Dawson Steeber