‘Rape’
by Charlotte Jade Puddifoot

October: I’m eighteen, shortcutting home
through an autumn-burnished churchyard -
copper-lustred leaves, moss-skinned stone -
a jaunty swing of skater skirt and arm,
college folder square-sturdy in my hand.
In the moment. In the last pale pulse of sun.

“Hey, can you tell me…?”
I halt. I turn…

Cold earth. Colder blade dimpling my skin.
My coral cameo earrings scatter,
daisy-dotting the green.
My back is spiked by needles of yews.
Sun skews, sky side-slides
until his face is the firmament.
I’m staring into the tumid blank-bloat of blue;
the ground hardening beneath me,
the death-spike trees stiffening.

Heavy Special Brew breaths,
grubby, moist fingers
like grubs crawling over my breasts,
and, weirdly, I’m smelling pepper -
horror-spice of pungent lust
its acrid nose-thrust -
and woodsmoke is drifting from somewhere…
lung-flame, tongue-flames
of searing words – his words -
blazing like the umber tumbling leaves.

“Please…Please…I’ll…”
Fear-forced bargaining, but I’m beyond care.
And I’m aware
of the church steeple rising,
its phallus penetrating sky.
The tilting church could topple
as tears crystal-crush in my eyes.
Fear-faint, already half gone
in a soundless scream, my muted mouth
mouths silent goodbyes
to Sarah, to Mum.

Time slows to a crawl.
I try to call. Nobody comes
but the man who has me ground-pinned.
Bleachy stink of semen
whitening my ripped skater skirt,
but some things don’t fade
and there is no clean in this, just dirt,
wet leaf-mulch, shame.
Ineradicable hurt.

Sacred soil is soiled, sullied.
Stunned, I stumble
shoeless, knickerless,
into the trees and heave
into the mud, into the leaves
strings of spittle-sick,
my thoughts strung out,
reality spun out.

From stinking, pulped leaves I retrieve
crushed coral earrings,
ground-grimy knickers,
my white court shoes
that whitely scream the 80s,
the scattered tatters of essays -
white, like fallen feathers, sunk in the sludge,
muddied, the red-inked words bloodied.
I gather them together.
Gather myself.
I go

forward into my future, stained from pain
and tainted touch, the smears of fear, self-disgust.
And oozing slime-soft into my ears
the mire of incongruous apology: I’m sorry
don’t tell anyone
– I won’t.

I don’t.

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