*I wasn’t planning on posting this poem until it was published in the upcoming collection “Best Poems of WOWPS” that it was selected for - but in light of the recent Steubenville verdict and CNN coverage, I could not stay silent.*
The first hitchhiker
I ever picked up
I dropped off in the wrong place.
We were both backpackers –
young, dirty, and foreign.
I was so excited to help,
I didn’t even realize my mistake
until I was too far
to turn around.
I’d left him on a busy overpass –
gray eyes and tired hands
to search for another way out.
The first time I hitchhiked
I kept my three inch knife
clutched in a fist
inside my bag the whole time.
They were the only ones who stopped:
thick set country boys,
dogs barking in the bed
of their black pick up truck.
I was suddenly so grateful
for my baggy clothes –
my unwashed hair –
their harmless questions –
but I never shook the doubt in my gut –
and I didn’t look back when I finally got out.
You could not pay me enough money
to hitchhike in America.
In America, no one looks at you
and everyone stares.
In America, fear is a gender
I am too familiar with.
In America, the street is a river
and all of the men are drowning.
All of the men need you to save them.
All of the men need you.
All of the men have been raised to believe
women are supposed to fuck them.
All of the men expect you to fuck them.
In America, she was asking for it.
In America, I walk with my keys shoved between my knuckles.
All of my retorts burn in the wildfire of my throat.
My eyes are sidewalks.
My body: a used noose.
Every voice is a corner –
a dog fight –
America says, “That poor girl in India –
only in the Third World –
how could six men rape her
and no one do anything?”
In America, I walk down the street
and a boy leans out of his car
to scream “Yo Slut! Pull down your hood!”
In America, I am with my boyfriend
when a man hisses in my ear
so that he and I have a secret.
So that he and I are he and I.
So that I will flinch when the next man
stares for too long.
In America, a man pretended to masturbate on me
during a poetry show
because I was too much talk
and not enough take.
Because my mouth was a siren –
A hive –
Because no one called him
a misogynist after the show but me.
In America, we are taught
to scream the word “FIRE”
if being assaulted because no one
will help us if we yell “RAPE.”
In America, six members
of the high school football team
can show photos of the girl
they pissed on
and no one will do anything.
Their male authority figures will condone it.
Rape is an American Past Time: A National Sport.
In America, she shouldn’t have gotten so sloppy.
In America, boys will be boys.
In America, twenty two elected Senators can oppose
The Violence Against Women Act.
In America, when you type the word “rape”
into Google the first option to pop up
is RAPE JOKES.
In America, my body belongs
to the first person who demeaned it:
the boy who broke up with me
because I wouldn’t have sex with him.
The one who taught me to find something
to burn. To mold. To shrink. To hate –
My worth stolen like a bicycle in the night –
a yellow blur in the dark.
In America, I am always searching
for another way out.
In America, I am always on fire.
I am always on fire.
© Carrie Rudzinski 2013