The Assaulted

(TW: Sexual assault trauma)

They walk with me like ancestors
—one step, two step, gone—
flickering in and out of being
like fireflies before the world’s first
sunrise. Some walk as whisper-soft
as sighs breathed in isolation, some
step with the agitation of a pounding
heart, looking back over their shoulders
until the end of time, some
twitch and twirl with madness, fingers
pressed to their ears so they won’t hear
their own screams. 

Each morning when I dress
it is these amazing women who lace the ties
on my armour, these warriors who strap on
my sword, these betrayed whose lips
mouth prayers and whose eyes shift
and change with the shadows of the present
and the past: the same pain that churns
in my gut, the same fear that courses
through my blood each day when men
hold me at knife-point shivers
through their forms like the songs
they can no longer sing.

Their feet pad softly
like teardrops hitting the smoking earth,
united by injustice, united by bodies
and spirits ravaged
and destroyed, abandoned
to the darkness when they most needed
help. I thank them
for reminding me of truth
in an endless night, of hope and
community as poison seeps
from the lips of those
who forget.

The assaulted hold vigil
at my bedside like witnessing
a graveside service; I scream
into the same pillows they did, eyes
swollen, heart
bleeding, clothing
torn by the claws of creatures
I can’t bear to look at, heartbreak
the seductive tongue of madness, fear
choking me as completely
as this world that can’t stand
a woman’s voice.

I promise them
—as their phantom forms fade—
that I will always remember,
that when the lies of sexism hit
my ears, I will rally beneath their broken
words, scream with a voice that isn’t quite gone
yet, that when my power is sucked
from my lips like the dark kiss
of this world’s ending, I will breathe
the air they lend me and shake the earth
with all of the power
of a woman.

Frances Koziar

Frances Koziar has published 50+ poems in over 30 different literary magazines. She is a young (disabled) retiree and a social justice advocate, and she lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.