Not Asking for It
* Warning: this poem contains brutality
Veronica & I languished
like bougainvillea across her four
poster that summer, the window
unit humming. I carefully braided
her waist-long hair. She’d brush
through strands of my red-blonde
tresses. Wispy, they tangled
into thick matted balls so knotted
Veronica borrowed her mom’s
dressmaker shears and clipped
them out like removing
an old boyfriend from family
pictures. The Beatles broke
up that year. Manson cranked
his dark music box. In my high
school lanky still-growing
boys got draft lottery
numbers. We were teen
girls & knew we’d never choke
on Agent Orange, never scurry
through the jungle
to a booby trap death. There was
a downside. Whether we were
the color of peeled
birch or wild cherry
many were not nice
to women. At 19, I found
out. Our innocent four-poster
ramblings came to brutal
conclusion after I was bludgeoned
with a boot heel, dragged
to an urban construction
site, raped & left to die.
Powerful narrative. You create incredible moments throughout- and set the time frame with great images. The dressmaker’s shears, the tree color, the way the U & O sounds work in the second to last stanza. Thanks for sharing this one!
A tough read, Linda. That transition from innocence to “brutal conclusion” is abrupt and hurts. My feelings toward the men of your poem go from sympathetic to horrifying.
Well I like many, many men. It’s not a diss. Not quite sure where the poem came from. A sort of claiming?
Bill. I know we don’t talk a lot about revision or making changes here but I think I need to remedy the poem to balance it so it doesn’t come off as man hating.
Sorry, I didn’t take it as man-hating. But some men do deserve to be hated.
It’s a powerful piece of ownership.
I do not think the poem comes off as man-hating at all. It’s a poem about war and adolescence. Those two things are difficult to put together. I think you are onto something with the pace of the poem. I felt like I was dropped out of a helicopter with incoming fire in that last stanza.
I agree with Amy’s last sentence. Although the title provides a warning and I relax at “bougainvillea,” stanza after stanza, I’m nodding in agreement, only to jump back in horror at the end. It’s perfect.
I think I’ve read a.version of this poem before, though perhaps the ending is new? It’s brutal of course, but I admire how unflinching it is. Some things have to be stared down with utterly clear eyes, which is what you’re doing here.
Yes, Kevin. I changed the poem quite a bit in the second half. It started off as a poem about priviledge of different kinds. It morphed into a poem about my experience as a woman in the late 60s and early 70s.
The way you set up the innocence of the first stanzas (adolescent friendship with best friend V, how girls didn’t have to go to war) is shattered by the brutal final stanzas.
This; an Important poem, it shows our real war wasn’t overseas but in our own streets.
I don’t know how to describe what this makes me feel, but I’ll try – aside from the horror and grief I feel at the end, it was like having a certain time and place held before me and swirled so that I could see its many sides and insides. Like a top that makes a picture but only when it spins and a window opens up to show it
Love the historical context of Beatles, Manson, Agent Orange. That wistfulness throughout is very lulling and works well to lure us into the raw and brutal ending.. Thank you for sharing this with us!
WOW. This is so powerful. The ending hinted at but a terrible surprize. It takes courage to write about things like this. It is real. Thanks for your vulnerability.
My heart broke reading the last stanza. The abrupt brutality, the unfairness, the loss! I’m so sorry, Linda. But, truth-telling is necessary. This witnessing is the work of poets.
The abruptness of the blow struck at the end seems to come from out of nowhere, an unguarded anecdotal, somewhat whimsical remembrance, making it all the more shocking. This poem took a while to write, I remember earlier versions.