Survivor Poetry: ‘Unnamed Woman’

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My mother cut out clippings from the newspaper with a pair of silver scissors,
gliding them along the marble countertop with a swoosh as I cut my French toast
into trapezoids with my fork. I never drank my orange juice. It left a bad
taste in my mouth when I brushed my teeth and besides, orange juice
did not belong to me anymore. It belonged on the list, ‘no longer innocent,’
and I hardly paid attention to the articles in the newspaper anyway but there
was still no convincing him of that. There was no convincing him
of most things that I tried and there was no way I knew of to drown
out the tone of his voice over my mother’s cheerful ring. There’s a nice
picture of you. [Ugly! Stupid! Fake!] My mother said. A nice picture
of a girl that looked like me, running with one hand in the air and a white
soccer ball in the net behind her. Blurry. The article below it takes up
half a page and continues on C5 but I flip to C6 by mistake and I read
about an unnamed woman who was r       d two nights ago in her own house
by a man she (thought she) knew. And if you hold up the page, staring now
at C5 and looking at the letters of my name in the light from the kitchen window,
you’ll find the articles run together. The same black ink on the same dull
white paper and that’s as far as I’ll ever get to reading the article today.

Years later, I will flip through one of the three ring binders my grandmother
used to press each clipping into and I will notice the article I never read
and I will sit on my bedroom floor in my new house in my new city in my
new life and it would read like a fairy tale I wish could have been real.
‘Did I really do all that?’ I’ll ask my mom when she walks past my room and she
will pause in the doorway and take a minute to put it all together and she will
say ‘yes. Yes you did. Yes.’ And I will try to believe her only because my name
is written in the ink and the picture of the girl looks something like me
and I will wonder if the man was ever caught or put in jail or if he even stepped
foot into a courthouse but I will wait until my mother walks away before
slipping the paper from its plastic covering. I can feel the stabbing in my lower
back, see the world from in between a pair of fingers on my face and I wish I knew
what happened to that woman because it never says, if she survived or if she
walked around in another person’s body all these years. If she woke up
sweating at two am, if she forgot her favorite song or how to speak
out loud or how to look in to a mirror and I wish I knew what it felt like
to be the girl that was smiling, and not the one unnamed.

 

© A. Leigh
  1. Thank you so much for this post; it is very powerful. I think that it illustrates with haunting intensity the way a victim feels after being abused. By writing this, by sharing your pain with others, you are no longer that unnamed woman. You are taking back your name and your life. And you are helping others to find theirs again as well. Much love and luck on your journey.

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