Painting the Roses Red
Last night I decided it was time to actually clean my bedroom. Since we moved into the new house last spring the master bedroom seems to have become the dumping ground for things that no one knows where to store. This makes for a pretty lousy area in which to get a restful night’s sleep. It is a very large job however, so I’ve only made a start but it was enough to actually feel a bit accomplished. My dresser and nightstand are now nice and neat and dust-free. The up-side to this small burst of house cleaning energy is that I have a place to put the books I’d like to read. Now they are right where I can reach them handily and read a chapter or two before turning out the light. What’s in the stack? An anthology of poems by Robert Frost, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, a book of plays by Henrik Ibsen (I love Ibsen), and The Lifting Dress by Lauren Berry.
Being the top of the stack, The Lifting Dress was the one I reached for last night. Mind you, I did not read the summary on the back of the book so I really did not know what I was getting into except to know that it was a first collection of poems by a relatively new published poet. Lauren Berry is a high school English teacher with an MFA from the University at Houston and she wrote this collection of poems about a young girl who was raped and how she survived the aftermath. Every poem is strong and powerful, and it was too much for me to read straight through. It’s a small collection, too, only about 64 pages long. But each page is packed. Let me give you a line from the first poem:
“There must be hundreds of ways to be a girl. I”m just the kind who has trouble parting her lips.”
Each poem is a sledgehammer, especially if you are female. You understand the symbolism behind “the red carnation”. You get why “it tastes like poison”. Most of all you understand why she wants to save her sister from death but wants to die herself. My mother was raped when I was five years old and to this day I remember every moment of the aftermath, from seeing her walk in the door to, well, what happened after. I was five. Her pain was my pain, and I understood exactly what had happened. At five, I knew what sex was and how it could be used as a weapon. At five, I learned that because of my gender all I could do was rely on men to keep me safe from other men…and that scared the hell out of me as I grew older and understood more.
Innocence lost. When a girl becomes a woman. When a female learns to fear her own body because nature made her a certain way and society brands her shameful because of it. When all she wants to do is cut off the parts of herself that make her the way she is because it’s toxic and wrong and can happen again. These are the thoughts that ran through my mind while writing the following poem this morning. This one isn’t meant to be pleasant. It’s meant to bring awareness to rape culture, to shaming women because of their gender, to bring understanding that many girls have no idea what is happening to them when their bodies do what is only a natural occurrence.
The Lifting Dress by Lauren Berry is a must read in my opinion. Get it here.
By Jesi Scott
She stuffs the rag as far as it can go,
White roses are not meant to be red,
And hides it where she hopes no one can see
And the shame she feels internally,
The eternal dread,
That red roses do bestow.
There among the flower bed,
She cringes in despair
For the evil that she’s done,
She doesn’t know it’s just begun,
That the virgin moon she must beware
In the crimson days ahead.