is rape? I asked my mother
the summer when I was nine
Rape, she said, is
what men do to women.
Her answer was vague enough that
rape remained not so threatening until three
years later when the neighbors’ son, a youth leader
in the local church, took me into their house to punish me,
because I was the oldest of the kids playing on the porch swing
that broke and he could call the police or he could mete out the punishment.
Make a sound and I will kill you, he told me, when there came a knock on the door
and I made no sound. I was silent when he took me across his knee, tore my underpants off and shoved his fingers up me with one hand while striking
my bare ass with his other hand until he’d had enough pleasure and
threw me onto his parents’ bed. If you tell, he said, I will rape
you. Do you know what that means? I nodded dumbly.
And then I will kill you, he said, quietly enough
to be his church voice, and I will rape you
again. And he pulled me down the
stairs, out the backdoor toward
the car but I got loose and
ran, faster than I ever
ran since, and I did
tell what he had
done but we,
my mother and I,
and he became every
dark-haired young man I saw
until my sixteenth birthday when
his face covered the front page because
he had raped and murdered a young woman.
Did you know there is no synonym for rape?
* * * * *
"What is rape? I asked my mother the summer when I was nine" first appeared in Gargoyle Magazine (2021).
Nina Heiser is a poet, writer and retired journalist currently living in central Florida and New York. Her work has appeared in Tuck Magazine; Cadence, the Florida State Poets Association Anthology; Vociferous Press anthology Screaming from the Silence; Embark Literary Journal; and Gargoyle Magazine. Her poetry and photographs have been featured in Pendemics Journal, and Of Poets & Poetry.