month's Moon Prize, the 76th, goes to Nina Heiser's poem "What is rape? I asked my mother the summer when
I was nine."
What is rape? I asked my
mother the summer when I was nine
by Nina Heiser
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, we never spoke of it, 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 ayoung 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. Herwork has appeared in Tuck Magazine;Cadence, the Florida
State Poets Association Anthology; Vociferous Press anthology Screaming from the Silence; Embark Literary Journal; and GargoyleMagazine.Her poetry and photographs have been featured in Pendemics Journal, and Of Poets & Poetry.