Warning: This poem discusses rape.
I go to my room. I take off
the dress. I hang up the dress at the end
of the closet. I don't know what I do
with the bra. I think I take it off. I'm
pretty sure I took it off. I don't know
when I collect the other things from the living
room floor. I know the shoes stayed
where they were for a while because I remember
one day they surprised me. I saw them
and I thought what are my shoes doing out
here and then I remembered and I put them
away. As though preparing for weather,
although this is Florida where they haven't
had any in years but natives say it's time
again for a tropical storm to ransack this coast
with voices betraying memories oblivious to lack
of running water and light, I put on white cotton
underpants, hand-me-down jeans of my son's, one
of his oxford cloth shirts diluted navy and white
vertical stripes, his navy cotton crew neck
sweater that swallows me, my own white cotton
socks and canvas sneakers. When my son says
he always knows where to look for his clothes,
I tell him I don't know how they get in here.
Laundry just goes astray on you sometimes. But
he is young and doesn't understand that yet. I
go with the dog into my son's room where he is
not sleeping because he is sleeping in his cousin's
room in my sister's house. I get on the floor
with the phone book. Somehow it opens to a page
that lists Rape Crisis Hotline in bold type.
I dial. The woman who answers tells me she isn't
Rape Crisis anymore. She's another hotline.
She gives me another number. I dial. A recording
tells me Rape Crisis Hotline has a new number. I
dial. The new number has been disconnected.
I call the police. I say I don't want to report
anything or anything like that but I was just
wondering if you might happen to have a number
for something like a rape hotline. The man gets
off the phone. There is talk in the background.
He gets back on the line. He gives me a number.
It is the number in the phone book. I look
at the clock. Everywhere in America it is still
the middle of the night. I dial Wisconsin
where my best friend since sixth grade in suburban
Connecticut and Miss Donna's ballet class lives now
a time zone away. Julie says, Hello. I say, Rape.
Julie says, What. I say, Rape. Julie says, What.
I spell it. Oh, Julie says, rape. No one says
anything. For the real life sound of her, I
ask about the weather. We talk then of winter
in Beloit and how she is wearing her hair now.
Still a blunt cut but a little shorter in the back.
Julie won't let me go until I promise to leave
the house, go to my sister's. While promising
I know I am able to go nowhere and it is nowhere
If you're interested in reading more on this topic, check out more of Frances Driscoll's poems, which you can find by clicking the tag with her name.