Alternate Names for Rape Survivors *
1. held breath in the half-light of red-eyed dawn
2. muscle tension before the brick is thrown
3. forgotten bodies piled on a dorm-room floor
4. someone’s daughter
5. shade from a leaf gone once the sun moves in the sky
6. life destroyer of the hometown football star
7. huddled masses yearning to breathe breathe breathe br
8. twisted knot, a hive of cuts on thighs, wrists
9. disembodied soul and the cat’s 10th life
10. your teacher, bus driver, dental hygienist, the girl who sits
stone-faced at church
12. every third woman reading this
13. a reinvention of reinvention
14. the millisecond before the razor or the noose
* after Danez Smith's Alternate Names for Black Boys
Father’s footsteps behind
me, still, railroad spike
through temple. My sleep is chewed
tin foil. I deposit this animal
where I can.
lip gloss, nail polish, sheer
stockings. The party
will be filled with actuaries,
lawyers, my mind
taken from the room—a blood-stained cot.
Skin sticks, makes swallowing
hard. How can I
smile and eat water
crackers under dimmed
lighting. I’ve come to rub—
coarse, hard stone.
I gather up arms, cut
veins into rock, hold moths in my
mouth. Each scrap of history, a violent
suicide. Every day I enter
a taxi filled with teeth, the humming
chorus of railroads and machinery
like the open-mouthed kiss
of the sun. I beg my scars
to sing back, call them
beloved. Night is a rejected
hand, homeless, shackled by
winter chains. It’s five o’clock
and I haven’t made dinner. Where
is the meaning in daily?
I wind hair around
fingers, reunite baskets of longing
with their rightful owners. Know
nothing is left but to begin it all
The Holy, Ghosted
Catch this trickle—snakes bending
into the dark of your spine. Convert
wedding rings to rain leaping into dust-
dry pores. Whips are more
devious without flourish. To hell
with atmosphere and confetti.
You’re not good
enough. Salt, speed
and red balloons— everything
time talent love—Organs breed
deception. Fraud. Fake.
Steel lids, insomniac
sentinels. Pry eyes open.
Watch the movie, Alex.
Body corporal and dissimilar,
each now. I am not
what ever was. Impotent
atoms veil layers of truth.
Spit and blood folded over
into the reality
of every moment
when I have failed.
Terri Muuss is a social worker, director, performer, speaker, author & survivor whose poetry has received three Pushcart and two Best Of the Net nominations. Her first book, Over Exposed, was released in 2013 and in 2016 Terri co-edited an anthology of NY women poets entitled Grabbing the Apple. Terri has performed her one-woman show, Anatomy of a Doll, around the US and Canada since 1998. Her second book, godspine, is forthcoming from 3:A Taos Press. www.terrimuuss.com