Terri Muuss: Alternate Names for Rape Survivors

Terri Muuss: Alternate Names for Rape Survivors
Photo: Joanna C. Valente

Photo: Joanna C. Valente

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

11.          (me)

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.

Getting ready—


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—

rub against

coarse, hard stone.

Small Detonations 

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 
 Salt, speed
and red balloons— everything
diminishes. Wasting 
time talent love
—Organs breed
deception. Fraud. Fake.
Steel lids, insomniac 
sentinels. Pry eyes open.
Watch the movie, Alex.

Body corporal and dissimilar,
ache in-under-next-to
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 Presswww.terrimuuss.com