On Sex (part 1): “This House I Cannot Leave”
It turns out that April is both poetry appreciation month and sexual assault awareness month. This conjunction made me think of a Barbara Kingsolver poem that maps reflections about sexual assault onto a description of the aftermath of a burglary. Forget my preliminaries… just read the poem:
This House I Cannot Leave
By Barbara Kingsolver
My friend describes the burglar:
how he touched her clothes, passed through rooms
leaving himself there,
staining the space
between walls, a thing she can see.
She doesn’t care what he took, only
that he has driven her out, she can’t
stay in this house
she loved, scraped the colors of four families
from the walls and painted with her own
and planted things.
She is leaving fruit trees behind.
She will sell, get out, maybe
Get over it. The market isn’t good. They advise
that she think about cash to mortgage
and the fruit trees
but the trees have stopped growing for her.
I offer no advice.
I tell her I know, she will leave. I am thinking
Of the man who broke and entered
Of the years it took to be home again
in this house I cannot leave.
Just want to say two things. (1) Sexual assault happens (and has happened) to many, many more people than we realize: mothers, sisters, lovers, brothers, friends, children. (2) Healing also happens. Slowly, as Kingsolver indicates in those last lines. Because the healing has to happen at the scene of the crime: in our violated selves.