On Sex (part 1): “This House I Cannot Leave”

Hayley Bouchard: http://www.flickr.com/photos/questa/193855314

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

another neighborhood.


                                                  People say

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.


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