Vacant

You are such a fucking liar.
Do not speak to me again of your travels and woes, I care not whether you come or go.
You want your presence to affect me and yet it does not.
My level of desire for you is the same either way,
Vacant.
Vacant
Vacant
My heart is vacant
Why must you torment me with your stories and lies?
You never loved me, you only ever needed me
you need to tell me that you’ll be here, hoping to be received well,
that I would reserve your place, making sure it is vacant
Vacant
Vacant
You never tell me what I can expect from you,
Although, it’s expected, I should know or expect nothing
your room is there, with a color tv
why does it than, feel so vacant, always vacant
Vacant
vacant
you have left my heart vacant
you treat me like a fucking hotel complete with maid and cooking services
don’t you wish the rent included the whore
you don’t want to talk, just fuck, sleep, eat and drive some more
leaving my heart vacant
still unfulfilled

How is this being together?
how does this make you happy?
what are you hoping for?
betterment?
and as you say you are getting better
what is happening to me?
I’m losing faith,
losing patience
losing control
so much I’ve lost already, in the wake of you,
my independence, my hopes for a sensible, romantic lover,
my dreams of stability, peace of mind, a kindred heart
all that you claim to want, you’ve cast away
leaving love vacant
vacant
vacant

By Taunia Rebel

The 17th Carnival of Radical Feminists

Hello all! This month’s Carnival has turned out to be rather long again, but that’s okay. Just goes to show how much important work we’re all doing. There’s lots of great stuff here, so I hope you will all get busy reading. All the best to everyone.

 

Current Events

I am going to open this month’s carnival with an extract from a book soon to be released in Australia called Trafficked by Kathleen Maltzahn, founding director of Project Respect. This is the first book length account of the trafficking of women and girls for prostitution in Australia, and an incredibly important resource in documenting and understanding the realities of trafficked women, and how they have often been unfairly and callously treated by the Australian legal system. The extract is called Trafficking: The First Breakthrough and is posted at Australian Policy Online: Reports. Particularly disturbing is the Australian government’s determination to treat trafficked women as “illegal immigrants”, placing them in detention centres and then deporting them, refusing to recognise them as the victims of crime:

At that time, despite the many crimes committed against the women, if they were found by the Department of Immigration to be in breach of their visa conditions they were put in detention and deported. No charges were laid: even leaving aside the federal sexual slavery legislation, crimes under state law – rape, battery and imprisonment – were going undetected by the authorities.

 

In another article on the trafficking of women and girls in Australia, Kathleen Maltahn calls trafficking The Modern Face of Slavery, posted at ABC News. She says:

It doesn’t matter if women have mobile phones, it doesn’t matter if they are taken on outings, it doesn’t matter if they have food and drink. If a person’s agency is taken away, if their identity is stolen, if they cannot remove themselves from violence, and if they can be bought and sold at whim, they are slaves. This is the reality of many women on “contract” in Australia.

Whether or not we can see this present day form of slavery, and not just look for its past manifestation, is a test of our capacity to recognise a crime against humanity.

 

Posted at Heart’s Women’s Space, Suki Falconberg writes of the prostitution of Iraqi women and girls in Ms Iraq Comments on the Prostitution of Iraqi Women and Girls:

In my view, the story of the 10-year-old Iraqi girl, forced to have sex for money, this is war. All the rhetoric of politicians and journalists cannot excuse what has happened to her. All the fancy phrases about a war being “A Right War” or “A Just War” have no meaning for her. Is the woman who must walk the streets of Baghdad and sell her body to feed her children in any way aware of the politicians, sitting in their neat offices, making the decisions that have destroyed her life?

 

Lara, at her recently begun blog Rychousmama reproduces a disturbing article about the callous behaviour of Italian beach-goers who ignored the bodies of two drowned Roma girls in Italians Don’t Give a Crap About the Roma:

Italian newspapers, an archbishop and civil liberties campaigners expressed shock and revulsion on Monday after photographs were published of sunbathers apparently enjoying a day at the beach just meters from where the bodies of two drowned Roma girls were laid out on the sand.

 

GrrlScientist of Living the Scientific Life brings us The Handmaid’s Tale: Fact or Fiction? about a deeply concerning Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) draft document that seeks to drastically reduce women’s access to birth control in America:

This document proposes to redefine nearly all forms of birth control, especially birth control pills, as a form of abortion and allows any federal grant recipient to obstruct a woman’s access to contraception.

 

Sparkle*Matrix brings attention to the plight of Prossy Kakooza, a Ugandan lesbian woman currently seeking asylum in the UK after being imprisoned, raped and nearly murdered in her own country, in her post Prossy Kakooza Must Not be Returned to Uganda, which reproduces an article telling Prossy’s story:

Prossy had been forced into an engagement when her family discovered her relationship with the girlfriend she met at university, Leah. Both women were marched two miles naked to the police station, where they were locked up.

Prossy’s inmates subjected her to gross acts of humiliation. She was violently raped by police officers who taunted her with derogatory comments like “we’ll show you what you’re missing” and “you’re only this way because you haven’t met a real man.” She was also scalded on her thighs with hot meat skewers.

If you have not already done so, you can help by signing this petition in support of Prossy’s asylum application. Updates about Prossy’s situation can be found here.

 

Women who have expressed concern about Gardasil’s new cervical cancer vaccine have been roundly ridiculed and silenced by the malestream media, however, as increasing numbers of stories emerge about severe side-effects and even deaths resulting from the vaccine, it is pretty obvious there is something to be concerned about, whatever the men might like us to believe. One such story can be found at Gardasil: Women Hurt by Medicine, where Susan Edelman tells how her 17 year old daughter died after receiving the vaccine in My Girl Died as a ‘Guinea Pig’ For Gardasil:

She loved SpaghettiO’s, pepperoni, lilies, listening to her iPod and making her pals laugh.

In her senior yearbook, she wrote, “The best things in life aren’t things, they’re friends.”

Now that’s the quote chiseled into her gravestone.

 

This next post took me back for a (disturbing) minute to my own school days. When I was 11 (in grade 6) we too had a “special class” on make-up, which was of course only attended by the girls, and was given by some woman who turned up from goodness knows where to tell us all about how to make ourselves look “beautiful.” That was in 1993. And since then, it appears, things have only gotten worse, as Hell On Hairy Legs describes make-up courses currently being run for girls in Australian schools by Hillsong, an extreme right-wing Christian group, in her post Hillsong and the Shine Program:

Hillsong has been going to schools, teaching Australia’s daughters. In fact they’ve been to my school and taught my friends. I always got a bad vibe from the Shine program, which was pushed relentlessly at assemblies and year meetings until enough people joined up. It’s not nice to know that I was right.

They’ve taken a leaf from fun feminism, preaching about gaining self-esteem through the application of makeup. There must be something besides carcinogens in that crap, because I would have to get high to sit through two hours of etiquette and deportment lessons.

 

Against Exploitation

Maggie Hays has written an excellent post about the proliferation of pornography and its harms in I Blame The Porno-iarchy posted at her blog Against Pornography. This is a long post, though is has to be because she covers a lot of ground, and it is therefore difficult to pick out a single representative quote. However, I really like what she says about the way in which women’s oppression has been pushed into the private sphere and then co-opted as being sexy:

Women’s oppression is now been kept away from public eye and pushed into the private sphere, where women are most at risk of male violence. No wonder why few rapes end up in convictions. Sexual coercion has become “sexy” in this culture, and women & girls are being trained to submit to men, in just the same way I had been trained to submit to men. During all those years, I’d been consciously ignorant of pornography’s harms while however subconsciously I knew about those harms because I’d experienced them.

 

Demonista has also written an essay about the harms of pornography called “I’d Slice Her:” Feminism, Pornography, and Sex posted at Demonista. Neatly tying in with what Maggie says, Demonista writes about her personal experiences of pornography, and the damage it did:

The average age of first viewing pornography is eleven […] I was eight. I don’t remember the first image I saw, or my very first reaction, but I soon incorporated it into my sexuality […] One sticks in my memory in particular: a blonde, pornified, large breasted woman is on her hands and knees, head back, mouth open to admit a disjointed descending penis. When I was nine, I began self-harming, in junior high I struggled with disordered eating. Even when the conscious mind forgets, the subconscious and the body can’t.

 

Rebecca Mott powerfully demands that men be held accountable for the damage they do when they buy women as sex in The Men That Used Me posted at RMott:

I was raped in my flat. I was raped behind pubs. I was raped in clubs. I was raped on the street.

Only, it cannot be rape. It was just an exchange of goods.

It hard to write this.

I want that all men who think it is ok to buy women and girls to be judged.

I don’t care about their background. I don’t care if they are rich or poor. I don’t care if are locals or tourists.

Each man that pays money is paying into the sex trade that makes it ok to rape, tortures and even murder their product.

 

In the follow up to the above post, Rebecca writes of the emotional toll it takes to remember all the things that were done to her as a prostituted woman, and asks all of us to feel the sickness and anger we should at the abuse that so many prostituted women and girls are forced to endure in After Last Post:

Be sick as prostituted women and girls are being raped now.

Raped and told it is they [who] choose to be there.

Raped and not allow to feel grief.

Be sick as prostituted women and girls are tortured as you read this.

Tortured so often that they can no longer feel the pain.

Tortured so their mind refuses to know what is happening, so go into blank mode.

I feel that being sickened at the conditions that the majority of prostituted women and girls are living in is one way to grieve.

But use the sickness to build up an anger.

 

In On Hiding, Rebecca writes movingly about the difficulty of recognising her own reality as an abused and prostituted woman; a difficulty compounded by those in the world who do not want to recognise the harm that prostitution does:

I was tough-can’t-remember-won’t-remember. I refused to know what was done to me. I refused to remember how I got injuries. I refused to say how I got pregnant. I refused to be what I was.

Now I say it loud.

I was prostituted. I was beaten up. I was raped. I was forced to play porn games. I was brought close to death.

That reality is mine.

 

A lot of defenders of pornography like to pretend that the industry is harmless, or even beneficial, for women. However, when even women who have supposedly “succeeded” in the industry represent it as being harmful and full of predatory men and women, this idea is seriously challenged. Using Jenna Jameson’s own words from her autobiography, Antipornography Activist makes a powerful case against pornography in Jenna Jameson’s 25 Good Reasons Why No One Would Ever Want to Be a Porn Star posted at the Anti-Pornography Activist Blog:

“It’s not something that any parent would choose for their child.” – Jenna Jameson, speaking of the porn industry.

 

Thinking and Theorising

Tami of What Tami Said has written an important piece discussing the differences between recognising white privilege and arrogantly assuming an understanding of the experiences of people of colour in May I Be Offended On Your Behalf:

All of us who suffer inequalities related to race hope that one day the mainstream will “get it.” We want them to get institutional bias. We want them to get the nuances between funny and offensive. We want them to get their own privilege. We want them to get our cultural differences, while also getting that we are individuals apart from cultural markers. We want them to understand these things, but there is a fine line between developing an awareness of bias and arrogantly believing that you are so enlightened that you “get” all there is to know about being a person of color.

 

Marcella Chester of abyss2hope: A rape survivor’s zigzag journey into the open brings us two posts examining the unethical ways in which the statements of rape victims are received, with the assumption that many women who say they are raped are suffering from faulty perceptions of events, Defining False Rape Reports by Whether Rape is Legal and He Just Thinks He’s Been Wrongfully Accused Of Rape. In her second post, she turns the table on patriarchal logic and points out,

In my post Defining False Rape Reports by Whether Rape is Legal I responded to the premise that many of those who report rape only think they were raped and are filing false reports.

The corollary which must be attached to that premise, if it has any validity, is that many of those who are accused of rape are making false statements when they say, “I’m no rapist,” and only think they are falsely accused of rape.

 

Jo22 has a Mary Daly-esque rumination on the origin of patriarchy in her post Genesis: Does the Bible Depict the Origin of Patriarchy? published on her blog I Can’t Fly:

In the garden of Eden was ‘The Tree of Knowledge’ and Eve goes against God’s wishes and eats from it. The snake tells her to. Eve then shares the apple with Adam. This could allude to the discovery of how babies are made. Women probably did know before men and shared that knowledge with them.

Men, I believe, were a bit put out by it all, what with their previous reverence for women’s amazing gift. They were producing life too and wanted some sort of credit for it. This could be what is meant by the ‘Fall of Man’, and the Original Sin was rape. Wars and all sorts would follow, with men trying to prove their fertility to other men and stealing their women.

 

Part of an ongoing series of posts exploring transgenderism, Miss Andrea has written The Hunt for Essentials: Unpacking Transgenderism posted at miss Andrea’s. She draws attention to the often loose and vague definitions of transgender that are used by different organisations and says:

Here we have some number of men who do not feel comfortable with traditional gender expectations. No problem there, many women also do not feel comfortable with traditonal gender expectations – except we do not call these women transgendered, we call them feminists or possibly humanists. And for some obscure reason, these men who are not transexual would rather huddle under the umbrella term which seems to mean “guy in a dress” rather then some other term which means “people who refuse to conform to patriarchy.”

These men who are not transexual seem to equate dismantling patriarchy with wearing a dress or a vagina, which is why I used the phrase “guy in a dress.” But a man doesn’t need to do either of those things; a man can tell patriarchy to sod off just by dumping that whole domination thing they seem to like so much. Therefore, dismantling patriarchy is not a valid reason for wearing either a dress or a vagina, though it may or may not be a byproduct.

 

Polly Styrene writes a post asking how many genders exist in I’m Loving Angels Instead posted at Cow Blog:

Peeps who are really, really wedded, for their own reasons to the concept of gender, but realise that the gender binary is a bit – um – patriarchal like to try to get round the problem. And the way they try to do it is to say, ok gender is real, but there aren’t just two genders. There are LOTS of genders. So I get to keep gender (because I really, really like it, it lets me justify wearing a dress to myself) but pretend at the same time to be anti patriarchal gender systems.

 

Maggie Hays discusses the importance of radical feminism’s belief in socially constructed behaviour in Thoughts on Men, Oppression, and Sisters posted at Against Pornography:

The anti-gender ideology which underlies radical feminist politics is very simple once you grasp it: In order to create a just world where rape, battery, child sexual abuse and any form of discriminations would not exist, not only pornography, prostitution and patriarchal religions & institutions must be abolished, but gender itself, i.e. the patriarchal polar role definitions of ‘men’ and ‘women’, what it means to be “masculine” or “feminine”, must be destroyed.

 

Fantasia wonders about the narrow attitudes that young Egyptian men and women expressed on a TV show she saw, and argues that far from being kept in the home, it would be beneficial to Egypt if women were allowed to work in The Egyptian Working Woman posted at her blog Fantasia’s World:

I cannot even begin to express my utter dismay at this picture, or my disappointment at the young women and men of Egypt…At a time when our country is falling deeper and deeper in debt, our educational system is corrupt, various groups are fighting over control of our government […] These women are only thinking about sitting at home…and the men are thinking about how to keep them at home!!

The way I look at things is that our country needs every ounce of work and energy available to help us rise out of this economic and social depression. The concept of a woman working should be a no brainer…

 

In the final post for this section, Holly Ord examines the hypocrisy of the “pro-life” movement in Pro-Life Extremists Contradicting the Term ‘Pro-Life’–Again posted at Menstrual Poetry:

The pro-life agenda is made up of scare tactics, bullying and yes, killing people who they believe are doing work that is wrong and that they don’t approve of. In most cases, conservatives make up the majority of the pro-life population and oddly, as we all know, conservatives are also the big backers of the Iraq war–Where millions of innocent people are dying. Given these facts, as well as also simply being delirious and believing that they are doing “god’s work” by spreading their movement, one quality rings loud and clear–Hypocrisy.

 

The World of Malestream Media

Fantasia at Fantasia’s World in her post Retards Make It to The Atlantic has powerfully deconstructed the misogynist message of an Egyptian advertisement which implies that women who refuse to wear a hijab are automatically ‘asking’ for male violence to be inflicted upon them:

Seeing this ad from a boy’s eyes, the message is totally reversed from a presumably “religious”, “pious”, or “moral” cause, to an implication that sexual harassment is the norm, and that whoever dislikes it should make this clear by dropping down a veil over her head…so as to say, become marked. You guys are thus being encouraged to direct your sexual advancements towards those who do not hold this mark…the X.

 

L of Editorializing the Editors unpacks yet another racist and misogynist advertising gem, this time about Barack Obama and female celebrities, in On Misogyny and McCain:

On the surface, it would seem that McCain is implying that Obama is as vapid and meritless as the rest of his “fellow celebrities.” But by lumping Obama in with other celebrities, and especially by featuring such controversial celebrity figures as Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, McCain & Co. are essentially calling him a pussy. He’s the stuff of women and gay dudes, not fit for the leadership of Real ‘Merican Men!

 

Lara of Rychousmama, in her second post of the carnival, angrily calls out the racist cartoon of Michelle and Barack Obama that appeared on the cover of the New Yorker, which was, in the minds of some twisted white men, ‘satire’, in Never Trust Liberal White Men:

Something else important: anyone notice too the light brown highlights in Michelle Obama’s afro?Allusion to Angela Davis, much? For those of you not as familiar with African American/women’s herstory, Davis has been an outspoken activist and writer against sexism, racism, classism, and the prison establishment for years now … Looks like white Americans are scared of what might happen to the White House should Black and/or mixed race folk run it. If Blackness or Browness is the downfall of American government and society, one must wonder what many (white) Americans think America stands for….

 

Renee of Womanist Musings, again focusing on race, does a succinct analysis of the racism of a recent photo shoot of Britain’s Top Model in her post Britain’s Top Model Goes Tribal:

Does it really need to be said that dressing blacks in tribal clothing at a pseudo coronation is wrong? All that is missing is the hyper masculinized white male to save her from the invading hordes, but she is ready and willing isn’t she…lips parted, suggestively posed, waiting for the conqueror to arrive. I guess we can all be reassured that this former colonial ruler still has a place for its former subjects.

 

allecto of Gorgon Poisons, in another of her denouncements of Joss Whedon, brings us Joss Whedon and Jean-Paul Sartre: The Wanker Phallosophers, discussing the narcissistic shallowness of male, patriarchal thought:

Joss Whedon really loves Wank. That is basically the moral of this episode Objects in Space. I will be referring to Joss Whedon as a Phallosopher throughout this entry. I envisage Phallosophers to encompass all the Great Male Phallosophers throughout the ages. From Aristotle to Camus to Sartre to Whedon. Phallosophy is characterised by self-obsession, misogyny, and a disturbing, yet relentless tendency to produce Wank.

 

Creative Women

Mojgan Khadem, an Iranian born Australian filmmaker, discusses film passionately in An Interview with Mojgan Khadem:

We should be asking ourselves how to tell stories that take our audience’s breath away intellectually, rather than just entertain them on a superficial level. Filmmakers that have done that in the past in a very unassuming and humble way inspire me the most. These basic ingredients seem to have been forgotten by many, many filmmakers and producers and funding bodies. This is a great tragedy.

The interview is about her first film Serenades (2001), which tells the story of Jila, a girl born in the 1890s in Australia to an Aboriginal mother and Afghan father, and her struggle to find her own place in a racist and sexist world.

 

Henry Handel Richardson (1870-1946) was an Australian woman writer who grew up in Melbourne but spent most of her adult life in Europe and England. Her short story Two Hanged Women is about two women, possibly lovers, unwillingly contemplating the possibility that they will have to get married to men in order to gain social acceptance and independence:

“I will, too! I’ll marry him, and have a proper wedding like other girls, with a veil and bridesmaids and bushels of flowers. And I’ll live in a house of my own, where I can do as I like, and be left in peace, and there’ll be no one to badger and bully me—Fred wouldn’t…ever! Besides, he’ll be away all day. And when he came back at night, he’d…I’d…I mean I’d——” But here the flying words gave out; there came a stormy breath and a cry of: “Oh, Betty, Betty!…I couldn’t, no, I couldn’t! It’s when I think of THAT…Yes, it’s quite true! I like him all right, I do indeed, but only as long as he doesn’t come too near.”

Two Hanged Women comes from Richardson’s collection Growing Pains (1934), which includes many stories of women and girls attempting to negotiate difficult and unfair circumstances that have been established by men and then forced onto women.

Bonfire Night by Debi Crow

Bonfire Night

Paper flies to the fire.
Hair stings. Fingers gather up
a posy, a coin, a string.

The star burns down
to unreadable ashes.
The harvest swings at my hip.

The estuary wind sucks my skirt.
Water meets earth
with a whooshing hymn.

They splinter my door,
brutal and wary,
clattering into my room.

I have no cunning.
I am barely wise,
and definitely not a devil.

Yet here I am;
no more than driftwood,
and much too damp to kindle.

 

Inspiration for the Poem:

An extract from Gyn/Ecology by Mary Daly:

European Witchburnings: Purifying the Body of Christ

Just as social historian Baroja has recourse in the end to feeble psychologizing so also does moralist WEH Lecky in his two-volume History of European Morals. He writes revealingly (in the sense of unveiling and re-veiling at the same time) of the conditions that drove some witches to suicide:

In Europe the act was very common among the witches, who underwent all the sufferings with none of the consolations of martydom.

Without enthusiasm, without hope, without even the consciousness of innocence, decrepit in body and distracted in mind, compelled in this world to endure tortures, before which the most impassioned heroism might quail, and doomed, as they often believed, to eternal damnation in the next, they not unfrequently killed themselves in the agony of their despair.

This is a perfect description of the condition to which the lords of patriarchy desire to see defiant women reduced. It is an announcement of androcratic intent. How would Lecky know that the witches were “without even the consciousness of innocence”? The expressions “decrepit in body” and “distracted in mind” are deceptive because not accompanied by any description of the christian torturers’ methods.

On the following page, this “historian of morals,” having admitted the fact of unspeakable torture of witches, actually manages to write that “epidemics of purely insanesuicide…not infrequently occurred.” Lecky here refers specifically to the women of Marseilles and of Lyons. He then goes on:

In that strange mania which raged in Neapolitan districts from the end of the fifteenth to the end of the seventeenth century, and which was attributed to the bite of the tarantula, the patients thronged in multitudes towards the sea, and often, as the blue waters opened to their view, they chanted a wild hymn of welcome, and rushed with passion into the waves.

By naming this phenomenon a “mania” and failing to note the significance of the dates, Lecky makes its meaning invisible to most readers. Hags, however, knowing something about the history of The Burning Times, can see that this was a completely sane decision. Multitudes of women rushed into the sea, precisely because they refused to be “patients” for the witch doctors/torturers and chose to be agents of the one Self-affirming act possible under the Reign of Infernal Justice.

The words of the hymn , according to Hecker’s Epidemics of the Middle Ages (London, 1844), are:

Take me to the sea
If you are willing that I be healed,
To the sea, to the way
Thus does my lady love me,
To the sea, to the sea,
While I live, I must love you.

End extract.

by Debi Crow

Only She Remembers by Debi Crow

It’s inevitable
He’ll deny everything, of course he will
He wasn’t even there, he’s never seen her before
He only bought her a drink, and then
the silly bitch drank too much, didn’t she?

He wasn’t even there, though, so, you know, I don’t know
What are you going to do? Accuse
him of something? He’s never seen you!
What are you going to do? What are you going to do?

choke, stab, choke, stab, choke, stab, choke, stab…
There is a life in there, but where, but where, he
pulled it out and laid it in the air
Stretched it over the bonnet of his car
and rode her, bragging into her hair…

Telling of the affair, and pulling at her hair, until
she’s choked and stabbed and Only She Remembers.

by Debi Crow

Poem by Debi Crow

Youth is innocence
Age is beauty
If we can age in our
own bodies, in our own
skin
Unaltered, unadulterated, untouched
by the dogmas of patriarchy,

We can truly subvert.

That ageing in ourselves and as our Selves is an act of subversion
is perverse, but
subversion it is, and
subvert we must.

I subvert and we subvert.
We re-fuse, and re-
wire, re-connect and
re-define

beauty.

by Debi Crow

The Chosen by Dragort

Prologue

It was a cold day when Ever dug up the first body. In the first instance of discovery she had no idea that it was a body. The remains were obscured, wrapped as they were in shrouds several layers thick. And Ever had not uncovered much. Just part of an arm. Which she did not know was an arm until she tore the shroud back. The material of the wrappings was as thick as the heavy duty tarp Ever’s mother kept for camping and it took Ever a long time to hack through even a little of it with her Stanley knife. But after a long time of hacking she saw the arm. Not much of it. Merely the pallid, greyish elbow.

That was enough, more than enough to have Ever reeling away. She surprised herself by not vomiting. In a way she rather wished that she would just vomit. Her stomach had shrivelled and curdled and she was sure that any food in there was unsettled and desperately wanted to come out. It felt like it desperately wanted to come out. The words ‘contaminating crime scene’ came to her. They were disjointed as though it had been an effort for her brain to throw the idea out there. But the idea stuck, held, took root, and Ever dragged herself away from the body, back into her house.

At the time she did not think to call her mother. Ashley Deroux was at home that bleak afternoon but Ever was used to being on her own and to taking care of things on her own. So she called the police and cautiously stated her issue. Claret Fall was not as small a town as it’s crime rate seemed to suggest, so a response was immediate.

When Ashley walked into the kitchen, still patting her hair dry with a large, fluffy towel Ever looked up from the table and said, “Oh, mum, I completely forgot to tell you. There’s a body in the back yard. I’ve called the police.”

There was little cause, Ashley had always thought, to worry about Ever. She did worry, of course, in the normal way that mothers worried. But Ever had never given her a reason to. That had been a good thing. A very good thing, for Ever as well as for Ashley. Even now, Ever gave no indication that there was a need to worry. There was a body in the back yard and she had done what needed doing.

The police arrived as Ever explained the situation to her mother. They took them out to the back, and Ever seemed calm even if she stayed well away from the half buried body that was bound up like a mummy. She and her mother returned to the house as quickly as they could. There was no want to stay in a garden with the murdered dead. It took very little nudging for Ashley to get the rest of the story, small that it was. Ever omitted far more than she told, though the account was not long. It would take a different person than her to recount the way the flesh hung loosely from the bones, and the smell – not so much of rot after so long but of death and neglect and loneliness. They were things she did not want to remember. And she had only seen the arm for the barest second and should not remember the detail of it so well, but it had melded to her memory and seeped into all of its cracks so that even when she tried to block it by bringing up another memory, it would filter through.

Four bodies more were found into that late afternoon. Very old bodies, a progressively more hysterical Ashley was assured. Ashley was not by nature a hysterical woman and she had taken the news of the first body well enough, but there were limits. Very old bodies, very old murders. Ever was sorry that it had been such a god-awful cloudy day. Forgotten and underground for maybe fifty years and they had to come up on a day when they couldn’t even see the sun. It was like they had been cheated out of life all over again.

As dusk set in the last of the bodies was brought up. The entire yard hadn’t been dug up. There hadn’t been a need. Not with the ground surveying device the crime scene team had brought in. Ever had seen them on crime shows, and under normal circumstances would have been interested. But these circumstances were not normal. She retired to her room as the team did one more sweep of her yard.

All wearing jewellery so all women,” she heard one of the female detectives say softly to her partner as she started up the stairs. And for the second time that day she would have really liked to vomit.

Chapter One

 

Wind

Fire

Water &

Earth

 

And betwixt the four stands Life.

To Ever that day was the most horrific she had yet lived. She could not imagine worse. Well, having been one of those women was worse. For her almost seventeen year old self, though, this surpassed a bad day. And, oh, she had had her share of bad days. The only consolation was that at least it could not get worse. And that was a small but real consolation until worse it did get.

Ashley Deroux was as good a mother as she was able. And she was able to be very good. But she worked often, for long periods of time. She was tired much of the time. Too tired to put as much effort into Ever as perhaps she would have liked. Generally she thought that Ever understood. And perhaps it was true but if it was true Ever understood a little too well. Despite being sad that she could never seem to close the distance between Ever and herself with the little time she had, Ashley was very proud that Ever always seemed to know the right thing to do. What she didn’t realise was that Ever was very good at seeming.

For instance, she seemed ok with having found a body in the back yard. Ashley would have desperately liked to have had that kind of composure. She seemed fine with going to bed on her own. Ashley herself couldn’t sleep, but she didn’t for a moment think to check on Ever. Ever simply seemed too mature. Like she had always had a deep well of understanding to dip into for any circumstance.

Only she didn’t. Ever was good at seeming. Whether it be capable or unaffected or calm or mature. She had grown used to it. Her body responded to stimuli so quickly that almost no one could tell it was a lie. But she knew. She always knew. No matter how long she faked, how well she pretended, there was a part of her that remained true to the real her. The real her that had been cowering in bed, too frightened to so much as roll over for the past half hour. And that had been before things went bad.

Sleep did come. Despite the fear sleep did come. And then it began. The first inkling Ever had that something was wrong – more wrong than dead bodies in the garden – was an hard-ice shiver trailing the length of her spine. Her eyes flew open and, even in the dull light of the outside streetlamp she could see the old ragged remains of a female body dressed in the old ragged remains of a grey dress, hanging directly above her. Biting down a harsh cry, Ever started to roll sharply to the left. She stopped abruptly when she saw that another body stood by that side of the bed. Before she could react the body above her grabbed both her hands, held her steady and pressed its dry leathery lips against hers. Ever tried to close her mouth and, failing that, tried to scream. Around the bed the four other murdered women began a chant.

The chant lasted longer than the kiss for which Ever was grateful. That in no way made Ever feel fortunate. For a time she spat out the feel of the lips, thankful that there had been no accompanying bad taste. And abruptly the chant ended and the women, just as abruptly, were gone.

Come morning the crime scene investigators were back in the yard. Ever made herself a coffee, and sipped at it, watching them through the kitchen window over the rim of the mug. A hand brushed across the back of her short blond hair and she turned to see her mother.

Hi, honey, I don’t know how you could sleep so well. I barely managed an hour,” said Ashley, planting a brief, slightly awkward kiss on her daughter’s hair.

“I didn’t… Did you hear anything last night?” asked Ever somewhat listlessly.

Ashley pursed her lips as she did when she was worried and shot Ever an uncertain look. “Like what?” she asked.

“I dunno,” Evan’s voice was barely a mumble and she shrugged her shoulders to accompany the statement. “Like maybe – voices? Women’s voices?”

Now Ashley looked shocked. They may not have been so very close, mother and daughter, but Ashley did understand things without being told. “No, should I have?” she asked carefully.

After draining the last of her coffee Evan shook her head. “Bad dream,” she said quietly.

“God,” said Ashley, running her hands through her hair. “I should have checked on you. I should have known you’d be scared.”

Ever smiled carelessly. “Honestly, mum. What would you do? You can’t chase my dreams away no matter how many times you check on me.”

Surprise gave way to amusement and Ashley shook her head with a laugh. “Alright, will you be ok today? I can stay home if you want the day off school.”

Smiling again and wrinkling her nose in distaste, Ever indicated the back yard with a jerk of her chin. “Won’t make me feel any better about things, will it?” she commented.

Shaking her head, Ashley laughed again. “I guess not. Thank God anyway. I don’t want to be here today. What say we have dinner out tonight?”

Ever nodded her agreement and trotted out of the room to find her school bag. It was by her bed and she went across to pick it up almost cautiously. The room held none of the threat it had the night before though. Ever looked around slowly at the same room she had seen every day for most of her life. Nothing was out of place. Yesterday’s school uniform was still lying discarded on the floor, undisturbed. Looking around, Ever could almost believe that last night had been a dream. Almost, but not quite. It had been too vivid. Too authentic. She could still feel the lips. Cracked and dry with age and almost papery-thin. Shuddering, Ever wiped at her mouth with the back of her arm.

Then she shook her head and glanced at the window that faced her neighbour’s house. Next door Michelle Harrison was scooping up a massive cream Persian and cooing to it. Her long silky black hair was already pulled back into a high pony-tail and as Ever watched her mother came in to give her a cup of coffee. Michelle hugged her mother, one-armed, kissed her cheek and took the coffee. Shaking her head, Ever snatched up her school bag and headed downstairs. It was a morning ritual of the Harrison’s, so familiar that Ever had it memorised. And every time she saw it her stomach twisted, part in irritation but part in envy. It wasn’t that she wanted Michelle’s life, that wasn’t it at all. The thought of having to hug your mother every morning out of ritual rather than love was vulgar. But she envied that every morning Michelle woke up, knowing that someone was there. To talk to, laugh with, maybe just sit with. But there. And that Michelle could so easily hug her parents, kiss her parents, and know that it would be accepted without reserve or surprise every time.

That morning was one of the rare ones in which Ashley was starting work late enough to give Ever a lift to school. Though Ever did quite strongly suspect that Ashley had called in late so that she could give Ever a lift. Death rattled Ashley. Possibly more than most things. And those deaths had been close, even if they were fifty years old or older. Understanding was one thing that Ever had, and she understood that on occasions such as this her mother was forcibly reminded of the unsaid things between them. Things that were felt but not put into words. Things that may never be put into words. Ashley was not demonstrative. Ever wasn’t sure if she herself was, but her mother’s lack of did moderate any that Ever might naturally have felt.

But that was ok on days like these. Because it was on days like these that Ever could read all the unsaid things from her mother’s fear.

That fear had Ashley drive Ever all the way into the school parking lot rather than just dropping her at the gate as she usually did.

“Thanks mum,” said Ever, getting out of the car.

“Do you have lunch money?” asked Ashley, which was more or less a mum equivalent of ‘I love you, don’t cark it.’

“Yeah mum,” said Ever who used the word ‘mum’ as a term of endearment. She’d been known to scatter it thrice in a single sentence when she was feeling particularly affectionate. And when she and her mother fought the word would disappear as though it were sucked from the face of the planet – or possibly even the galaxy.

As the Mazda drove away, Ever slung her bag on her shoulder and jogged up the front steps. She squared her shoulders before walking into the school.

School was a tomb for Ever. It sucked her lungs free of breath and left her tense and jittery. It was worse for some, she knew. She wasn’t one of the ones who went home and cried for hours every day. But she wasn’t one of the ones who showed up three quarters of an hour early every day, ready to enjoy herself either. Lessons weren’t what she hated. Several of them she even quite enjoyed. But they didn’t make school bearable.

“Oh my God, she was totally staring through my window to check me out in my underwear this morning,” said Michelle in a high angry voice as Ever veered around her to get to her locker.

Becky, a less gorgeous version of Michelle, shot Ever a dirty look. “Why do they let people like her in here?” she asked coolly.

May nodded in silent agreement.

Ever slammed her books into her locker and turned to glare at the three girls. “Close your fucking curtains if it worries you so much,” she said in a short, clipped tone.

Michelle barely paused to glare at her before saying in pained tones. “I can’t believe my parents won’t let me change rooms with them. It’s so disgusting. It’s almost like they don’t care if I’m being violated every morning. And she probably watches me while I sleep.”

Ever slung her bag ferociously over her shoulder and stormed towards her first class. Usually Michelle and her ilk wouldn’t bother her. What they thought didn’t matter to her. But having dreams of dead women seemed to lower her tolerance level. Having dead women in her back yard seemed to lower her tolerance level.

“I’d laugh if you did swap rooms and your mum got violated instead,” said May with a significant look at Ever’s now retreating back.

That made Michelle laugh a laugh that was every bit as pretty as herself. “She probably would be that desperate too,” she mused.

The longer Ever thought about it the less certain she was that the murdered women had been a dream. There was no valid reason to suspect that they had been real, but Ever couldn’t help the feeling she got that they were real whenever she thought about it.

“Lesbo,” said an impatiently calm voice and Ever looked up startled. She wondered wryly when exactly she had started responding to that name as though it was her own. Not that the name really bothered her as much as it was intended to, but still.

Delia stared back at her, dark and stunning. “I said you’re on my team.”

Ever looked around a little uncertainly. Oh, gym. Basketball.

“But she’s…” began Justine, looking slightly panicked.

The glare Ever shot her might not have shut her up, but Delia’s raised eyebrow did. “Yes,” said Delia easily. “She’s lesbisexual. They’re good at sports, lesbians. Besides, if she’s on our team she’s not blocking us, which makes us safe from her depraved little advances.”

The standard response anyone in the school gave to anything Delia said was ‘bitch.’ Ever could have used it too, but she would only be one of the many of the day, and she was rather sure that Delia collected them and did not want to add to Delia’s collection. So she moved up to Delia’s team, deciding not to play at all.

That would have felt better if the red haired Roberts twin hadn’t elbowed her and hissed, “You’re killing us,” halfway through.

The day was over finally and Ever was surprised to find her mother’s car at the gate when she got out.

“I’m starved,” Ashley announced as Ever tossed her bag into the car and crawled in after it. “You look fine. You don’t want to change before we have dinner do you?”

Never having been one for vanity, Ever shook her head.

Perhaps it was nerves, though Ever would have thought it was more like intuition, but either way Ever turned her web-cam on and aimed it at her bed before going to sleep that night. Should the dead women return she would not be left without evidence. And at least then she would know for sure whether it was a dream or not.

Chapter Two

 

Wind is nothing without resolve.

But with resolve can conquer worlds.

Or change them.

The day hadn’t been so good. For some reason Becky was annoyed with Michelle. Generally that was ok, there was always a bit of squabbling amongst them. The last time it had been over the skirt Michelle had borrowed. Sure, she’d given it back with a huge grass stain on it, but Michelle expected that Becky had been more upset that the skirt had been looser on Michelle than it had been on her. That fight hadn’t been as terse as Michelle and Becky were now. The worst of it was that Michelle had no idea what this was about. The only thing she knew was that when she walked over Becky and May would cut themselves off and look at her as though she were interrupting – or even spoiling something important. After a few attempts she could get them to talk and May was being fine, but Becky was holding back.

Sighing, Michelle rolled over on her bed. She’d already kissed both her parents goodnight downstairs because she hadn’t wanted them to come in to say goodnight. Even that was a problem today. She shook herself a little and reached out to switch the bedside lamp off. Tomorrow she could deal with it. Tonight she could not be bothered.

But, try as she may, sleep would not come. And finally as it did creep down upon her, Michelle was distantly aware that the door to her bedroom slid silently open and a figure stepped in, clothed in equal silence. Before Michelle could rouse herself sufficiently to scream, her hands were arrested and lips pressed against her open mouth. The lips did not move but stayed stationary and open against her mouth. Then the lips pulled back and the figure turned and left the room.

Michelle lay shuddering for several moments before finally screaming enough to make her lungs ache.

Perhaps it was the recent discovery of five bodies, or perhaps Michelle’s case simply did not seem high priority, but the police took longer to arrive than Michelle would have liked and when they did arrive Michelle was frantically brushing her teeth.

“Someone broke in…” Wesley Harrison explained, showing the two officers through to the kitchen.

“No really, dad?” demanded Michelle furiously. “It was that lesbian from next door,” she exclaimed, motioning at the Deroux residence with her toothbrush. “Are you going to arrest her?”

“They’ll get a statement first, princess,” said Wesley.

“Oh, ok, how’s this? Statement: the trashy lesbian from next door was overcome by her unnatural hormones and broke into my room to attack me,” explode Michelle. “Now go arrest her, go now.”

“Poor pumpkin, she was terribly frightened,” said Wesley.

“I’m not frightened! I’m angry!” Michelle spluttered around the toothbrush before pulling it free of her mouth and spitting into the kitchen sink. “I’m furious.”

Patting her head Wesley explained, “This is how she always handles fear.”

Michelle heaved a sigh. “Are you going to arrest her now?” she asked.

Much to her annoyance, the police did not run off and immediately arrest Ever. They took statements, collected prints from the doorknobs, took photos of the trail of muddy footprints that led from the front door to Michelle’s room and checked Michelle’s room for more evidence. Arms folded over her chest, Michelle glared at her parents.

It was morning before the police even went across to the Deroux residence. Watching, narrow-eyed through the kitchen window, Michelle saw Ever open the front door, looking tousled and sleepy. She couldn’t hear what the taller officer said, there was too much distance. But Ever’s response she heard.

“What?” The voice was louder and sharper than Michelle was used to. It was also utterly astounded. So much so that Michelle would have believed it if she hadn’t known better. “Are you fucking with me?” Ever almost exploded and then turned to shoot a furious glare at Michelle.

“Fuck up, bitch! You knew I wasn’t like that!” Michelle yelled in equal fury.

“I can’t believe you!” Ever screamed back. “I can’t believe that you would stoop to this just to get your parent’s room! What is wrong with you?”

Michelle was almost spluttering with fury. So much so that she didn’t see that the officers were now regarding her suspiciously. “What’s this about your parent’s room?” asked the tall, and Michelle realised now, very dumb-looking one.

Her mouth fell open. “I can’t… you can’t possibly think…” she hissed.

But apparently the officers could and, after further questioning of Mr. and Mrs. Harrison, they left, throwing very dirty looks at Michelle on their way.

Mr. and Mrs. Harrison didn’t say anything. Mr. and Mrs. Harrison, very obviously didn’t say anything. They sat and regarded Michelle for long, silent moments. With effort she held her head high.

“This was not about a room,” she spat with the kind of conviction usually reserved for the religious.

Mr. and Mrs. Harrison didn’t say anything. Mr. and Mrs. Harrison, very obviously didn’t say anything. They sat and regarded Michelle for long, silent moments. Her chin dipped, just a little.

“I was attacked,” she said, hating the whine that leaked into her voice.

Mr. and Mrs. Harrison didn’t say anything. Mr. and Mrs. Harrison, very obviously didn’t say anything. They sat and regarded Michelle for long, silent moments. Her shoulders gave way as though under a great weight.

“You could try believing me,” she tried to say without choking. Her success was dubious at best.

Mr. and Mrs. Harrison didn’t say anything. Mr. and Mrs. Harrison, very obviously didn’t say anything. They sat and regarded Michelle for long, silent moments.

“We will believe you when you deserve it,” said Wesley finally. His tone was very cold, indicating the level of disappointment he felt.

Michelle could do little else but nod at that and creep slowly away at that. There was no cup of coffee and no hug that morning. Michelle caught up her bag and ran out of the house as though running from her life really was that easy.

Chapter Three

 

Water is changeable as a Sprite.

Its body may alter as much as its soul.

Strong as a flash flood, gentle as rain.

Muddied tracks led from Lilith’s bedroom door to her sister, James’. Lilith stood in the doorway, studying them with a mildly puzzled look on her face. Before she could make up her mind about what they meant James threw her room door open and walked into the hall, her hair ruffled with sleep.

“’Ey,” she mumbled, her voice a little rusty with sleep too.

Lilith frowned down at the muddy footprints. “Did she kiss you too?” she asked slowly.

“Huh?” James eyes shot open to comical levels. “Who? What? Excuse me?”

Lilith shook her head. “Nothing. Don’t worry. I just thought…because the footprints lead to your room too…” she said, indicating weakly.

For the first time James looked down. “What the..?” she said in surprise.

“It rained last night,” Lilith explained wanly, walking over and gazing past her sister through the window. The skies still hung heavy and dark with clouds. Pursing her lips a little Lilith turned away.

“Well, evidently, but what does that…I mean, who dragged this mud in? Are you trying to say mum went slushing through the rain and then came in to kiss us goodnight?” James demanded, still staring down at the floor, and wiping her feet on clean carpet to get the worst of the mud off her toes.

“No,” said Lilith. “Not mum.” She turned to her sister. James was a heavy sleeper, but surely even she would have woken for this? “It probably wasn’t her fault,” she said finally. “I think she’s lonely. I never see her with anyone.”

“Who?” demanded James.

“Uhm…the girl. From school,” said Lilith.

“God’s sakes, Lilith! There are hundreds of them! Which one?”

“You know…the… Well, the…”

For a moment James looked like she would explode from frustration. “No, I don’t know the! I have no idea of the!” she cried, waving her arms about.

Blushing a dull red Lilith met her twin’s gaze. “The gay one. You know, the lesbian,” she said resolutely.

A blank look of incomprehension crossed James’ features before colour flooded her freckled face. “She kissed you? She what? Just broke into the house, went into your room and kissed you?” she demanded furiously.

“Well,” said Lilith, looking pointedly at the mud. “I think she came into your room too.”

“But she didn’t kiss me!” James yelled. “I’m going to bash her so hard!”

Shaking her head, Lilith turned from the window to look at James. “I’m ok with it. Or at least I don’t want anything to come of it,” she said.

“I don’t care what you want! People cannot just come into my house and molest my sister!” James exploded.

Lilith rolled her eyes in exasperation. It was odd how if the situation were reversed it would have been James saying everything was ok and Lilith declaring bloody vengeance. But then, Lilith thought, looking down at the mud again. There was no indication that the situation was not a two-way street. The muddied prints did lead straight to the bed and then back to the door.

“I didn’t feel threatened,” she said at last. “I mean, perhaps I should have, but I didn’t. And I think that girl’s sad enough. So drop it.”

The tone conveyed meaning, as much as the words and James leant back on her heels and studied her sister for some moments. Lilith knew she had given in before the words, “Ok, ok, but it’s creepy, Lilth,” were spoken.

Creepy probably didn’t cover it. On the twins’ arrival at school there was, it seemed, an uproar about Ever having broken into Michelle’s house and kissed her. Lilith determinedly avoided James’ gaze. This was not helping matters.

To be continued…

by Dragort

 

Hagar and Sarah by Jennifer Wildflower

Hagar:

Hagar tied a knot
and slipped through it

she tapped her
skull to
her son’s

and together they
dipped into the
river of life.

She could lead a battalion
to a place of
naked peace
if not for her flesh,
wrapped in butcher’s paper.

She was unvisited by grace
and so she spelled it out
in the sand.

We are rent from her now,
God’s own beauty

strong only by breaks
in every conscience.

Sarah:

Sarah
you know you
are the one
broken lines
make straight in your wake
and
synonyms are hushed.

Sarah made of fathers
blood and
wooden temples

you are my mother
horned or winged
I am in love with you.
Sara is flexed
she is taut as gums
she is ready for
the king’s house
the new testament
and ungodly pain.

Sarah you could
rule us all
but you lay down
in dirt and
said:
‘action’.

When the body collapses
Sarah alone remains
to taste and see
what damage you have done

she will set your face beside stone
and call you beautful.

My piece is a tribute to Sarah and Hagar, women of ancient times. Their story is known well by most women of Jewish, Christian and Muslim backgrounds. Sarah and Hagar were wives of Abraham. Their descendants are Jews, Christians and Muslims. Muslims are said to be the descendants of Abraham and Hagar; Jews are said to be the descendants of Sarah and Abraham.

I wrote these poems one right after the other, as an attempt to stand squarely in the midst of illusory divides between women, divides which are age-old, enforced dichotomous paradigms that were meant to and do divide and conquer womankind as a class.

These dichotomous paradigms are meant to divide us from each other and to divide us from our selves.

They include the notions of the virgin and the whore, the pure and the defiled, the indentured servant and the slave, the childless and the childbearing, among others. All of these states and titles are, in varying degrees, the exact same thing. As long as they are accepted, promoted, or indulged to whatever degree, no woman is free.

by Jennifer Wildflower

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