Oppressor–a poem

So some of you might know that my current primary academic field is creative writing. I’ve never been good at poetry; fiction has rather been my forte, mostly because of how difficult I find it to achieve conciseness of image. This I’ve worked on for a while though, a persona poem, and since I’m not a poet and thus not invested in trying to send poetry out for traditional print publication, I thought I’d share it with you.


(after Patricia Smith)


They call me oppressor, and I have the world’s glory.


It’s in the moon’s milk draining from full

to crescent over a world that watches me fold

back my sleeves. I double my belt, curl my right hand

into a cup to wash myself holy. I polish

even my feet clean, five times a day, my soles, they’re

cleaner than your hands, my toes, they’re cleaner

than your fingers. This clean? I have nothing

to apologize for. Oppress them? I want nothing from them

the Great Satans, but distance.


My place in the world is golden and burnished,

with the lines clear, ropes tight, chains glowing.

Gates and poles and safe places, where daughters are not

sluts walking the streets, their skin not beacons

for men and dogs to sense and ravage,

where daughters do not drown their throats

with intoxicating poison. Daughters do not unlayer

their clothes down to dirty dishrags like their faces

to sop up and swallow every man’s honor, leaving salt.


It is no coincidence that here the sun is so high and strong.

The land stays dry and sweet, and nothing hides,

no human souls are suctioned and splintered.

Only a whore’s womb has teeth, and here we have

no whores.


I want nothing

from them, but distance.


Look at the difference between us.

I prostrate on the floor because my back is strong

enough to bend. With beads on threads, I

count how many ways I can turn my submission

to strength.


If my forehead taps the floor, who knows what earth-

quakes it could inspire with its waves?

Morality. Clarity. Chastity. Strength.

They fear me when I am on my knees most of all.

They wish they were this clean.


I know how to keep what is mine and keep her clean

like I made her to start with.


My daughter was a whore too, and I showed her how knees

can bend, because she liked to bend them, so I bent

them the other way over carpet. Mint,

lipstick, and cigarette ash don’t smell very clean together,

do they, so don’t open your mouth, but it is so wide you

force me to slam it shut with my fist until your knees stop

bending and your belly starts like a worm,

how many times did your belly start,

lower than the earth Adam was shaped from?


I’d tell them my daughter was a whore too.

She struck the earth

with the spikes of her heels and her ass

in the air, her heels are in red ribbons now.

They could never do that.

The mouth she used to rub my name

into shit swollen like a melon, big-

ger than my hand, than the sun, and she could

not swallow her own blood before it choked her.

Because she liked to gag, the bitch, so I let her:


how dare she think that body was hers

to destroy when it was a bounty,

and I created it, I nourished it, it is only and ever



They call me the oppressor—when they are the ones

who stole what I made and bent her with their filthy

thoughts, their lies and words and drink.

I want nothing from them–

they would sully even my trash.


I have my own world.


And it will stay mine.



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