What We Push Against

by Alison Roh Park

selected by Joy Harjo



Vashti said she could smell your skin and battery acid
before she walked in the room. I picture it: morphine
dripping crystal, your wails subside, everyone
holds their breath.

Your mother heard the butt of his pistol connect with
your skull. I see a crosshatch imprint when I close my eyes.
You are twenty-one.


I'm washing dishes at my cousin's house on Christmas
morning. Her husband drinks coffee at the table with my
brother. He says "Kobe could get any woman he wants.
He doesn't need to rape anyone."


Dáviné repeats:
You are your own source of joy
You are your own source of joy
You are your own power
You are your own power


First memories: a cool dark lobby in Brooklyn
doors shut everywhere       little legs running
the tap of jellies on emerald tiles     the elevator's groan.

She wakes to the light of streetlamps
her sister's sleeping body next to her. Little legs run

down a night corridor. She finds her brother
cheek to carpet; mother watching
hair pulled up in a towel           robe wrapped tight
father enraged          belt buckle catching
the lamplight. She keeps running.


Four strangers talk quietly in a hotel room on the other side
of the world at a conference on AIDS and violence against women.
Rape survivor--stalking survivor--domestic violence survivor--
child abuse survivor. We have all survived so much. Before
my eyes, I watch our bodies become boats. We carry each other.

Visit the store to purchase a copy of the chapbook.

Go Back to Chapbook Fellowships Listing