– Evie Shockley – 

"some brutalities are unspeakable, and we shouldn’t force ourselves to speak of them.”
        —from ching-in chen’s “52 condensed pages of a collaged manifesto”

    “i think, therefore i am.”
rené descartes


i could speak of the economic fist that slammed
into the body of the elderly woman downstairs ::
used to be downstairs : taking her time but not
taking help bringing in the groceries : lucky to
live in a first-floor apartment :: less lucky now :
she learned how many more dollars a month
above her rent the building owners need to turn
a trick a profit :: did they foresee how many
slow steps she’d take to find a new home ? did
they bruise their tight red knuckles ?: the grey
powdering the half-nappy pony-puff she pulled
her hair into bought her a little time but what
will it get her on the open market ?: her eviction
was the fourth bomb dropped this month in the
war on poverty the wealthy are waging on my
block : in which i am a diplomat and a survivor.


to speak of fists is not to speak of fistulas : false
cognates we might misrecognize as kin :: the
latter comes from latin and a word meaning pipe
or tube but the one does not lead necessarily to
the other :: as anarcha’s doctor taught us : right
after swearing the hypocritic oath : fistulas are
torn tissue : as in : a passage between the urethra
and the vagina :: as one cannot close the vulva at
will this causes : in terms of plumbing : a leak ::
i do not mention this to be vulgar : vulgar and
vulva being another case of fake cousins kissing
:: anarcha’s condition resulted from slave labor :
the difficult delivery of a tiny new hand unto its
master :: o there are other causes : ask the war-
weary women of the congo :: but upon advice
and consideration i will not speak of them.


nor should we force ourselves to be silent ::
unmentionables once were underwear : where
were the worst brutalities then ?: buried under
under in the most vulnerable organs and held
down by that busy muscle the tongue :: in
silence unspeakable becomes unthinkable : a word
like numberless that runs can’t into won’t :: some
unthinkable things i just keep thinking about : a
7-year-old girl and a gang rape facilitated by her
15-year-old sister for money : a 95-year-old
floridian woman stripped of her wet diaper by
airport security : a congolese man who wears
pads meant for menstrual blood after years as a
prisoner of war : companies seeking off-shore-
drilling permits while uncontrollable oil is still
ravaging an ecosystem :: thinkable : unthinkable.


perhaps unimaginable should stand between
ourselves and the worst :: if i spare myself and
you : gentle reader : if i spare us the graphic
details will we still write checks to fund the less
poetic work of others ?: or is checks itself too far
from lyrical for your taste ?: palatable poetry
comes in fewer flavors than edible cuisine : yet
taste and palatable swing between the tongue and
the mind : a dance this poem has already
performed :: can we empathize without taking
on the trauma ?: can we pursue cognition by a
path that cuts through the body but bypasses
the gut ?: i recognize my need for shelter : clean
water and air : dignity : security : non-toxic food
: safety : love : peace : and joy in you and every
you : us : humans :: we are not false cognates.