If discussion of female genitalia makes you uncomfortable, this may not be the journal for you. But if you understand and appreciate that women’s sexuality is natural, then read on.
This issue, themed “violence,” opens with a poem by Erin Donevan titled “not the word fetus.” Written in second person, it takes you into an exam room where you “will lie down on a table with your knees bent and feet in holders called stirrups. / [you will never feel more exposed].” It’s a brief, but powerful, poem about the final moment in which a woman decides there is no going back: she is having an abortion. Yet the doctor doesn’t call it a fetus—he uses the word “baby.”
Sarah Forbes’s poem “Vanilla Hex” is chilling, especially as it nears the last lines:
How long must I stay here?
Amongst the school bus graveyard
Where the earth smells of death
That’s what I’ll commit to memory
And the bruises coursed like smoke around my ankles
And in the shadow of my insignificance
Road kill wrapped in pink cellophane
In her essay “Sex and Violins,” Ellen Keim touches on the ideas of violence in women’s sexual lives: “When you’re twelve and you’re told that blood and pain are just part of becoming a woman, that’s not exactly reassuring. You begin to wonder what else you haven’t been told about,” she writes. She explains that girls are taught to fear sex until they are married, but then are supposed to believe that it will bring them romance and closer to their partner. Additionally, she notes that “When we are told to be careful, the implication is that we shouldn’t get pregnant, not that men can use sex to hurt us.” She questions how to really classify a rape and pushes that women have the right to say no, to choose pleasure over pain, and “most of all, that [women] have the right to be safe.”
Heather Lenz’s “Owned” shows the way in which a man might dominate a woman, through violent sex. Eventually, “You’ll sink, / forget what lovemaking means”:
start walking down the street with a leash
attached. Learn new tricks.
Years later, you might fall in love with
Prozac or set your sights on daydreams,
become a Sappho with a garland of pain.
Read also Melissa Noelle Esguerra’s “Symbiosis,” Kristin Roedell’s “Field Guide,” and Laura Sterling’s “The Mominatrix.” While some journals that are themed or focus on an important issue or idea run the risk of having pieces with a good message but mediocre writing, there is nothing about Cliterature that doesn’t suggest both meaningful and well-written literature.