Virginia Chase Sutton

My chapbook, Down River,  was published last year. My second book, What Brings You to Del Amo, won the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize, and is being reissued by Doubleback Books. Embellishments was my first book and Of a Transient Nature was my third. Seven times nominated for the Pushcart Prize, my poems have appeared in Paris Review, Ploughshares, Comstock Review, and Peacock Journal, among many other literary publicaiions, journals, and anthologies.

 

Shame

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After one dreadful sexual experience,

both of us unsatisfied, after you shove

into my snatch, me wanting you out,

you calm on the quarter moon.

 

We agree to be just friends, never lovers again,

swearing on that beam of light. A couple

of weeks later, I go dancing with you, something

we are good at, our feet kicking magical moon drops

 

falling from the disco ball rotating overhead.

This is something two friends would do. But

I drink too much, tossing back gin and tonics

you feed me, dizzy and dull as rain. Glass after

 

glass. I blackout. At dawn, I stagger awake,

and you are naked beside me. I stare at a parade

of seven used condoms neatly lining the dresser.

I rise, wrap the sheet around my achy body

 

and puke. It all spills out---booze, you, the sex

I do not remember. You are still in my bed

when I return, laughing smugly. You were quiet

for the first time in your life, you say cooly,

 

your perfect body too close. Once I admired

your muscles, the way your flesh shifted

as you moved. No, I say and you laugh. What

kind of man pushes hard into my center,

 

manipulates my body while I am unconscious?

Time to go, you say, dress in an instant, your brown

leather jacket gleaming as you slither out the front door.

I blame myself for my drunkenness, the unknowing

 

of last night and now new day during an immediate

hot shower, tears and snot running down my face

until only cold water remains. I try to scrub you

away, the sun rising outside though I hide

 

from it, from friends. I say, too much drinking, too

much dancing in the circle of his arms. But I am

only guessing. I was passed out cold. A lesson

in self-loathing, my wet hair tucked behind

 

my ears so I might hear if you dared return. But you

do not, your revenge slaked. Years later a student

in my composition class gives an oral report on

date rape. As she talks, I am suddenly short

 

of breath, trembling, recalling your fingerprint

bruises on my body, the way the day rose,

as if it were any other day, as if nothing had

happened. Sick in my gut, shaking,

 

I abruptly dismiss the class, flip off the cruel

overhead light, place one burning

cheek against a cool desktop in the back

of the room. I see you, flames fanning

 

behind you, lighting the room, you

pointing again to used condoms,

so amused at my disbelief. They were

trophies, though I do not understand

 

why. Please call me something beautiful

to take back that night and morning---lily,

flower. But for you I am an unwilling vessel,

your handsome cock wrapped snugly in

 

my gorgeous vagina. Because of you

I learn never to trust the moon’s

bright gleam. How I remember vomiting

again and again, not knowing, years

 

of humiliation and shame ahead. Me

blaming me, violated in the most

basic of ugly ways. How you dare

to take me, curtains open, bed inviting,

 

me a lumpy sack, eyes glued shut. I woke

to your amusement and deep happiness.

Stop and take a breath. Turn my head

on the desk in the room where I have

 

control, responsibility. I now know what

you did, despite my best intentions.

Today outside the empty classroom,

I know the sun beats and steams.