virginia chase sutton
Virginia Chase Sutton's chapbook, Down River, was recently released. Her second book, What Brings You to Del Amo, won the Morse Poetry Prize and will be issued this year by Doubleback Books. Embellishments was her first book and Of a Transient Nature is her third. Seven times nominated for the Pushcart Prize, her poems have won the Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry at, Bread Loaf, the National Poet Hunt, and the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award. Sutton's poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Comstock Review, and Peacock Journal, among many other literary publications, journals, and anthologies. She lives in Tempe, Arizona.
At the beginning there was a sweet slow stream
quickly moving. Then full banks rise high
as my father brings me to the edge. O-so-young
and even as he holds me, he wants me. More water, tears
splashing the shore. My mother’s doctor feeds me
amphetamines to lose weight, cold hands over my body,
dressed in lingerie he desires, Mother purchases.
Ache of artificial tides. Years older I think
of the man who rubs his enormous clothed erection
sidling the counter where I work, whispering what
is your name? Only nineteen I turn away. He
finishes, says I have been watching you and returns
again and again. Still the river pours, races along
as a friend pursues me and I agree, ask him to wait
but he climbs above the bed and as he pushes,
a machine drilling, causes the river to bend, huge
hook in the river’s movement as I am unconscious,
drunken blackout, raped seven times, until I wake,
shove him away. The power of rushing water pours
over my head and body. The U-shapes mount.
A second rape by a man I call friend is about to wreck
me near the shore. And at work, the man who calls
to report sports scores always saying your voice
is so sexy and let’s meet for coffee and...I tell him
I am married but he persists, even comes to the office.
Back on the phone, pleading, cajoling as I say no
and the river collapses until my boss saves me, yells
into the phone Leave her alone. Speak to me now.
The river straightens for a stretch. Then an old friend,
also married, sits on the floor beside me in front
of a fire at a party, leans in and kisses me. You can
have me anytime you want me he says, hands on
my black velvet dress. I say nothing, do nothing,
and the river slips into a meander as a friend
of my husband comes to our apartment when
he knows my husband is at work, says I want to
play with you. One night he shows up late
while I drink alone, my husband asleep in our
bed. I sense rushing waters. I want you right
now the man says, his brown hand slipping
over mine on the kitchen table. With effort I shove him,
throw him out. then wake my spouse, tell him about
nearly drowning. You know how to take care
of yourself is all he says and what once was power,
takes another turn, becomes a small puddle.
the second rape
It is hard for me to tell you of the second time.
You might say I was entirely at fault, too trusting,
an innocent, a fool. A man I knew the year before,
mostly because he was beautiful, found me, asked
as a friend, if he could spend the night. Yes I said.
Sure. In my dorm room I had pushed two bedsteads
together to make a king-size bed. Over the summer
I stitched a quilt big enough along with extra batting.
I added a ruffle all the way around as it pleased me.
He came to my door that evening. I let him in. I opened
the door to a monster. Rules I told him: he had to stay
fully dressed, no touching at all. Yes he said. Sure.
He fell asleep on the side closest to the door. Ready
for rest in my pink nightgown sprigged with flowers,
I clambered over his body as he quietly breathed.
On my belly, I found sleep at last, face buried in my
pillow. He unzipped, pulled out his cock, held it
in his hand. He pushed into me, hard with a grunt
and I started, too scared to move. Finished
battering me, he rolled over, went back to sleep
in an instant. Crawling across him, I knew what I had
to do. Into the hot shower, sobbing, washing away
every trace. Done only when the hot water gave out,
it was silent in the small dorm in the early morning.
Carefully I slipped past him as he snored. The only
comfort I could find was the counterpane’s ruffle
and I held it tight in my grasp. Later I eased over
him, went down the hill to the cafeteria for breakfast.
He followed. Sat down at a table but I ignored him,
my heart slammed extra hard. Was that rape, I ask
you. Tears slipped into a puddle on my chest. I must
have asked for it, I let him stay. No you say looking
me in the eye. It was rape you say. It was not your
fault you say. He had no right to your body you say.
You smile at me and I dissolve and suddenly
a chunk of my rocky shoreline cracks, falls into
the brilliant sea. Back in my room in the psych hospital
I could not breathe. Scooching to the far
edge of my single bed, I folded my lucky blanket
over my still body and stroked the cover’s stripes.