My freewrite from the if/then exercise:

If humans can fly, then people are free.

If there were no religions, then gods are rapists.

If Earth became a wasteland, then time is a river.

If civil war really broke out, then we got it wrong.

If I married X, then animals have known all along.

If Mary was raped, then that story is buried.

If Medusa wasn’t a monster, but a survivor, a lover, lovable, then the burden lives in our bones.

If North America wasn’t colonized by my ancestors, then their bodies are too heavy.

If humans are not superior to all other life forms, then the stars are weeping.


Hummingbird (or The Squeeze)

Sure, a hummingbird is magnificent to look at, but when it flies into the cavity of your ear, you can’t see its iridescent feathers, it’s brilliant green, the bloom of red. You feel the frenzied beat of its winds pleading forgive me forgive me forgive me.

And a hummingbird is small enough, but when the hummingbird is the manifested grief of the man who abused you, it’s even smaller. Juvenile hummingbird sized, smaller than the quarter the same man used to pull out of your ear when he’d come to the house to visit your parents. And just like the gun in your dreams, the gun in your hand, the gun in your gut, the gun cocked on the palette of your tongue, it would be so easy to wrap your hands around it and squuuueeeze. Splat, Bang. Pow. Snuff. Enemy gone.

You could do it. You know now you could. But will you? Do you? Hell, no, you won’t let him make a murdered of you. Take more of your life than he already took down with him. No.

You carefully pull that bird out of your ear, cock that gun on your tongue, and ask him how can I forgive you when you’ve never even apologized? Never said the words, “I’m sorry.” Never thought a thought about what you did to me beyond how your dumb ass drunken actions blew up in your face. Cause you some embarrassment and inconvenience.

Boo hoo. Fly away, fucker, before I change my mind and you blow that piece of shit away.


  1. Karen Schauber

    WOW, Emily! Powerful, urgent, unyielding. “smaller than the quarter the same man used to pull out of your ear when he’d come to the house to visit your parents” got to me especially; so familiar, and so easily disguised as benign. Brilliant! – Karen

    • Rhyannon Brightwater

      So full of the wound made by those we should have been able to trust, those are parents were too blind to the malignancy. And a powerful taking back of power from the abuser.

  2. Dominique Christina

    Yeah. It’s difficult to give our abusers more room than that which they already take up. Thank you for doing this. It’s a difficult undertaking I think. I have pushed myself to write poems where I give my stepfather an empathetic consideration or I try to write in his voice and ultimately I always return to some form of, “Get out of here or I’ll kill you.” The hummingbird and it’s beating wings. The drumming in the ear. The UN-apology of an abuser who is nevertheless trying to take up more space, get more attention. You did a good job with this Emily. I also really liked how your “if” and “then” piece turned out. It has the makings of a nice little non-sequitur poem. I see what your consciousness is producing and I honor it. Thank you for sharing this with me.

  3. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Emily, I love the hummingbird as the figure of the abuser, an exercise in contrasting scale. It’s an inverse of the common mythological sense in some native American cultures as healers and bringers of love, good luck and joy. I wonder how this would work if you flushed out the abusive figure as a shape-shifter coming as an imposter of “Hummingbird” the supernatural. And I second — the abusers who never apologize, or recognize, and continue to ‘batter their wings’ –– not worthy of forgiveness. Nice work. xxxooo

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