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Bitch Is a Word I Hear A Lot

January 14, 2019

Kim Parko: I am Kim Parko, and this is PoetryNow. I’ve always had very intense, vivid dreams. This poem came out of a dream that I had where I was held down by a group of people and the word “bitch” was written in charcoal across my chest. And so, the poem’s an exploration of how the word becomes sort of embedded in the self. It is kind of like the go-to word for expressing some sort of anger, aggression or frustration that’s gendered.

(READS POEM)

Bitch Is a Word I Hear A Lot

I hate the word, and I guess that’s why it is said?
People love to hurt one another.
It is what makes us human.
I do love dogs.
They don’t seem to be evil unless humans make them that way.
Dogs can maul and they can sniff out bombs.
They’ll get as close to you as they can while you’re sleeping.
They’ll share heat and scent in the crook of your knees.
Is there really a thing such as innocence?
I have desired from birth to live.
Daily, I wrestle the tight arms of guilt.
At the shelter, the adoption coach told us that our new dog was highly food motivated.
I have been called a bitch.
Our dog trembles when he’s afraid and the only thing we can do is wait for the fear to leave.
There’s no comforting him.
In a dream they held me down, scrawled BITCH across my chest in old embers.
They covered my head as a weapon was raised.
I had a dog who once kept me from walking into the arroyo.
She blocked my path and wouldn’t move.
I’ll never know what, or who, she saved me from.

***

For me to be alone anywhere, there’s always a lurking fear.

(QUOTING FROM POEM)

… I had a dog who once kept me from walking into the arroyo. / She blocked my path and wouldn’t move. / I’ll never know what, or who, she saved me from.

The incident really did happen when I was walking down into an arroyo that we would go take a walk in every single day, and there was a time when she just stood there and wouldn’t let me go by. I was trying to cajole her and get her to go, and she just wouldn’t. And so we turned around. I just trusted her. When you’re alone as a woman, and sometimes having a dog is really… you really do feel that they’re your protector.

Katie Klocksin: That was Kim Parko and her poem “Bitch Is a Word I Hear A Lot.” I’m Katie Klocksin and this is PoetryNow, a production of The Poetry Foundation. For more about this series, go to poetryfoundation.org/poetrynow.

Kim Parko considers the politics of the word “bitch.”

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