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Violent Rooms

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The contours of the girl blur. She is both becoming and fact.
A rancor defines the split. Rip into. Flatten the depth of voice. That
urgent flex peels off the steady layers. A girl, I say.
Girl. Gu-erl. Quell. He. He—unbuttons before emergence.
As in yard rake pressed to roof of mouth. A fragrant rod.
Suhsssuhssuck. Insistence. Lips go lisp. Our brutish boy.
Having not ever been whole. Or simple. Or young. Just split and open.
Not of it. For it. Born a cog of hard wheel at five, six, seven . . .
What to know of what has never been?


No common place would do: bar stool, front porch, sea rock.
Such a room should crawl into the soul. Stretch it. Contort it.
Could be the straddle of this stranger at the neck. I am this.
She does not waver. She is twenty-five. The bed is wet. As many
as had done this thing before. The wound is rupture. Blood-faced.
Between sailing and anchor. No, between shipwreck and burial.
What does the mouth do? It does not mean no, saying no.
It does not mean yes. It gurgles. It swells. It is comfort.
A quick kick. Mighty, mighty.

Dawn Lundy Martin, “Violent Rooms” from A Gathering of Matter, A Matter of Gathering. Copyright © 2007 by Dawn Lundy Martin. Reprinted by permission of University of Georgia Press.

Source: A Gathering of Matter, A Matter of Gathering (University of Georgia Press, 2007)
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Violent Rooms

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  • Poet and activist Dawn Lundy Martin earned a BA at the University of Connecticut, an MA at San Francisco State University, and a PhD at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

    Her poetry collections include Discipline (2011), chosen by Fanny Howe for the Nightboat Books Prize, and A Gathering of Matter/A Matter of Gathering (2007), which was selected for the Cave Canem Poetry Prize by Carl Phillips and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Precise, tender, and unflinching, Martin’s work is at once innovative and emotionally fraught. Fanny Howe described the poems in Discipline as “dense and deep. They are necessary, and hot on the eye.”

    With Vivien Labaton, Martin coedited The Fire This Time: Young Activists and the New Feminism (2004). She also cofounded both the Third Wave Foundation and the post-theorist Black Took Collective. She has received the Academy of American Arts and Science’s May Sarton Prize...

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