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a caterpillar woman, in three parts

by ruiina

i. the neighbor is the same self as a woman—

self as matter, congealed, from slow-turning 

doorknobs   the echo, slightness of    raised voices, 

the knots in her small hands   a croak &

  the shoveling of carpet, swallowing her 


self as the lady next house over— 

self as submission;   ask her for some sugar &

  she asks her husband 

(apprehension—timidity—superfine & 


concave voice      creases in the corner of his eyes,

  not unkind   not at all just slight 

and the doorknob spins and stops 

[she gave her oldest pound away   the stitching 

on the bag   cross-work of 

  (little stars—little sparks—) 

somewhat resembling life]

self as the car—

self as yours to drive 

   take hours around      waste a little gas

take it for a spin, even though your feet hurt a bit

[“hey, why’d you take my car?”] &

   close the door soft enough so he can’t hear 

  your coughing in the garage.

ii. you want to be dorothy this halloween gasoline dripping out of orifices

acid pooling in slits of open wounds 

pockets: kind words. bubble at the top.

[unreal, unreal]

feel grass dew on your skin: virginity again

no one can hurt you

where you have hurt yourself.

he can’t hurt the cords you have severed

twist the already-intertwining intestines

feel the nerves which you have numbed

from years and years of practice

silence the hairs on your arm &

the rattling of cracked bone when he barrels through

the hallway

close off blood-pulsing veins 

 so they don’t gush at the sight of him

click your heels 1,2,3 to go home, go home, go home

[unreal, unreal]

he has hurt you

where you cannot hurt yourself

iii. his first science experiment 

butterflies bursting out of the skin / feel the


of his lips / on the sweatiness of your palm / wonder,

does he taste the salt? / do his eyes paralyze /


the slope of your shoulder? / harmony of your pulse

and the tone of your voice? / or does he set you

free? / feel butterflies beneath fingernails / ripping

off the dead weight / taking flight / does he like catching

butterflies? / put them in glass jars & on

little stands / rip them in half & piece them together /

to his liking 

or do you run / turn into a centipede? / one hundred

legs / all stitched to you / from singed skin / sever

the burned parts / parts from the glass / to be free


a note from the artist--

In short, it’s about the abused—here, women whose bedroom doors have been slammed too often, whose numbness has been practiced to survive, and to send a message that they can still be free. Major inspiration from a fellow poet who’s also written about women in so many profound ways. She sparked this poem.

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