Abuses Amended | The New Engagement

Abuses Amended

By Jessica Edwards
Abuses Amended art

to the men who want to rule over us

severed from my nourishing placenta, your euphoric gaze soured like the milk you suckled. you’d gnaw at my chapped nipple, mouth watering at the metallic odor, grinning when i’d gasp in pain. it was time to wean you, but you insisted on latching onto my dry breast, then you’d wail as if cursing me for not being your perpetual source of satisfaction. how dare i refuse to submit to your insatiable desires? now your body is that of a man. each night you creep into my room and place your hand under my nose as i sleep. you expel an irritated sigh once you realize my breathing hasn’t halted. your disgust is a bullet through my skull. as i clean up behind your muck, i find and read your journal with passages full of derision of my complexion and praise of fairer women who posses features far from ours. you paint scenes of my hacked body --slit throat absent of nagging vocal chords-- and you double over in glee amongst friends who share identical fantasies. when i screech in horror at the depravity, you reply with a sneering, “calm down.” and yet, i allow my anguish to be squelched, and in its place, fierce protectiveness prevails. when they brutalize you, i rush to the front lines, my bosom shielding you from their savagery. my blistered palms are raw from digging my own grave and using the displaced earth to form your fortress. from that six foot abyss i look toward you, pleading for reciprocation, but your hand reaches past mine, grabbing the shovel, and soil muffles my frenzied shrieks. were you ever mine?


my housemate won’t help me clean

I’m in the middle of my house, hunched over, retching. I’m consistently mid-gag as I face a quotidian attack by this pungent pounding on the walls of my nostrils. The fetor fills my nose and seeps into my pores. A reeking tsunami has swept over my body, flushing me in a whirlpool of acridity, burning my eyes.

Momma told me about the stench that continuously emanates from this house. She said, “its been cursed since the cement block was poured for the foundation because the land was sacred.” Everyone in the neighborhood knew it. But the people who took the plot really didn’t care, it was a prime location: right along the water. Anyone who tried to discourage them was eliminated. These sinister swindlers made my grandfather build the house, but he didn’t see one dime. So after years of litigation the courts said that the house was ours too --to share.

But this house is filthy.

I hold my breath as I roll up my sleeves to combat this morphing mess. As soon as I scrub bloodstains from the carpet, new ones form. I move on to the gelatinous ooze in the cracks of the kitchen tile but then I sniff a fresh funk and I turn and see you smearing feces on the living room wall.

“What?” You ask with a maniacal smile. ”I can’t do this either?”

“Do you not smell that?”

"You inhale deeply but you’re nose blind so you reply,“smell what?”

I gesture to the rotting raw meat in the malfunctioning freezer, the unidentifiable sludge that grows on top of the grease encrusted stove, the sticky and stiffened bedroom sheets, the maggot-infested toilet, the dirt caked mirrors, the decomposing fruit, discarded in heaps on the linoleum, and now, the walls you’ve just coated in excrement.

“Well,” you reply, “ I’ve heard the house has smelled worse. And the only thing ‘filthy’” you emphasize with finger quotation marks, “is your insistence on disparaging this house. Frankly…” you say, grabbing a half eaten apple from the floor, wiping it off on your discolored t-shirt. “…I’m offended that you keep bringing it up. If you don’t like it, you can leave.”

“But my grandfather built this house!” my rubber gloved hands raised in exasperation, dropping the spray-bottle of bleach.


You bite into the mealy flesh and throw the remains on the floor with a belch. Walking away, you say with a saccharine smile, “God bless.”


on being called “nigger” for the first time

I wake up early to paint my nails pink.

I apply a halo of grease to my hairline and use boar bristles to brush my baby hairs in place.

I cram my books into my paisley tote and grab a piece of toast.

I walk to the bus; my white headphones commence my daily playlist.

I watch as the cute boy boards the bus.

I look down before he sees me stare.

I get off the bus and mentally rehearse our talent show choreography as I walk to school.

I stop at the front door and take off my headphones.

I see that my right index finger nail is already chipped.

I hear someone shout at me from a passing car.

I feel a searing rip tear open my flesh.

I ball my fist into a familiar salute and push it into the hollow.

I stagger inside my classroom and steady myself with one hand as I ease into a desk.

I sit dazed; my breathing shallow, I’m too weak to maintain pressure on the wounded area.

I notice my clothes are drenched and blood is pooling beneath my seat.

I ask to be excused; I bring a friend.

I watch her brown fingers expertly clean and pack my trauma with gauze.

I am told it will scar.


Jessica Edwards is a D.C. native and a Houston resident. She is a former middle school teacher and currently works in a nonprofit youth serving organization. Her passion for justice, particularly for black women, fuels her writing. She is a Spring 2016 Blavity fellow. Her poetry has been featured in Abernathy Magazine, Black Girl In Om, and is forthcoming in Vinyl Poetry and Prose. Her collection of poetry: lyrical.catharsis. is available for purchase from her website jessicaedwardswrites.com.

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