littlewonder2

Little wonder we stumble in life.


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Public Nightmare

Inspired by: Tasha Receno – “Just Another Rape Poem”

Trigger Warning: rape mentions

I see a sea of faces, bright lights, and look down for just a moment. I have performed before, but in most cases I focus less on the audience and more on the stage. But I am alone out here, so I peer through the light like its a mirror, and begin to speak.

“When I used to imagine sex, I imagined pain
Pictured a force tearing me apart
Me, with no choice
Him, with no mercy
Tearing me apart even when I screamed for mercy
Or a break
Or it was too much sensation
Or I was too dry

I have the vague memory of a penis entering me –”

I am cut off by a voice, detached at first, coming from nowhere. Then I begin to see the audience, scanning it, when the invisible voice comes again. Now I’m able to pinpoint it, find his face, hear his words.

“You should stop whining about rape and learn to defend yourself,” he says.

He doesn’t know, none of them do. This is why, after all, I’m up here. Because people don’t know what I know, because I’m tired of being misunderstood, because people need to understand. Because I know someone will, and fuck the rest.

But this man’s still talking, still interrupting me, even while he calls me the interruption. He doesn’t see the hypocrisy. And as he continues to challenge me, I become the monster on stage, curling my fists hard, imagine launching myself at him.

But I don’t. I stand still, frozen as I force myself to remain frozen, imagine physically holding myself back. I take a few deep breaths, stop imagining my fist in his face, and start imagining yelling at him instead.

“You know what?” I say, “Fuck this. You think it’s so simple? I’ll write another slam poem, just for you.”

I wander downstage, then return to the mic upstage, preparing myself. I take a deep breath to steady myself, and when I begin, my voice is screaming.

“I won’t be silent!
Men like you
Have been silencing women like me for centuries!
I was raped!
And I deny it pretty often in my own head, but I won’t anymore!

You think you know me?
You have silenced me.
I spend every minute of every day bowing to your whims.
I don’t speak about it, I am afraid!
Afraid of offending someone,
of provoking someone,
of embarrassing myself,
of crossing some line.
But it’s all a lie!
I don’t owe you shit!

I was raped!
And men like you defend those rapists.
You degrade me,
as if I’m to blame.
I don’t have anything to do with it.
No matter what, they will still rape,
no matter who you blame.

You ask why I don’t defend myself.
Why,
day in and day out,
why don’t I defend myself against violence that is everywhere?
I take beatings, don’t get me wrong
I get abused
invalidated
denied
I take this abuse in my body just as if you had punched me in the face
But I take it
because I don’t want to be a bitch,
don’t want to complain,
am told I deserve it.

I don’t deserve it.
But everyday, my fear and my anger grows
My body corrupt
my mind twisted
so that I lose my compass
and lose myself in the forest of right and wrong
a forest of my own emotions
a forest of my inner selves
I search, decade by decade, for myself
I’m searching for how I feel,
I’m searching for -” I burst into song, “when will my reflection show
who I am inside -” and back,
“I’m searching for who I am,
and I’m searching for the bravery to wear my heart on my sleeve.
I doubt even you’re man enough to do that. Most men aren’t.
Men are balls of fear wrapped up in bravery,
a paradox men like you are completely blind to.

Many men are bullies
That’s why many men rape
Because they need to take in order to feel whole
To feel powerful in order to feel in control
To control others rather than yourself
To violate someone else’s rights in order to feel your own.
It’s been happening for centuries,
so you must be afraid, ‘why stop now?’
End of an era.
And it’s coming
And that terrifies you, doesn’t it?
So much you have to condemn us to ‘just a distraction’ in order to convince yourself we’re not a threat
Yeah, keep thinking that, because before you know it
we won’t be
just a distraction
We will change the world.”

I take a breath, thinking back on everything I just said, while looking him the eye again.

“You know, I should really thank you
By standing in as my muse
You only fuel my power.
Critics like you
remind me how much hate there still is in the world

Hate versus hate, there should really be art
Because hate plus art equals heart
And that’s really what we could use more of.”

And with that, I spin from him and exit the stage, invited into the fold of my fellow performers, and I’m awash with praise once again.


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World History and its Narrative Discourse

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of Crash Course history, both World and US. And it seems to me that, although the channel does focus on history outside America, such as on history in the Middle East and Asia, there is still something of an exclusivity involved.

While watching World History, I gave some thought to the fact that they gave Africa only three episodes on World History 1 & 2 (72 episodes overall), one episode on Latin America, and no episodes on Australia or New Zealand, or even Canada. And then they dedicate a history course to America in detail; according to John [Green], not because of Euro-centrism, but because it is a major world power and thus relevant to all. Yet I can’t help but wonder how much of that is really national pride at least partly to the exclusion of outside perspectives. I mean, certainly nothing is written or thought of in a vacuum, and a little passion for your country is of course allowed. But would John have even considered dedicating a course to another country, say China, in more detail? I bet if he was born there, he would; I myself would certainly do a course on Australian history if I were a Crash Course history host. Perhaps there simply isn’t demand, but wouldn’t learning the histories of countries not our own broaden our minds the same way learning languages in school does? So shouldn’t we do that more?

History is great not just for learning the past but also understanding the present, something I didn’t really appreciate until Crash Course history. The historical context of Austen’s novels, for example: the fact that women’s roles were to become wives speaks even to today’s attitudes towards women. At my sister’s wedding, I remember someone off-handedly joking about how all that was left was to “marry off the other one,” not even to mention my new brother-in-law’s conservative views. I think Austen’s novels were perhaps an exploration on under what circumstances she might get married, divorced to her reality, and her female protagonists were also perhaps explorations of her own character as well. But apart from all that, it was often in Crash Course US History that I thought recurring themes still relevant today, particularly on the topics of prejudice and freedom, were quite interesting as well.

When I was in school, I learned Australian history so much, that by high school I was so sick of it that I would’ve been glad for anything else, especially as what I was taught was practically exclusively early colonisation of Australia and about Aboriginees. So when I entered The American International School, I grasped gladly to American history. But these are the only two histories I was taught; yet I was also taught French, Spanish, Japanese and Italian, not to mention briefly Indonesian at some point, throughout school too. I believe learning languages in school is compulsory in order to teach children to be more open minded about other cultures. However, why isn’t history treated the same way? Why is it so largely exclusionary, at least in my experience? We should learn the histories not only of our own countries, but of others as well. And don’t tell me that’s what World History is for; that should really be the starting point to learn more. World History, it seems both in Crash Course and across other courses, is really at the moment more like the General Knowledge of history: a special interest course but ultimately useless. History, however, isn’t useless, and in order to become more rounded individuals, perhaps we need to think more carefully about the stories we tell each other, even the non-fictional ones.

This has led me once again into the fantasy of what education could be. Perhaps you could learn World History (well) in primary school, and then in high get a specific-country elective (ie the country is elective, not the class), for one continent per school year. By the end, then you’d get an overall understanding of world history as background, and specific country histories as an expansion of that. Another step towards the ideal plan.

Another thing about the historical story that we tell is that it always starts with the history of the dominant peoples rather than the original natives. No doubt this is that bias of what is “our” history opposed to their history, “their” meaning the natives. But is it bias that leads us to focus on this, or does the excuse of easy access have some sway here? In my opinion, uneasy access to references from the past of other people isn’t necessarily an excuse not to teach it () know what’d make it more accessible? More initiative to research it), unless there’s so little reference that it would mean that everything is speculation and not fact. I think that this isn’t the truth in many cases, though. If history is what’s written, does that mean what isn’t written can never be known? Archaeology, oral traditions, living descendants, cultural art; even in written historical periods, it is always possible, even likely, to have other resources, even if the way history’s taught now might give us the opposite impression. Maybe I don’t know much at all about what resources are available, but I do know what I want to see, and that is a balance, even an unequal one, between all the peoples involved in a particular story, not just the victors.

I believe in any kind of storytelling, both comedy and tragedy are essential. Comedies uplift our spirit, and tragedies teach us to be more self aware. Both mind and spirit are essentials to becoming more wellrounded human beings, but in particular, tragedies, even ones that only reached individuals and not society as a whole, are perhaps more particular to history. Because, just like tragedies, histories serve to teach us about ourselves and our society. It’s just that we’re fortunate enough for our society not to have led to tragic ends, on the whole. And things are continuing to get better into the modern age, which is where comedy comes in: to give us hope for the future.


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Feat of Facebook

She stared at her phone screen, and it glowed against her eyes as she took in her image on her facebook site. People were always telling her she needed to be more active on it, that they wanted to see her more, but everytime she went on, she felt this sinking feeling.

She was an embarrassment. Every time she saw her picture, everytime she posted something or commented on something, she felt it. She should just shut down the whole site and run away from this whole internet interaction. At least when she was around people, she didn’t feel so self-conscious. She was thinking about the other person, not herself. But these days, whenever she was around people, they were always on the phones. It pissed her off.

But more than that, it made her afraid. Afraid, because if she was forced to come back here again and again, forced through these jarring interactions, she would expose herself too much, show people her real self, and they… they would tear her apart for it. People were about as gossipy and ruthless as she was ashamed for her differences and the body that hides them. Because that’s what she saw, looking at her photo. A face, a body that represents a whole. A smile so still it appears fake, the body too exposed by the clothes wrapped around it. Legs filled with sexual presence, arms filled with vulnerability, face belying too much sorrow. Everything too exposed, as she stretched on the grass, reading.

The book revealed too much, too, for those who knew. And there was those who knew, had to be. Catcher In The Rye, the book about Holden Caulfield, the character everyone she knew hated, who she alone loved because she felt like she knew him, was walking around in his life, in his skin. She could tell no one else this, but here was the evidence. She tapped edit, then choose facebook photo. She had to show a different self, she couldn’t be that girl, who looked their nose down on everyone and hated them; she knew it was all in her head. At least, she needed to show them a different her.

She scrolled through her pictures, saw pictures of her with friends, family… lots of scenery; she liked to keep the focus off herself… places she’d been, things she’d done… “I don’t know…” she sighed. She picked one close by, that was good enough. She stood by the side of the frame, crowded by a restaurant her family had taken her too. It was an unintentional shot by her brother, just as she was turned towards him. He had uploaded it with relish, telling her, too, that she didn’t have enough photos up on facebook. But part of her remained certain he did it just to embarrass her. Little brothers are so cruel sometimes.

She knew there was nothing particularly wrong in this picture, but her hair was too messy, her eyes too bright, and she tapped back. Find another photo… she thought, and kept scrolling.

Out of desperation, she almost chose a plate of food, if only to obscure her face, but she knew how that would look to the outside world; it would look like she was hiding. And from a world that demanded her presence, she knew that wouldn’t do, so she continued down.

Finally she found it, a group shot from school where she was reasonably hidden in a sea of faces. They had all taken a picture in front of the library during free period, and she pictured right from the centre, surrounded by her group. She chose it, cropped it, and stared in satisfaction as her eyes flitted from Alex to Sara to Jessica, and all around at the friends surrounding her, avoiding her own face completely.

She exited the app. There, she thought. Maybe that oughta hold them a little while. It wasn’t a post, but she really had nothing to say, so she’d just have to think about it a while longer.

Partly inspired by this.


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The Girl Who Says No

And then you see your own face in the jumbotron
And your boyfriend’s down on one knee
And he’s holding an engagement ring so big it blinds the screen
And the way he looks at you
Like you caught the homerun ball
And you look up and see thousands of people in the stadium rooting for you
To do it
To say yes
This is for the woman who says no.
— “Say No” National Poetry Slam Finals 2014

She looks back at her own reflection in the big screen, feeling the people judging her, glares into the screen, stands up.

And then she remembers the victim at her feet, and looks down, and puts all the love she can muster into her expression. She hates that he had to do it like this, shouting love from the rooftops, or in this case, stadium tops. Hates that he would subject her to this, feels manipulated to the core.

But she tells herself he didn’t do this out of spite, but love. Has to tell herself that, to believe that. And there is a part of her that does love him back. Just not enough.

The answer is no. Perhaps if she can just sell her no, she can escape here alive.

So she sits back down, pats the hand holding the ring, caresses the side of his cheek with her other hand, and stares affectionately into his eyes. “You know I love you…” she says, not willing to give it away yet, not until she’s understood.

“So you’ll say yes?” he asks, and there’s a cheer from the audience, so she panics and cries, “Wait!” over them. The cheers die down in anticipation, and she repeats herself. “Wait,” she tells him, a subtle instruction intended not just for this moment. He and the audience look on obliviously.

“Before I give you an answer, I need to  tell you something. My parents are… well, let’s just say I’m a child of divorce. And because of that, I promised myself that I would always wait. For me to say yes, I can’t settle for anything less than absolute head-over-heels love, I can’t settle for anything less than grow-old-together commitment. And I do love you…” she says, “but romance isn’t enough. I can’t simply rely on empty romantic gestures. I can see you love me, but it’s not enough. But stay with me,” she says, holding his hand, “and prove to you’ll always be there, that you’ll never leave me, that we’ll always stay together… and ask me again. Then maybe, I’ll say yes.”

“So your answer is no?” he says, sounding wounded, and the audience collectively dissents.

“We don’t know each other well enough yet. My feelings for you aren’t there yet. Give me some more time,” she says and, looking around at the waiting faces, she sighs. “The answer is no,” she concedes.

The amount of hate she got after the game, leaving with her boyfriend, was shocking. Slurs and popcorn got thrown at her several times, from the climb back up the stairs, to the walk through the inside of building, to the car. And through it all, her boyfriend said nothing but the occasional face-to-face or behind-the-back insult at the expense of those haters.

It made her feel quite alone. Perhaps she had made the right decision… They hopped in the car, and she looked at him silently, wanting to speak. But he busied himself in the driver’s seat, not looking at her. So she simply looked forward, buckled up, and let him drive them away.


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Who Am I

I am
You are
We are whole

I spent my whole life
believing that.

But are we fragments
in space
in a vacuum
fitting together
all our lives?

Maybe we are both

fit unto ourselves,
wholly feeling yet missing

What are we missing
Why are we missing it?
What are we?

Even if we are one thing
Might we be an opposing force?
Opposing the thing that makes us whole

If so, then why this conflict
why can’t we be together in ourselves?

Why can’t I be together
without you

I need to be

can’t let you

fill me
as if I’m not enough

Why can’t I be?
Why do I need you?
Are we all incomplete without each other?

Do humans need each other
Why do we need to

be floating on the edge of space
in our little bubble
infants in need of touch
touch or we die
can that really be who we are?

Who are you? Who am I?
Why do we crawl
and search
and cry
and punch

What is life? What is our lives?
Let me be free
and whole.

Let me be free.


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Death on my Mind

Your heart was slow in your chest. You were withered, old, and grey. And your younger sister was clutching your hand beside the bed.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

“How do you feel?” you retorted.

“Seriously.”

“Seriously, it doesn’t matter how I feel. My death isn’t about me. It’s about you.”

She looked at you disbelievingly, pitying.

“No one’s death is really about them,” you continue. “Except for those who really have no one, no one to care. Then their death is about them, because they’ll have no one else to carry them. Just a last flash in the pan, then they’re gone. But you care,” you said. “And soon it won’t matter how I feel, cause I’ll be dead. These’ll be my last words. And then you’ll be alone, to suffer. How can that feel?”

She squeezed your hand. “You’re still alive. You still matter, to me.”

“I know.” You stare back into her face, unshed tears in your eyes, and squeeze back. “I’m afraid to go. My mind… I don’t want to lose it.”

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” she quoted at you with humour, and you smile.

“Indeed.”

You felt yourself slip away, and squeezed her hand tighter. “It’s been real,” you said, unironically. It comes out sincere, full of emotion. “I just wish I had been real for longer, instead of burying it so deep I lost it. You were the one exception.”

“Sisters,” she said, “duh.”

“Yeah, I know. But still.”

She looked at me, eyes soft. “I know.”

“Will you care when I go? When mum died…”

“Of course I will. You’re my sister. Anyway, you remember I cried when dad died.”

“Just checking.”

“You’re the only one I have left,” she said.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I was glad to have you as a sister. Still am.”

“Thanks.” You allowed a tear to slide down your face before closing your eyes to sleep; to die.

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