No, I’m not a “nasty woman”

Posted: October 21, 2016 in Media


“nasty.” adjective. Dutch nestig “dirty,” literally “like a bird’s nest.” Likely reinforced in either case by a Scandinavian source (compare Swedish dialectal naskug “dirty, nasty”), which also might be the source of the Middle English word. Of weather, from 1630s; of things generally, “unpleasant, offensive,” from 1705. Of people, “ill-tempered,” from 1825 (OED).

So, actually, no, I’m not “a nasty woman.” And that’s okay.

I get the knee jerk response of solidarity to reclaim the power taken by Trump playing the name game with Clinton during the third and thankfully final “debate” for the U.S. Presidential election. But I’m gonna refuse the “nasty” label, t-shirt, hashtag, FB like, and coffee mug.

Almost as soon as the words “you are a nasty woman” were delivered from Trump’s pie hole, tweets flooded the internet: #strong women are nasty women.

No. You are strong women.

The virulent misogyny that runs through and through the compulsion to disparage strong intelligent non-compliant women with insults has gained counter-traction and push-back by women and girls “owning it”: Yes, I am nasty.

Yet, is this really how one asserts power?

This current nasty uptake should not to be confused with the reclamation of the words such as“slut” and/or “whore” which have resurfaced because their discourses stand and deliver sexual agency and power by individuals who have been exploited and objectified. Another powerful act of owning it is with the word “cunt.” The etymology of “cunt” is found with the Proto-Indo-European “cu,” and links to other feminine/vaginal terms such as the Hebrew “cus;” the Arabic “cush,” “kush,” and “khunt;” the Nostratic “kuni” for woman. The word cunt is woven into the name of powerful women such as the Indian goddess Kunt. It flows in the energy force Kundalini. Even the devil (another pebble thrown at Clinton during Debate # 2) was a powerful rebel angel tossed out of heaven after taking on the Almighty.

But “nasty”?  It’s an adjective. It qualifies a noun. There is a difference.

Perhaps it is easy to get swept up in the hate-hurricane. It continues to be necessary to shield ourselves by opting to wear the names hurled at us in order to parade the message: I am indeed strong. I am not vulnerable to attack.

But what else is this doing?

Another tweet read: “Taking my daughters to vote with me so I can raise some nasty women.” Is this response not contributing to forms of disempowerment by commodifying, popularizing, normalizing, and accepting violence?

Be you. Be strong. Be intelligent. Be the best you can be. Dream big. Shoot high. Or chill on the sofa at home eating tacos in your jogging pants, but perhaps also pause

(like really pause)

before claiming the misogynistic nasty descriptors that are cast your way because you can also refuse the words. Because you are strong and powerful.


Dear Mr. Trump

Posted: October 11, 2016 in Media

Dr. Mr. Trump,

You are an asshole. Let’s just say I’m responding to your predilection for “name calling” with a little tit-for-tat to your freewheeling objectification of women specifically the dehumanizing rhetoric that you project at individuals who challenge you. In a nutshell, Mr. Trump, I am addressing your misogyny.

I’ve observed the American electoral process with an ever-increasing disgust. The recent “leaked” tape exposing your conversation with Billy Bush adds to your expansive repertoire of deeply rooted hate speech that authorizes an explicit spectrum of discriminatory discourses. Your meaningless expression of having a “great respect for women” is delusional. Your sexist and exploitive lexicon was painfully showcased during the October 9, 2016 debate when in response to the above mentioned tape you downplayed your remarks as “locker room talk.” This violence is underscored by your statement:

“[…] when you’re a star, they [women and girls] let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Your self-described “star” status publicly validates your ability to enact a full range of actions that the power and privilege “celebrity” affords. Yet, Mr. Trump, in this case what you intend to do with your power constitutes rape (“you can do anything”). This sense of patriarchal entitlement with an outcome generating gender-based violence, Mr. Trump, sadly is not new. It has a very long history. Columbus had a parallel empiric drive when he arrived to an inhabited and economically, politically, and socially organized continent in 1492. The non-consensual desire to penetrate/own a woman’s body while stealing territory is the manifestation of imperial narcissism bound tightly with conquest. During the debate, the couching of your response to accusations of sexual assault with “knocking the hell out of ISIS” is not at all strange, but within a discourse of Empire that leaves no safety for, or acknowledgement of the citizens suffering in such places as Aleppo or for that matter anywhere. Your unrestrained and exploitive discourses weave into the common imperial desire of nation building or what you’ve branded as “Making America Great Again.” Mr. Trump, the sexual violence that you espouse is not contained in locker rooms, buses, Twitter, or lost and found recordings. The consequences of colonial violence continue robustly in the twenty-first century with for example over 2,000 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls here in Canada. Misogynists like you enact violence in real life everywhere every hour of every day. You, Mr. Trump, are not only the manifestation of gender-based violence but you are also a perpetrator, a predator, and an instigator who shrouds violence in the flag waving colonial signifiers of nation. Said another way, you are using the discourse of nation to enable your aggressive and violent behaviour.

Now I would like to turn to the second part of your chat with Billy: “Grab them by the pussy.” I’m writing (and speaking) the word “pussy” out loud with its full strength and power. I refuse to water the word down with *#$* which silences my body and my intelligence to respond directly to your ignorance and hate for women and girls. I refuse to not say a word which is (re)constructed to misrepresent and threaten me while concomitantly used coercively to shame, vilify, and dishonour.

Words of advice, Mr. Trump: never assume that you have the power to grab a girl or a woman’s pussy or any other part of her body. That’s sexual assault. It’s a crime. It’s a direct threat of harm onto a person’s body, self hood, and mind. Your threat expresses your intention of provable harm, an action with which you should be criminally charged. Your threat communicates the proof of your objective: sexual assault. Ironically, you are the actual threat of violence that your imagined walls are supposed to keep out and protect American citizens from.

You conclude your statement by announcing that, “you can do anything.”
What interests me here, Mr. Trump, is your sweeping use of the pronoun “you.” Who is this “you” that you are addressing? Your violent desires are crystal clear, but to whom are you also encouraging to take up this abuse of power? While concerned citizens have fallen over themselves feeling the need to “protect women and girls” from your grasping tentacles, what about the young men and boys who are listening/learning from your reckless acts of power and those men and boys who are now authorized to contribute to the culture of rape that you are advocating?

Mr. Trump, your response to “being caught on tape” is a classic narcissist’s move when backed into a corner. You deflect and blame. I refuse your pathetic and common declaration of reform: “I’m a changed man.” Really? Apology theorist Nicholas Tavuchis explains that “an apology, no matter how sincere or effective, does not and cannot undo what has been done.” What is devoid from your so-called apology is empathy for the individuals you violate. Clearly you are missing a chip … or two. Instead you seem to enjoy manipulating and (re)traumatizing women who have been harmed to serve your agenda. You attempt through apology + privilege to return us all to the status quo. “Sorry,” for you Mr. Trump, fits comfortably into an abuser’s bag of tricks that endeavours to disguise the oppressive structures of sexual violence, which rests on misogyny. The fact that you, Mr. Trump, are a candidate in the running for the President of the United States – is horrific.

Now, what’s to be done, Mr. Trump? Your narcissistic desire to injure in order to sustain and misuse power will not change. But my hope is that American citizens who support you will reconsider their vision of leadership when it’s voting day. In the meantime, Mr. Trump, please know that you do not have the power to do “anything” to anyone without consent. That’s a crime. Let me be clear: Mr. Trump, I am not afraid of your kind. You are an insecure bully. I do, however, fear the violence that you are advancing with your hate-filled ideologies. Hopefully you will return to your rightful place: a B-list celebrity and well away from any political power.

Wishing I was a house, study # 2

Posted: May 12, 2016 in Media

They tore it down.

Didn’t take long, you said.
Not as long as it took to build it, anyhow.
You can see how it was broken  (if you look real close). Left
gutted. Eviscerated. Bricks and bones of rooms leaning
into strewn ghosts forwarding no address.
Dust never settles, you said
I’ve never seen anything so still.

You hold my hand and say:

Sam the old grey tabby sun-stretched out on a sleepy summer curb licking his paw
eyes half closed to the smell of cut grass.
Or you, singing loud to Elton John don’t let the sun go down on me lying on the brown shag rug because nobody in the world was watching.
Or you, warm water deep in wondering if your toes would ever touch the other end
of the claw foot bathtub?

The hole it left
Inside. How even light refused to enter, or how
you in your pyjamas would listen from the vent in your room, remember? And you
never speaking of the din
ever speaking of the trembling thunder from the 10:20 train
rattling curtainless windows and Five Star Rye
buried deep in February snow banks?

How the ground slammed against us
It shifted us hard, didn’t it?
Dismembered us, remember how
your hand left mine?
I never heard anything go so silently
like dust that never settles
as it all fell down.



Posted: April 6, 2016 in Media

Did god let her in?
Or was she left behind
like this half of her rosary?
Maybe still, she holds the other half
in the cup of her palm?
(slips so easy through the cracks)

It broke like her.
Left behind, here
with me
like her.


I was 8 years old when I was sexually assaulted.

I remember. I remember, vividly. It was mid-summer. Mid-afternoon. I was sitting in the shade against the lean-to at the back of our small house. My bare feet tucked up and away from the blazing sun that scorched the grass. I can still feel the cool cement against my legs. The air was alive with cicadas buzzing electric in the hot breezeless day. (When I was young, I always thought it was the telephone lines that made that sound). In this refuge from the sun, I looked out into my backyard. It was usually empty except for waves of sheets that clung to the clothesline. But today it was filled with my parents and their friends. This was rare: My parents … with friends. They were laughing together. This never happened. There was no yelling, no fights, no ambulance; no impromptu taxi drives taking us to somewhere else. It was different. I was content. My dad strung the speakers from a tree. Herb Albert’s Tijuana Brass and Johnny Cash blared from the single pine. Two shoeless men held either end of a bamboo pole. They swayed to the music like lazy flags in the wind as my mother did the limbo. Ladies looked on, holding drinks, smoking cigarettes. In between songs, my dad turned the chicken sate, fanned the coals.

That’s when I saw him. He moved slowly toward me. Looking at me. He was a friend of my mom and dad: an older man, wiry, grey haired. His clothes hung loose on his body, and as with all the men in the yard, his long sleeved shirt was unbuttoned because of the heat.

He was closing in.

“I hear you did a good job on your school project.”

I don’t remember my response. I know I felt suddenly uncomfortable. I clenched my body closer into myself.

He looked down at me as he spoke. “Why don’t you show it to me.”

The project was for my grade 3 class. We were studying pioneer families. I decided to build a log cabin. For weeks I searched for branches that were the perfect length, pieces of pine and spruce for the trees to surround it. I cut a swatch of fabric from a dress for the curtains. From clay, I painstakingly created the mother, father, and children. I made the roof separately, so I could lift it off and peer inside at this perfect family. I was proud. I got a good mark. I wanted to keep it. So, my dad put my log cabin and its perfect family in the basement.

“It’s in the basement,” I said. “Put away.”

“Well, take me to see it.”

I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay in my happy shade. I got to my feet. As I led him through the backdoor, I looked over my shoulder at my parents who were oblivious: talking, busy laughing …

We stepped into the “shack” (as we called it); inside, it was painted ox-blood red. An empty and solitary shelf (which my mother, for some reason, called the “psychedelic cupboard”) was painted the same colour from the dregs of the paint can. The trap door, which led to the basement, was at the back corner of the shack. It was closed. To open it from the floor was treacherous. The potential to fall into the gaping hole was alarmingly high. I hit the light switch. As I opened the trapdoor the cool, musty basement air exhaled. I could feel him behind me. Something was wrong. My skin felt it first.

Five steep steps led down into the narrow cement corridor. Anyone 5-feet or taller had to hunch, while walking, before entering the main section of the basement. The ceiling was low; stonewalls damp; and shafts of daylight through the small window, strangled by an outdoor bush, pushed their way through. Wood and tools were in an organized scatter.

I remember showing him the model ship my dad was building.

The furnace room held my log cabin with its perfect family. It was an Edgar Allen Poe-type antechamber. I stepped into the darkness and into another layer of cold. As I turned around, I saw that he was backlit; his body filled the doorway. I remember feeling that there was no way out. I explained that the light was in the middle of the room. A thin chain dangled just out of my reach. I stood on my tiptoes in order to reach the chain, to turn on the light.

He grabbed me from behind.

It was as if an electric shock had charged through my small body. My ears deafened with a white noise. My body screamed.

I remember him saying, “don’t tell anyone or you’ll be in trouble.” And then he left. I don’t know how long I was in that room. I remember worrying that he had closed the trap door. Locked me in.

The white noise rang through my body as I pushed my way through trap door. I returned to my place outside and sat against the lean-to, tucked my legs underneath. In the shade, I couldn’t feel my body. I couldn’t hear anything. I saw my parent’s faces, smiling as if nothing had changed. Except for me, the earth had shifted on its axis. Light was somehow different.

I sometimes imagine myself as an adult sitting down next to that 8-year old girl in the shade. Her sense of light altered. I tell her: “It will be okay. You will be okay.” “I promise.”

When I speak about violence against women, and share my experience, I’m sometimes met with: “but you were a child, it’s different.” The observation is followed by the questions: “Why didn’t you scream?” Why didn’t you tell?” Why didn’t you fight back?” How could you just sit there with him there? Act as if nothing happened? Questions like these are often from people who have not suffered a sexual assault.

And what if? What if I did tell? Even then I somehow knew, it would be my word against his. It’s fear. It’s shame. It’s silencing. Some things are similar.

The truth is, I didn’t want to ruin the day. That’s the truth. I didn’t want to ruin the day. You see, something happens in the chaotic force of violence and violation. Even at 8-years old, I tried to fix the unfixable. I tried to make it okay. I wanted it to be back to normal, as if it never happened. I thought I could do that, by pretending it away. But I couldn’t. That’s the truth too.

(I threw out the log cabin).

So, I walk with that girl and my histories of violence. But as I walk I am not silent. I am not ashamed. Silence and Shame are patriarchal devices within structures that authorize and enable abuse. They keep the perpetrator safe.

We must, however, walk together. Know that you are not alone. Know that the depth of your wounds are singular, intimate, complex, and etched deeply into who you are. We must challenge draconian systems of justice. We must disabuse ourselves of indoctrinated misogyny. Educate. Refuse shame. Refuse silence. Demand and create new forums of transformative justice designed specifically for survivors of sexual assault. Demand judicial processes that are affordable, accessible, equitable with advocates who are willing to take into account the white noise; the currents of trauma; historical, cultural, racial, and social contexts; the fear; the confusion; the levels of abuse; and understand that the survivor’s motives to normalize and protect are real, so too are actions and responses that are outside of the purview of socialized “norms.”

We must walk together and promise each other that in solidarity we will be okay, because you survived.

my mother was a refugee

Posted: November 20, 2015 in (Re)Memory, Media

Stains mark the place,
so I won’t lose my way
to the greenblack twists in her linoleum floor. She follows the crack

with her bare feet
as her kitchen sways to Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass
and rice steamed stories
of boats crossing over, waves crossing over, over to the other side of over there where they call

Then, a snake
fangs bury sharp beneath her skin (grazing bone)
“I still see his eyes,” she said, “green like mine.”

Water boils.
She rests her wooden spoon.
Still from stirring.

I trace her shores across the line of her neck bent now dark hair falling windowpanes fog
with bruised lemongrass

trassie sambal apple scars: a compass she left behind

that maybe I could find her.kommer

selamat makan



Posted: May 7, 2015 in Media

He sits in his wheelchair
Long-term care
Watching the history channel
World War II flying through the air
across the screen in black and white.
I touch his shoulder. He looks up and nods.
“I brought you some herring,” I say.
He wheels closer to the screen.
I open the jar and place it nearby.
With a fork he stabs
at the tightly packed fish with his good hand.
Half of his body is dead
The other angry.
I watch as men in planes drop bombs on people trying to escape and
I look at him. Back to the battle.
The capitulation.
Herring drops to the floor
One piece, then another (and another) of silver fish long dead
That got away

I found my mother’s kookboek on his bookshelf
Between Tora Tora Tora and a thesaurus

I bend to take care of the discarded bits
(one from his shoe)
As he continues to fish, oblivious
of a child crying on a boat, exploding

I open my mother’s kookboek
I can’t pronounce the words
but my tongue knows the taste

In black and white, soldiers carry a flag,
puncture the soil
and claim it

On page one hundred and seventy one
a dead fly.
Blue skin, iridescent
or do they have skin, like me?
Wings intact.
I keep it there
To mark my place


red mitten on white snow

Posted: March 26, 2015 in Media

the oldest light delivered you to me
thieving ancient atoms stole you away
inside a pocket of background microwave radiation
restless dust sliding into a revolving spiral galaxy
relinquishing a spinning bundle
an equilibrium of you into my arms
dying i can think of only that

no blue stumbling buzz blue bottle buccaneer
just a red mitten
on white snow
you presume i have abandoned you
as your hand still in my grasp, loosens
i told you once:
the earth is turning at equal velocity to the moon
“stuck in sticky gravity”

i call out to remind you
but this space between you and i
this new distance of yours and mine
takes my breath
as i watch you leave through closed eyes
stolen way by silly death

earth moon

read her hands

Posted: October 17, 2014 in Media

Standing in a doorway — anywhere

Read her hands
interpret out loud the writing quiet of them
Palms full of spring
chopped onions garlic bleach
middle fingernail ragged
worrying after you
Number 46 polish (coral lust) chipped, fading the one night out
Finger spit wash chocolate from the corner
of your hungry mouth
Red knuckles dishwater damp rub her father’s broken feet with peppermint lotion

He will never know. You will never know the midnight tracing
the sleeping horizon of your young forehead
The hovering silence
A clipped wing waving from behind a screen door
at backs turning, walking away.
Washing wiping tearing pulling brushing bathing
Holding holding holding           Holding
The growing and the dying
Mending heeding healing stealing
Bits of grace by the cupful
Like water, you can drink clean the taste

September tomatoes warm with morning sun on the tips of them
Places sacred where they go
For the relief of them
3 am fingers stroke the length of him
Wield the spine flaming wet of rest less hands over him
Early morning coffee for him
Fingers threading needles and mistakes patch her day
carrying bags of office clocks up the tired narrow stairs
The cigarette burning between her fingers at a window sill,
contemplating, behind a locked bathroom door

Making bread with them
Kneading dough with the heels of them
The nourishment of them
Flour etched into the lines between the lines
The lines that some cannot fathom how much they can hold
Can never hold again
Let go receive forgive give back
The angry fists that pound against the kitchen air to breath
To wipe away with the backs of them, her eyes before you see
Follow the lines of her hands
Follow the lines of brightly cornered rooms
Well–tucked unmade beds, enter
And tell me her.

Standing in a doorway — anywhere

some tell me this is my pilgrimage
but you and I both know you were not shrine material
you were
too much of this earth, composed
to breakdown, rise
tree like
limbs bearing these candlenuts I carry
in my pocket

this is my religion

Image  —  Posted: July 10, 2014 in Media