Selected Poems by Molly Fisk

On the Disinclination to Scream

If I had been a ten year old stranger
and you had tripped me in a dark alley, say,
downtown, instead of our mutual living room
I’m sure I would have screamed.

If, in the alley, you had straddled me as fast–
your knees clamping my elbows into asphalt,
not the blue Chinese dragons
of our living room rug,
I might have been quiet there, too.

When you opened my mouth
with your heavy flat thumbs,
filled it with pain and flesh–
I would have choked in the alley,
as anyone would choke.

But if you had groaned then, and stood up,
walked away from the dark street
leaving me to vomit and shake alone,
I might have been saved.

I could describe you to policemen.
Perhaps their composite would match your photo
in the Harvard Reunion guide.
Your fingerprints, lifted from the collar of my dress,
might be found in Coast Guard files.

If they never found you and there was no trial
I could have gone home to people who loved me:
horrified, enraged, they would plot revenge
and rock me to sleep in soft arms.

I would have been frightened, maybe forever,
of alleys, strange men, and the dark–
but encouraged by the world, who would hate you on my behalf.
I would have been as safe as a ten year old can be.

Instead, I rose quietly from the Chinese rug
and went upstairs to wash.
No sound escaped me.
I couldn’t afford to throw up,
and it wasn’t the first time.

Molly Fisk, Listening to Winter, 2000

Defenses Against Unbearable Sorrow

When you can’t think of anything else to write, you can still go down to the
beach and scratch your name in the sand.

If you aren’t near the ocean, write in the dirt, or pour sugar on the counter.
If you don’t have a name, use mine.

If there’s no paper, write on your napkin, or the underside of a loquat leaf stolen
from somebody’s yard.
Try the pitted, scented rind of a lemon.
You can pull brown paper sacks out of dumpsters, use doubled leaves of that
flimsy toilet paper from public restrooms.
Write anything.
Scrawl whatever you have to say on the side wall of the Shell station, or across
the placid face of the 2AM Club’s red front doors.

When you don’t have a pen or a pencil you can cut the edge of your palm with a
knife, or a piece of broken glass from the street,
and write with blood.

Or, if you’re still young enough, and a woman, you can slide a finger inside your
and up into your vagina and get some menstrual blood.

It’s darker than anything else on the page.

Molly Fisk is the Poet Laureate of Nevada County, CA and author of the essay collections Houston, We Have a Possum; Using Your Turn Signal Promotes World Peace; and Blow-Drying a Chicken, and the poetry collections, The More Difficult Beauty and Listening to Winter. Her essays air weekly in the News Hour of KVMR-FM Nevada City.

Fisk has been awarded grants by the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She works as a life coach in the Skills for Change tradition and owns Poetry Boot Camp. Visit her at

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