Sometimes a poem inspires you. Sometimes a poem delights you. Sometimes a poem makes you think. Sometimes a poem sneaks up on you and gives you something profound and excellent and terrible all at once, and you know part of its power is that only half the people who read it will understand it in the same way you do. Sometimes you want everyone to feel it and so you keep coming back to the subject from as many different angles as you can in the hopes that finally, at some point, the message will come through.
Anatomy of a Rape Joke
A girl walks into a bar with her roommate & her roommate’s
new boyfriend. He’s mountainous. All sinew. The kind of man
I wouldn’t want ambling behind me at night,
even in this small town where nobody used to
lock their doors. “You know the great thing about executions
In Texas?” he drawls, quoting Carlin. “Less Texans.” I slosh
Yuengling from the pitcher & don’t laugh. “We could use
less of ‘em around here, takin’ all the good work.” Hard
to blame him. Fracking pays better than almost any job here,
in what my dad calls Pennsyltucky, what I call home. Texas
frackers overrun this town like the forget-me-nots grown wild
in my roommate’s garden, first a patch, then a chokehold
of blue. “Oh Stan,” she purrs. “You’re such a cut-up.”
What’s the deal with humor anyway, I wonder. I killed
in there, the comic slurs, post-show. I slayed. We even laugh
violently. Let’s be more direct. I pillaged that audience.
Butchered them. I dragged that crowd’s sister
into the cornfield by her flimsy wrists. I don’t finish
my beer. “Crime rate’s up,” the boyfriend observes.
“These Texans ruin everything. Rape reports’ve tripled.”
“Seriously?” It’s the first time all night paid attention
to him. “That’s—” I thought we were done with jokes,
but it’s a setup. He cuts me off, reels back for the punch-
line: “I know, right? They should go home & rape
their own damn women.” My roommate
doesn’t smile. We don’t say a word.
Emily Rose Cole is the author of Love and a Loaded Gun, a chapbook of persona poems published by Minerva Rising Press (previously a finalist for the Fool for Poetry competition). She has received accolades from Jabberwock Review, Philadelphia Stories, Ruminate, The Orison Anthology and the Academy of American Poets. Her poetry has appeared most recently in Nimrod, The Pinch, and Southern Indiana Review, among others. She is pursuing her PhD at the University of Cincinnati.
“Anatomy of a Rape Joke” first appeared in Southword Journal.