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Poems by Maddie Ketchem

Weston photograph mushroom, feminist poetry, poems about trauma

Maddie Ketchem is a published poet and author whose work is featured in Indiana’s Best Emerging Poets: An Anthology, and the Genesis, Spring 2017 edition. She attended Indiana University and currently lives in Indianapolis with her fiancé and two cats.

If I Count Them

I was five.
It was during naptime in Kindergarten
We were all lying on cots with our stuffed animals
(Mine was Julie Bear)
The teachers were pacing between the cots,
Back and forth
Back and forth
Back and forth
A little boy next to me – I can’t remember his name –
Said “I’ll let you feel mine
if you let me feel yours.”
I didn’t respond, I was confused
Seconds later his small hands were unzipping
My forest-green corduroy pants.
If I Count Them,
my Methodist school would think I made it up for attention.
If I Count Them, That Was One.
I was twenty.
He had “IFD” on the front of his t-shirt
For some reason that made me trust him.
If I Count Them,
I might never trust another man.
If I Count Them, That Was Two.
I was twenty-one.
My fiancée and I were at my parents’ house
They were upstairs sleeping
So was my baby sister
I said “no”
He didn’t listen
He raped me on the floor with my family asleep upstairs.
If I Count Them,
my fiancée would leave me and I would be alone.
If I Count Them, That Was Three.
I was twenty-one.
My fiancée had left me anyway and I was alone.
I was at a party after the Initiation ceremony
Of my co-ed fraternity
I disclosed my third to another girl at the party
One of my Brothers
Instead of getting justice for the third
A different “Brother” stumbled into the bathroom
Where I was washing my hands
He turned the lights off
He stuck his tongue down my throat
I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t yell
I tried to push him away and finally succeeded
He spat at me “Yeah, you liked that. It’s all you’re getting tonight, slut.”
He turned and left
Later that night, I caught him leaving the party
I punched him square on his nose
And broke my hand – his nose was fine.
If I Count Them,
I would only have broken hands.
If I Count Them, That Was Four.
I was twenty-one.
If I ever reported it, people would say it was during my “Wild Phase”
I was a slut
I was a binge-drinker
This memory is hazier, brought to me by a fog
Made of white wine, marijuana, and Zoloft
What I remember is being cold on the balcony
Outside a party at the lofts on the corner of Indiana Avenue and 10 th
My friends were inside
But I was alone in the cold spring air with a man
And the taste of him forced down my throat
I don’t know the color of his skin, hair, or eyes
But I can’t get his taste out of my mouth
If I Count Them,
people would count my drinks, compare the two numbers.
If I Count Them, That Was Five.
I stopped counting.
If you’re like me, you probably did, too.

The Second Sparrow

Weston photograph flower, feminist poetry, poems about trauma
Weston via CCP

My lungs filled with concrete the second I realized that he was going to rape me.
I’d trusted his military dog tags,
His tattoo of a cross,
His “IMFD” (Indianapolis Metropolitan Fire Department) t-shirt,
His fucking Tinder profile—
All very critical mistakes; each mistake filled my lungs with more sticky cement.
He said he was in town on business,
asked me to meet him at his hotel.
“We’ll go out somewhere, there are some restaurants nearby.”
I drove to the Best Western
on the northside of Indianapolis,
then parked in the cold January parking lot.
I hope he’s nice , I thought.
When he came outside, we chatted for a few seconds:
Friendly, polite small-talk—
“Oh shit, I left my keys in my hotel room.
Here, come back in for just a second,
I don’t want to leave you out here by yourself.”
Oh, how considerate . Nope.
When we got into the yellow room that smelled like body soap,
he bolted the door behind us.
His face changed.
I felt hunted.
My small voice came out like a whisper, “I want to go home—”
His next words echoed in my mind for a year:
“No you don’t.”
I couldn’t breathe.
I couldn’t scream.
He stepped toward me and after the first punch, I froze.
Trust me, I know:
“What were you thinking? You met him on Tinder.”
Well, fuck you.
It happened anyway.
Because here’s what I knew but didn’t understand:
Soldiers can rape. Christians can rape. Firefighters can rape.
And he did.
It took me seven months to trust someone again;
It took me seven months to share myself with another man.
But I did.

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