On having sex for the first time after a rape, by Elaine Schleiffer

I have no home to take you to.
I nest in a small corner of an ill-lit monstrosity;
the hallways are brown with rot, the kitchen
overrun by pests and mould.
I could bring you here, up the dark stairs,
and your hand in mine might steady me but
the bed I offer is bloodied,
dried stiff with memory. We might
flip the mattress, and the sight of
your back bent to the weight
would make me wet for the work of you;
but the old wounds would seep through and
we would both be stained.
The salt of your body to me is of violence
and not the heated joy of lust.
Where can I be but here? There is no path
that stays stable in a mudded swamp.
I am safe only when silent in this place
where all my secrets are housed,
where the mire will rise and sludge will spread
and erase your tracks, your smell, your presence.

Recessional by Elaine Schleiffer

Their faces surround us momentarily, a barrage
of what their beauty had been. We see them
while scanning posts on social media, we see them
over our breakfasts on the tv, their eyes and mouths
present from the treadmill screen and the headlines
we skim while looking for the weather.

They are a life’s cascade of moments—youth, graduation,
a birthday party, a staff photo, a wedding—slung
into a single day or two of ours. And after Aurora
and after Pulse and after Newtown and after Charleston
and after Fort Hood and Virginia Tech and Columbine

the faces begin to blur together, their lives faded
into our arc of tragedy, policy, insolvency.

We do not talk about all the ways they saw themselves—
no one will admit to judging a dead millennial
for their selfie, a dead blonde for her tiny dogs,
a dead mom for her dated haircut, a dead stoner
for his Red Vines—but fold them quietly into the only story
we will tell. The faces blur because

we disappear them into a story that was never theirs,
decide to define them by their most finite quality.

But the coalition of the ascendant does not stop.

It is not interrupted by their concourse as it rises.


Elaine Schleiffer is a community-minded activist, reproductive rights advocate, and intersectional feminist. Her poetry and her activism can be found in Cleveland, Ohio.