Witness

By Derrick Weston Brown

I was a vessel of “What Abouts”
“Yeah buts” “Why Didn’t You’s”

At 15 no one I knew
had ever been raped.

Rape was trench coats
& Hollywood
& dark alleys
& sitcoms
& strangers
& pasty ass Gordon Jump
on an episode of Different Strokes

Rape was prison “don’t drop the soap” jokes
& After-School specials

& Taimak I mean- Garth who hemmed up
Cree Summer I mean Freddie
in his car until Kadeem-
I mean Dwayne Cleophis Wayne
came to her rescue on that

special “A Different World” episode

that had a disclaimer

Rape was Celie’s handwritten

whispered letter to God and only God
on the first few pages
of Mom’s copy of The Color Purple.

I was certain no one I knew had ever been raped.

Until the Summer
Until the camp
where we learned
so much about
race and gender
disparity diversity
& asked hard questions

& heard hard f*cked up answers
& absorbed hard data
we were going to
change the world
school by school
speak on injustice

& then that day
that workshop
that session
when we talked
on sexual assault
& and rape…

& No one I knew
had ever been raped until:

She stood
& she stood
& her
& her
& her
& him
& her
& her
& her
& his friend
& her sister
& my counselor
& his cousin
& her mother
& my friend
& my
& my

& all I can remember is the wail
that went up for everyone in that room

& the knotted arms

& tears & my (redacted)
passed out from the
weight of that day
& I had to be restrained
from fighting
through the crowd to get to them. But what could I have done?

What good were my hands that day?

What comfort could I offer

wearing shame in my skin.

No more
“Yeah But”
“What Abouts”
“Why Didn’t You’s”

I don’t carry that water any more.

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