October 22, 2017

Emily Sernaker

NOW, WHEN I THINK ABOUT WOMEN

I think about Aziz Ansari’s Netflix special
where he asked the ladies in the crowd
how many had been followed—not cat-called—
actually followed down the street
by a man, many blocks, and how nearly
half of Madison Square Garden raised
their hands. I was home raising my hand,
thinking of moments in multiple cities,
how it was suddenly time to be scared.
Now, when I think about women,
I think about educated men who ask
if we secretly love being hollered at.
Don’t you kind of enjoy the attention?
Isn’t it flattering? It is 2017 and my best
friend says: a man in a car pulled up
beside me as I was bicycling, he was
jerking off to me, at me, I froze,
had to force myself to start pedaling
away. Last October, I consoled
my most enthusiastic canvassers: girls
who were chased and assaulted while
trying to get out the vote for the first
female president. Now, when
I think about women, I think about violence
and the threat of violence, how it’s like
an alarm inside going from zero to blaring.
The week I moved to New York
a girl my age went for a run.
People said it was her fault for dressing
that way, for taking that path. The article
said there was evidence of a struggle:
that before she died she bit her attacker
so hard her teeth cracked.

from Poets Respond
October 22, 2017

[download audio]

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Emily Sernaker: “This poem was written in solidarity with ‘Me, too’ and takes its cue from the Julia Alvarez poem ‘Now, When I Look at Women.’”

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