“The Blades” by Katie Bickham

Katie Bickham


In the new world, as the goddess dictated,
each time a man touched a woman against
her will, each time he exposed himself,
each time he whistled, dropped something
in her drink, photographed her in secret

she sprouted a wing from her spine. Not feathered,
like birds or angels, not cellular, translucent,
veined like dragonflies, but a wing
like a blade, like a sword hammered flat,
thin as paper. One wing per wrong.

At first, the women lamented. All their dresses
needed altering, their blankets shredded,
their own hair sliced off like a whisper
if it grew down their backs. And those
misused by fathers, bosses, drunken strangers

evening after evening were blade-ridden,
their statures curved downward like sorrow
under such weight. But this was not the old world
of red letters or mouthfuls of unspoken names,
not the old world of women folded

around their secrets like envelopes, of stark
rooms where men asked what they’d done
to deserve this. And the goddess whispered
to the women in their dreams, and they awakened,
startled, and knew the truth.

They pinned up their hair, walked out into the morning,
their blades glittering in the sun, sistering
them to each other. They searched for the woman
with the most blades, found her unable to stand,
left for dead, nearly crushed beneath the blades’ weight.

They called her queen. They lifted her with hands
gentle as questions, flung her into the air,
saw her snap straight, beat the wings at last,
and they followed her, a swarm of them, terrible
and thrumming, to put the blades to use.

from Rattle #62, Winter 2018
Readers’ Choice Award Winner


Katie Bickham: “When women are assaulted or raped, there seems to be a lot of pressure from friends, family, and even therapists to find peace, forgive, move on. When do women get a moment to be mad as hell for a change? Is it because vengeance isn’t feminine or attractive? Or is it because people know that if all of us who have ever been touched wrongly were to speak our own names all at once, the sheer volume of it would be deafening. This poem imagines that vengeance, that moment when finally, instead of being asked to heal and forgive, we are allowed the rage that is rightfully ours. We become the weapons that are used to take our power.” (web)

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