August 15, 2021

Therese Gleason

YO TAMBIÉN

Ms. Commisso said Mr. Cuomo also kissed her repeatedly, including at least once on the lips, and rubbed her buttocks.
–New York Times

The entire Spanish Department was in the auditorium.
I was there to recite José Martí, un hombre sincero. I saw the Chair,

striding up the aisle—we hadn’t spoken since he’d signed his book
for me, helped me get a research grant. I reached out to greet him

with a handshake but before I could stand he leaned down, kissed me
full on the lips, a wet smack in plain view of the room. I froze,

my cheeks carmín encendido. I was un ciervo herido, afraid my peers
and professors would think I was sleeping with him, a macho wannabe

with his fake tan and too-tight shirt unbuttoned to expose tufts of gray.
It was 25 years ago. He was brazen and smart, surprising me in public

with a move that was inappropriate but it wasn’t like he propositioned
me. I talked to the student ombudsman, who said it was my choice

whether to file a complaint. Who couldn’t guarantee that Dr. S_____
wouldn’t dock my grades, block me from required courses, write bad letters

of rec or expect recompense for good ones. That he wouldn’t do it
again, to me or someone else. I doubt I was the first or last undergrad

he kissed, don’t doubt he went further with others. He did it because
he could. It was a violation, but it wasn’t personal. Unlike another professor

at a party ten years later, my best friend’s husband, my own husband’s
colleague at a university where the old guard called each year’s incoming

female students the talent, who grabbed my ass in my own kitchen, squeezing
hard, remarking on its tightness. I was wearing a thong and skinny jeans.

My friend was eight months pregnant, tired and swollen on the couch.
I called him out and he called it drunken tomfoolery. I never told her.

How could I? She’s gone now, died young. I still ache to think I kept
a secret from her. To think how she’d feel if she ever knew.

from Poets Respond
August 15, 2021

__________

Therese Gleason Carr: “This poem is in response to an article in the New York Times about the sexual harassment allegations against Governor Andrew Cuomo. In particular, the article described how one staffer said that ‘… Mr. Cuomo also kissed her repeatedly, including at least once on the lips, and rubbed her buttocks.’ Reading this account, it struck me that I, too, have been subjected to this type of unwanted attention. All the shame, anxiety, guilt, confusion, and anger I experienced on these occasions flooded back. It also struck me how our thinking about sexual harassment and assault has evolved since the #MeToo movement—and how far we still need to go.” (web)

 

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