Dedicated to Pauline Bart
My friend is doing a study on rape
comparing women who get away
with those who do not.
I want to know her conclusions.
I need to discover the secrets of avoidance.
I carry mace in my jeans.
I’ve had the same bottle for years;
every month I test it on asphalt.
It still leaves a stain on the sidewalk.
Is that enough?
Some of the women I love carry guns.
I, fearing accidents,
hope that the street-fighting tactics,
the psychology tactics I know
When the night presses too close
sometimes I sleep with a knife.
I cannot stop them from raping,
My own lover’s sister raped and murdered at 21.
Someday there must be an end to this.
Someday the men must put down their weapons
or be disarmed.
In the meantime my friend does studies on rape
makes the horror which all women know
into graphs and Venn diagrams
and I keep writing these poems.
Ode to a Cactus
What miracle of self-defense you are!
No need to run from predators
no stranger grabs you by the arm as he walks by
or rips your stem
to better smell your flower.
body thorned and ready.
Warrior in the sun
luxuriating in its rays
on days all others hide.
No need for special watering,
the short, scant desert downpours
do you just fine.
You store your drink
built for endurance
as well as for protection.
Prickly outlasts pretty in this world.
That which men judge beautiful
they seldom leave in peace.
Oh, but cactus,
when the wind is right
I’ve seen you move, performing katas
in the sun.
Barbara Ruth has been house hunting in the Valley of the Silicon for almost two years. She is very grateful not to be among the many whose tent homes she passes under the freeways as she goes to look at another place on the off chance it’s accessible and HUD will approve it.