The word that trembles

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Review Chain

TW/CW: poem covers PTSD which could be mildly triggering for some

The word that trembles

I say no, knowing that it falters on the tip of my tongue

On that tip, an excuse for violence

I say no, knowing that it shatters the glass wall to the right of me

On those shards, my feet bloody

I say no, knowing that it is a radical act

On that act, not a single passes in the legislature

I say no knowing, I am 1 in 3

I am 1 in 3

Three times I froze for the sake of my own safety

Two times I left unscathed

Once I said no

What good did it do?

My tongue trembles on the roof of my mouth

Nothing comes out

And I

Mouth “hatred” sitting in traffic

I whisper “violence” as I turn the other way on a dark street

I scream “do something” at the police officer sitting in front of me

My phone trembles in my hand

The text jittering on the screen

The words jumble

So threatening

“And what do you think that means?”

“Could it have been a joke?”

The officer asks me as he twiddles his thumbs

“You want me to throw him in jail… for flirting with you?”

My mouth agape

Tears warp my vision and fall down my cheeks

One by one

I sigh

Lips trembling

“No-thing…never mind, it’s nothing”

And I reach for the door

I mouth “it’s nothing…”

As I walk the other way on a dark street

I whisper “it’s nothing” sitting on the freeway

I scream “I’m nothing” in my car, for no one to see

I park and slump over in my seat to fall asleep

I encounter him tucked into my brain

He has the keys

I wake up slamming on my brakes in the parking lot

The pedal won’t ever go down far enough

I repeat this throughout the night

until I know he’s far away enough

I wake up again

and it’s morning

I made it through the night

but until the next one comes

The word trembles on my tongue

Submitted: October 21, 2021

© Copyright 2023 Roxanne B.. All rights reserved.

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The emotions I felt from this poem weighed too heavily on my heart that it makes me want to empathize with the poor victim. You have brought to light what one could say frequently happens these days when walking on unsafe dark streets. Knowing to say 'No', people who need to understand when they're conveyed a 'NO' and the primary duty of law enforcement officers to respect the complaints of victims if not at least empathize with them and offer moral support. It is unfair to see the victim being traumatized every time she spots the dark street and to see her suffering thinking about her assaulter almost every moment while the assaulter would most likely have forgotten about the incident and would be having the time of his life. 'The ones affected end up carrying the burden, the pain, and the consequences of a wrongdoing done to them' - this is a major contributor for PTSD and you've emphasized it well. The poem implicitly describes that getting over PTSD will take time and even if they do, the traumatic experiences will stay hidden in the corner of the victim's mind only to be triggered by certain familiar events, people, or places like the dark street you've mentioned here. You've done an awesome job of creating awareness about PTSD through your poem. Keep it up!

Thu, October 21st, 2021 5:10am


Wow, your kind words mean so much to me Shika! I'm glad I could bring some awareness to this issue. Also, I wanted to bring awareness to the issue of women not always being believed if they do choose to make a report. A lot of people ask victims "why didn't you report it?" and this is part of why. Not only did this character not get help, she felt completely abandoned by the system that was supposed to protect and find justice for her. Imagine a person gets up the courage to report and this is the way she is treated - what are the chances she would ever report something like that again? She was humiliated and dismissed and left with the wreckage.

Thank you so much again for your lovely review!! I appreciate it so much!

Wed, November 3rd, 2021 7:19pm


I loved that you compared it to the Three Little Pigs and talked about walls. I remember when I did counselling a few years
A lot of people don't realise that the original Grim fairy tales are very dark.
Your poem was really powerful. You really captured that depth of pain that can come from such an event and the lasting trauma that it brings afterwards. It really is a problem in the world that sadly not believed and not addressed as it should be. I really loved your poem, it was very powerful and addressed an important issue.

Sun, October 24th, 2021 8:54am


Thank you so much Archia! Your comment means so much!! I'm so touched that you found it powerful and I'm so happy I could submit it to your contest

Wed, November 3rd, 2021 7:24pm


This is so strong and deep. Your words drip emotion. It must have taken great courage to write this.

I am a man, and I am ashamed on behalf of all men. I hope your words reach out and pierce hearts, of both victims and perpetrators.

I wish you peace.

Fri, October 29th, 2021 10:53pm


Moomin, this made me tear up. Thank you so much for your powerful words. It was really hard to write this one, but I'm glad I did it and got it out there

Wed, November 3rd, 2021 7:25pm


There's a lot of bad things some men do to women, such as raping women, getting women pregnant and then abandoning them, getting women pregnant and then bullying them into getting abortions when they don't want to, beating their wives, squandering the family's money on alcohol rather than using it to take care of their wives and children, and so on and so on. I originally wrote the following as a comment on a post someone made on, pertaining to the current Supreme Court case regarding the Mississippi abortion law, and it was originally intended to be just a comment about abortion, and nothing more. However, women often feel compelled to get abortions as a result of abuse such as I just described, at the hands of men. Therefore when I wrote the comment on that person's abortion post, and gave my honest thoughts on the matter, my comment inevitably touched on some of the ways women are abused by men, which lead to those women feeling compelled to get abortions, and my comment also outlined my thoughts on the importance of family and on ways women's families could potentially help to protect them from rape and other forms of abuse at the hands of men. Therefore even though the comment wasn't originally about the subjects of rape, intimate partner violence, or the like, it is nonetheless pertinent thereto. Therefore I'm reposting the same comment here, just in case you're interested to hear my thoughts on the subjects of rape, intimate partner violence, and other sorts of abuse of women by men, and how they relate to abortion, and how people can hopefully help to protect women from abuse and thereby render abortion unnecessary. You can count this as a comment on "An Open Letter to Texas Republicans" as well, even though I'm not posting it there, because it applies just as much to the subject of that post, as it does to the subject of this one. Anyway, I hope you find my thoughts interesting.


Nobody likes abortion, but outlawing it doesn't really fix anything. Banning abortion just leads to babies being drowned in toilets, or else being thrown in dumpsters and suffocating in garbage bags; and pregnant women being murdered by their abusive boyfriends, i.e. the sort who rape their girlfriends and then get mad at their girlfriends for getting pregnant, and of course blame their girlfriends for all of it; and abusive boyfriends pinning their pregnant girlfriends against walls and punching their babies to death right through their girlfriends' stomachs; and parents force-feeding their underage daughters antifreeze to try and induce an abortion because their furious with her for getting pregnant when she was only 14, 15 or whatever.

If only our indigenous, pre-Christian family structure was still intact, abortion would almost never be an issue. Before Christianity, and also for most of the Christian period until the twentieth century, our people lived in extended, matrilineal family structures. Our men would leave their families of origin, and marry into their wives' families. However, our women would spend their entire lives, from birth to death, surrounded by countless blood relatives far beyond merely their parents, children and siblings.

Moreover, among our people, it has historically been forbidden for a woman to have sex with any man she wasn't formally married to, and has also historically been forbidden for a woman to marry any man unless her father agreed to the marriage. Unlike with middle eastern peoples, it has never historically been acceptable among our people for a young woman's father to compel her to marry a man against her will. However, he was always held as having the right to prohibit her from marrying a man he didn't approve of. Likewise, there has also historically been a strict taboo among our people, against any woman being near a man not part of her own family, without having a male member of her own family with her at the time, to guard her to ensure that she wouldn't be raped.

Historically, there were also various other practices employed by our people, to ensure that women wouldn't get pregnant with kids they couldn't afford to take care of. For instance, the modern custom of giving gold rings at weddings seems to originate from a prehistoric practice of grooms giving their brides golden torcs as a form of insurance against the grooms either dying or else abandoning the brides after having sex with them or getting them pregnant. That way if the groom did abandon the bride wrongfully after he got her pregnant, the bride could sell the torc and use the money to get herself set up in some cottage industry which she could use to support herself and her child.

(A torc is a solid metal ring meant to be worn around the neck, and if made of pure gold, would be worth quite a lot of money. Even the smallest gold torc I know of to have been found by archaeologists, still contained about enough gold to buy a used car in the modern world.) On top of that, the extended family structure also served served as a form of insurance for mothers, because even if the father of a woman's child was unable or unwilling to support the mother and child, the mother could still turn to her own parents, to her siblings, to her aunts and uncles, and so forth, for help.

In Old Norse culture, it was also customary for the bride and groom to each retrieve a sword of one of their ancestors from said ancestor's burial mound, and then give the sword to the family of their future spouse for safekeeping. In other words, the groom would give his ancestor's sword to the bride's family, and the bride would give her ancestor's sword to the groom's family. Swords are objects which often have great sentimental value to men. Even today, some men like to argue about whose ancestors had the best swords, and tend to get rather butthurt at the suggestion that their ancestors' swords weren't as good as the swords of someone else's ancestors. Consider for example the frequent, racially tinged rivalry between practitioners of kenjutsu, jianshu and HEMA.

Thus obliging the bride and groom to each entrust something they would have been deeply emotionally attached to, to the other's family, would have made them both much less inclined to separate. Moreover, based on my study of the indigenous, pre-Christian religion of our people, and on the forms of sorcery and divination which follow naturally therefrom, I've also devised a system of matching people to their ideal spouses based on an understanding of the psychological compatibilities and incompatibilities between the various species of animals whose souls live within various individuals of our people and guide their behavior.

If you want to get rid of abortion without simultaneously creating a whole bunch of other problems, you have to prevent women from getting pregnant with kids they can't afford to take care of, and the practices which I just outlined, are the sorts of practices which can help prevent that.

NOTE: Something I forgot to mention in my original comment on the abortion post, is that living in that extended, matrilineal family structure, meant that women and children would have lots and lots of close family members they could potentially turn to for help. They would have loads and loads of close family members around who could help ensure they wouldn't be beaten up, kidnapped, raped, murdered or the like. Even if a young woman, or a young man for that matter, was being abused by a member of their own household, such as by a stepfather, the young woman or young man would have other relatives they could move in with, in order to escape whoever was abusing them. Nowadays a lot of people don't have anything close to that big, strong, familial support structure. Nowadays a lot of young people just have their mother and maybe one or two half siblings, and that's it. At most, if they're lucky, they have both of their parents, and one or two full siblings, but hardly anyone still has that entire large, extended matrilineal family structure which was once simply the norm. In the past, even if the nuclear family broke down, the extended family was there to step in and take care of the children. Nowadays when there's a problem in the nuclear family, there's all too often no extended family available to come to the rescue. In the past, if Susan's parents divorced, and her mother remarried, and then Susan's stepfather started raping her, Susan could run away from home and go to live with her grandparents. However, now, because the extended family has broken down, if Susan finds herself in the same situation, she doesn't really have anywhere to go. To be clear, by "Susan" I'm not referring to any specific person I know of. I'm just using the name "Susan" generically to refer to any and every young woman who finds herself in that situation.

If only more men would walk women home at night to protect them, instead of raping them.

If only more men would provide for their wives/girlfriends, instead of getting them pregnant and then abandoning them, or else getting them pregnant and then bullying them into getting abortions.

If only men cared more about their children in the future, than about their penises in the present.

If only more fathers would chaparone their daughters and give them good dating advice, instead of letting their daughters go alone to the homes of young men, and then forcing them to get abortions against their will because the young men raped them and got them pregnant.

If only spouses would stay together, instead of divorcing and leaving the children without their fathers to care for them.

If only extended families would stay together, so that even if the children's parents couldn't take care of them, their aunts, uncles and grandparents could.

If only ...

Sat, December 4th, 2021 9:37am

Bert Broomberg

This was a good read. I enjoyed it.

Mon, January 3rd, 2022 8:12pm


Powerful poem. I could hear your screen to be heard and believed. Nice job!

Wed, January 19th, 2022 8:02am


So sad, so true. So tired of hearing, why didn’t you tell anyone? The trauma continues with each person you tell that does not believe you. Loved it

Mon, September 19th, 2022 4:09pm

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