As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Takeo Rivera – Spokenword

Listen to Takeo read The Sixth

The Sixth

Dedicated to the many people who have shared their stories with me during my time as a rape crisis advocate.

I. Libation

To the Sixth of women who hold the sky
And carry your memories like Atlas
You, who have born witness to hell
on the geography of your skin
You, the blamed, the once-broken, bearers
of boys will be boys

To you, I am unworthy

II. Beat

To those who turned away
and spat and blamed and recoiled and slapped,
To those who have disbelieved,
accused, and grounded,
canceled quinciñeras, demanded apologies
to perpetrators,
To those who said Rihanna had it coming,
and Anita Hill was crazy
To those who
refused to investigate,
refused reality,

You know not the Sixth of women who hold the sky

                       who endure the

       asking for it
       skinny miniskirted girls lost in alleyways
       “jealous sluts” trying to get back at you
       “bad decisions”
       playa hating media mongers
       video hos or mama-sans
       lesbians in Cape Town who “need correcting”
       amenities for Superbowl quarterbacks
       telling you “no” because it’s reverse psychology
                      Who walk
       the phallic labyrinth
       of photoshopped magazine covers and music videos
       the American bootstrap dystopia
       where your misfortune is your own fault,

This Sixth of women,
these mothers working three shifts to feed their five kids
these high school sophomores who dream of being doctors so they can buy their parents a house
these poets and playwrights etching their pain into the starry dynamo of their parchment
these transgender sex workers who sleep under eaves during downpours
these Stanford students majoring in IR or double E fountain hopping at midnight
these CEOs of NGOs in boardrooms and waiting rooms
these undocumented custodial workers who fear justice comes with deportation
these first nations fighters decolonizing their sprits thrice over
these Catholics in confession booths wondering why they’re being blamed for temptation
these refugees who force themselves to forget the boat while they dishwash bowls for pho

They are the subaltern and the unprivileged,
The survivors and the victims,
The blamed and the once-broken,

are strong as earth

Whose bodies know more about mankind than Freud’s mind ever has
Any one of them has more strength and courage
than your entire frat house put together

Yes, this Sixth of Women
are heroes in that they dare to breathe
and have
                 the audacity
                                to sing

        to prove
        you wrong

*     *     *

Listen to Takeo read I Did This

I Did This

She knows
Hell is not a place
but a hot knife through the womb
reaching and pulling and twisting
until her soul is inside out
she didn’t think that a man’s ceiling
could block God’s view

She knows
what it is like
to watch the walls
to count the tiles
to read any word she can find, over and over
so she has something to do
while she dies inside

She knows
what it is like
to be gone from love
as a father or uncle or husband
steals from her
what she thought only strangers take

She knows
that death
is a man’s touch

And I know
that I did this to her

She recoils
as my man’s hands
reach out to comfort
because the only love she knows
is blood and betrayal
because a hug can become a thrust,
a caress, a pinning down
a reassurance, a manipulation,
a kiss, a ripping off of her clothes/her skin/her smile/ for the rest of her life

And I know
that I did this to her

See, I wasn’t the rapist but it was me
me with the swagger/ hardcore strut
with the bitches and hos in my headphones
with the strip club fantasy of g-strings and pantihose
See, it was me,
‘cause I’m a man
Our world’s got a dictionary
of what we’re all supposed to be
and it says a man’s gotta be a pimp, a patriarch, a president
there’s no precedent for being anything but a soldier
a fighter, a dominator, a master asskicker
pull the trigger, pop a cap and
prove you got balls or you’re a bitch
and there’s nothing worse than being a bitch
being a woman
being a sister
being a daughter
being a wife
being a mother
being someone to love

If you’re a man,
society says you gotta have bullets in your blood
and put bitches in their place–
the kitchen or the bed
‘cause that’s what manhood is!!!

Hell no
but I do it anyway
not by raping but by
bobbing my head to a beat that tells us
to beat girls down
by saying bitch and ho and puta and jota
like they’re demographic categories
by treating any woman like she’s
less strong, less smart, less human, less of anything,
by tellin my boys to do it do it do it / do her
…see, I may not have touch her,
but I did it.  My words did it.  My words let it happen.

Well let me tell you something:
if you’re a man and you don’t wanna fight or fuck all day
there is something wrong with you:
you’re a human being

You got the courage
to be a man on your own
to love with a strength so powerful
it never ever needs or wants to hurt
You’re a human being.
To be a man unafraid
to break the bullshit and stop the brainwash
Then you’re a real man,
a real human being,
who can rewrite the definition
and never, ever let
another woman get torn from her soul

*     *     *

takeo_barong_headshotTakeo Rivera is an artist-scholar who is currently a PhD student in Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. A Japanese Filipino American born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Takeo became involved in racial justice, queer, and other progressive issues as a spoken word poet during his undergraduate years at Stanford University, where he earned his BA and MA. Before entering his PhD program, Takeo spent two years as a rape crisis advocate and community educator for the Rape Crisis Center of the YWCA of Silicon Valley in San Jose, CA. Takeo is also a playwright whose works have been staged in New York City, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area, including an award-winning run of his choreopoem Goliath, produced by Poetic Theater Productions.

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Issue 3February 14, 2014
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