Almost Rape

My professor is standing behind the microphone
reading a poem about a woman he almost raped,
16 years ago with gravely knees, chest slick with rum –
his body has never looked smaller:
shoulders caving toward knock-kneed stance
each vertebrae bending where it shouldn’t
every time he mouths the words,
“Fuck her. Fuck her now.”
He calls the woman he almost raped Lily,
although I know that’s not her name I think
of crushed flower petals on the bottom of the bathtub,
crushed pills rising to meet the blood-brain barrier,
crushed white girls from small, violent towns in Maine.
He says they were standing around her in a circle, shoes
spitting asphalt to fill the holes in her
arms and memory, he will remember them saying
“Do it. C’mon. Fuck her” because she looks small
and pidgeon-toed and can be held down
between tongue and forefinger –
her mouth is white with teeth or foam.


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