“Daughter, They’ll Use Even Your Own Gaze to Wound You” by Beth Ann Fennelly
1. Chicago, IL
My high school teacher loved that I loved libraries, so she promised she’d bring me to her alma mater’s. One Saturday, we took the train in and she donned white gloves to turn manuscript pages while I roamed the stacks, inhaling that dear dusty library funk. Wait: did I hear footsteps? When I was sure I’d been mistaken, I pulled out a heavy tome. There, thrusting through, a tube of flesh. Years later a librarian would tell me paraphilic activity is quite common in her place of work. Just in case you’re wondering if I was special.
2. South Bend, IN
My college roomies and I were three beers in, walking from campus to Brigit’s, a bar so seedy that, after graduation, it’d be condemned. A Tercel pulled over and the interior light flicked on to halo a man consulting a map. Good Catholics, we inquired if he needed directions. Can you show me where I am on my map? So we stepped closer and discovered where he was on his map: through the center, dickly. I’m guessing it was Denise who began laughing, or maybe Beth, but in seconds we were all hooting, we could barely stumble away, shrieking and pounding one another. He screeched through the intersection, the light still red.
3. Fayetteville, AR
From dawn till noon I’d reviewed Wordsworth, cramming for my comp exam, and now as I ran through the park, sonnets metered out my pounding feet. A bicycle came from behind, a man swiveling to see my face. At the top of the hill, he stopped, turned, and coasted back toward me. I could see his fist gripping something low on his belly. What zinged through my head: a bouquet. But that was no bouquet. I didn’t even slow as he passed, just averted my eyes.
I’d run nine miles that day with one to go.
I guess I’d learned by then what women know.
Share your response to this work, in any form, here
Beth Ann Fennelly Artist Statement:
Beth Ann Fennelly directs the MFA Program at the University of Mississippi, where she was
named Outstanding Teacher of the Year. She’s won grants from the N.E.A., the MS Arts
Commission, United States Artists, and a Fulbright to Brazil. Her work has won a Pushcart Prize
and three times been included in The Best American Poetry Series. Fennelly has published three
poetry books (Open House, Tender Hooks, and Unmentionables) and a book of nonfiction (Great
with Child) all with W. W. Norton. The Tilted World, the novel she co-authored with her
husband, Tom Franklin, was published in 2013 (HarperCollins). They live in Oxford with their