Back to Issue Forty-Three





Dogwood, Blooming in the Dark





First Rapist



It is September 11th, 2002. Last year, your first rapist almost died in the Twin Towers, but for some reason, didn’t go to work that day. When you finally got through to him, when the call finally went through, he was in his apartment in Spanish Harlem, eating a plum. You had fallen on the stairwell mid-blackout—he had you by the wrist—and the step’s lip made the fishnets cut into your slammed leg. Little bloody X of a cosmic bruise. Trauma at the edge of vision is a tone of nightshade. Isn’t it ironic? you said, without meaning to think about Alanis Morissette and how she played God in a movie that filmed down the street from your childhood home. How a kid you knew had a minor role as a demon who rode a skateboard, and how a few years later his older brother died, though you can’t remember how. Sixty-three percent of people die with their eyes closed, congruent with how they lived. The fish are full of plastic, mercury, rainbow-finned as the cut you made to your ribcage that winter the third time you were raped. You walked for days with only paper towels and tape holding the wound together, like someone in the field at war. I still have a photograph of my first rapist two summers before he was that: his back, sunburned, the white linen pants he was proud of, an arm reaching into the closet in his studio apartment. The thin window above the sink bricked over. Later, streetlights in two slashes sunk over the mattress where I pushed him away once, then twice, then harder, until he turned towards the wall. You’re too young to be in this bed, he said. I went out to the fire escape. I looked at the city. Then I went back to bed with him, this boy turned away from me, violence sharpening slowly in him like a knife dragged against a stone. I wouldn’t be smart again for years.



Sophie Klahr is the author of Two Open Doors In a Field (Backwaters Press, 2023), and Meet Me Here At Dawn (YesYes Books). With Corey Zeller, she co-authored There is Only One Ghost in the World (FC2, 2023), winner of the 2022 Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Contest. Her work appears in publications such as The New Yorker and American Poetry Review. She works as a freelance literary editor and teaches at UNC Chapel Hill, as well as privately online.

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