Laura Kenney

three poems on the ‘mattress girl’ 

*cw for rape, sexual violence

on carrying 

thirty-eight inches by eighty; that is,
three feet by nearly seven feet of 
pushing, pounding, breaking, screams
and the sharp heat of palm across
cheekbone, eight months of carrying,
emma sulkowicz carrying their trauma; 
across classrooms, across campus, 
across the stage at graduation, 
a facsimile to the surface
upon which they were raped, 
a weight, a memory, a burden. 
they are dubbed ‘mattress girl’ by the press, 
a misnomer, they are neither ‘girl’ nor a girl 
made out of mattress, mattress-human, they are not 
made of the material that weighs on them 
nor the history that accompanies it. and at
the close, they do not dispose of it, the
surface-- how could they? as if it were ever
that simple. they graduate in spring
of 2015. that fall, i move into
my own university. i am issued
my own twin xl. 

on searching

emma sulkowicz’s fucking from four distinct 
angles, four cameras, not a recreation, 
they are adamant, not a recreation.
ceci n’est pas un viol, eight minutes, their fucking 
shot from four cameras, not actually the acts
of-- this is not a rape, the events of the video 
and the rape seemingly similar, timestamped
to the night of their rape, but not their rape. 
their questions for each viewer:
are you searching for proof? proof of what?
are you searching for ways to either hurt or help me?
what are you looking for?
eight minutes. eighty inches. the
surveillance aesthetics of it. the
four angles—side, back, front,
overhead—the naïve promise
of irrefutable proof. proof of what?
no record of the time i stopped breathing
in my own bedroom, on my own twin xl—
eight minutes, maybe eight hours, maybe
it never ended, maybe i am still holding 
my own breath while emma sulkowicz
is fucking and insisting that this footage
is not a recreation

on taking space

emma sulkowicz embodied the asterisk taped
black stars onto their areolas etched black
marks in ink across their topography and stood
before the close, the abstract pixelation the marks
of a man who admitted his misconduct, 
they said the asterisk
is actually an embodied experience
the asterisk
is a body is reduced to a
punctuation thrust flesh into
fleshiness and diluted into
interruption, is a diminutive form
of the greek astḗr, is a celestial
but smaller
to be asterisked is
to be marked and be mark
at once. if i am etched
into a solid thing
made annotation,
made being without will
i will, like sulkowicz,
eviscerate mere being—
i will
bleed the full page, obliterate
the urge to recreate,
i will instead be made of:
flesh blood indelible ink a spite
for being touchable
spit bile metal holes scars
and scars that form
the silhouettes
of things          that fly
 and blossom

Laura Kenney (she/hers or they/them) is a poet and conceptual artist based at Brown University in Providence, RI, where she spends her days haunting the local dollar stores and sticking her nose into abandoned spaces. Her poetry has appeared in Clerestory Journal of the Arts, and she is currently working on a text about sexual violence and bifurcated tongues.