All the Women I Know (Sandra, Dani, Roma, Alex) by Christine Hume and Laura Larson
We are excited to publish the three winners of CRAFT’s inaugural Hybrid Writing Contest. We hope our readers will agree that these pieces exemplify the potential of form, particularly form that challenges normative ideas about genre, to open space for possibility and radical wonder.
“No woman I know got ready with her sisters.”
Thus opens Christine Hume and Laura Larson’s unclassifiable dirge of grief and rage against patriarchal violence, a hybrid piece that weaves together photographs, poetic language, and testimony. The creators note that they have included witness language from a sexual assault lawsuit. The text is divided into one-line fragments, many bringing the reader into familiar scenarios, some banal (“went to the party with her cousin,” “only wanted to cuddle during the movie,”), some chilling (“saw his friend blocking the door”). In other places, the text veers into poetic language that is startlingly beautiful, given the context. Hume’s writing is amplified by the intermittent appearance of Larson’s photographs—stark, black-and-white images of the backs of womens’ heads. The faces of the women depicted are not apparent to the reader. Their identity, like that of the women who have testified, is, for the time being, protected. Yet the piece reminds us that we are never protected. The familiarity and interchangeability of voice and text reminds us that the women here speak for any and all of us—“all the women I know.”
“No woman I know….” The text echoes, over and over, this ubiquitous chant of denial, until the phrase is no longer readable, barely distinguishable. It disappears. The reader is left with the testimony of women going about their lives, lives interrupted and punctuated by violence and erasure. Together, these voices form a necessary chorus that is as powerful as it is timely. The fact that this winner is a collaborative piece expands the notion of hybridity, as image and text converse and collaborate, and through the synthesis of Hume and Larson’s work, we all bear witness together. —CRAFT
After Lorna Simpson’s Head on Ice series and using language from testimonies of eleven Jane Does in the lawsuit against the handling of their sexual assault cases at Eastern Michigan University.
No woman I know got ready with her sisters.
No woman I know went to the party with her cousin.
No woman I know went to the party a little buzzed because she knew the dangers of drinking at a frat party.
No woman I know snuck out of her parents’ house and got into his car.
No woman I know slipped on the way and hit her head on the sidewalk.
No woman I know with her face full of needle ice.
No woman I know kept dancing with her friends at the party.
No woman I know became separated from her friends when she went upstairs to the bathroom.
No woman I know went with him to his room because she had known him for a couple years.
No woman I know agreed to wait for her friend in the living room, but was escorted to a bedroom, where a man locked the door behind them.
No woman I know only wanted to cuddle during the movie.
No woman I know felt something in her chest freeze as he called her a tease and a prude.
No woman I know saw his friend blocking the door.
No woman I know saw herself from above, as if looking down through a glacier.
No woman I know pinned and flattened like a blue shadow on the bed.
No woman I know felt her shirt lift so he could take a picture.
No woman I know splintered or crystalized on the spot.
No woman I know felt her body being hoisted into the air like a child.
No woman I know felt herself being pulled by her ponytail as if it were a leash dragging her back into the room.
No woman I know felt his hand palming her head like a basketball.
No woman I know felt like a puppet being jerked into positions.
No woman I know upon information and belief, when she realized his uncle was the police chief.
No woman I know trying to breathe made her mind blank, as smooth as snow throwing off tiny rainbows like alerts where no one ever walks.
No woman I know felt trapped under him, inside an iceberg, shifting out of time.
No woman I know under the ultramarine light, the cobalt blotches hardening around her.
No woman I know said she wanted to go home.
No woman I know with icicles for vocal cords.
No woman I know thinking of her mother to keep herself in the before.
No woman I know slows herself down like hypothermia, like hibernation, like whatever it takes.
No woman I know could not move as he continued to squeeze and slap her breasts.
No woman I know could not pull her underwear and pants back up.
No woman I know frozen as if in headlights alongside a dark road, unsure of what was coming or going.
No woman I know walked back to her dorm alone and freezing without her coat.
No woman I know agreed not to speak of what had happened.
No woman I know nodded when he asked, “You okay?”
No woman I know still waiting for the shock of sun on her skin.
No woman I know tries to recognize the selfie she took as she got ready that night: her eyes sinking into inky laughter.
No woman I know wished she could stay frozen like that in her own memory.
No woman I know, when she turns around.
No woman I know can remember how it began or when.
No woman I know begins again and again, each time.
No woman I know and the world not quite awake and too tired, if I were dead tired.
No woman I know leaking the slightest hiss, like whistling to fend off fear.
No woman I know is an infinity or even half of one tattooed on her neck.
No woman I know in a state of permanent emergency.
No woman I know with snake eyes at the top of her snake spine.
No woman I know constellates visions, signs, emergencies.
No woman I know crawls out crumpled, sleep lines on her hands, wrinkled clothes in dappled light, script running over, spilling all over her skin.
No woman I know trying to tell you something you cannot read.
No woman I know has eyes in the back of her head.
No woman I know has a siren in her throat.
No woman I know has an emergency alert down her throat.
No woman I know carries a fork when she walks her dog after dark, imagining the stranger she will have to stab under starlight.
No woman I know fits the description.
No woman I know hurrying across the street.
No woman I know accompanies me into the woods.
No woman I know could feel more lonely after.
No woman I know was alone on the swings when it happened.
No woman I know stages her own emergency. Not here. Not like that.
No woman I know needs to hear it today.
No woman I know wants to laugh along with the joke, but does anyway, a slight permanent hiss between her teeth.
No woman I know can read the writing on the wall or face it or find the wall behind the foliage.
No woman I know understands what she is up against.
No woman I know has an emergency greater than no-emergency, none greater than the normal emergency of her own body in the world.
No woman I know, her mind leafing out.
No woman I know under the bough, breaking herself into branches.
No woman I know wonders when she stopped thinking here would be a nice place to get married.
No woman I know makes herself into another kind of fiction, one carrying an overgrown green bouquet to an unknown location.
No woman I know remembers how to feel real, even if she doesn’t think “at the edge of the forest” or “at the beginning of a long journey.”
No woman I know wonders if the woods absorbed her twin and if that twin was the good one.
No woman I know replaces her childhood woods with an orchard so that she can tell her daughter an empowering story.
No woman I know tucking in her terror to stage happy memories for her daughter.
No woman I know is tired of being all the women I know.
No woman I know wonders if her neighbor’s dog is barking or if the sound was captured on the video she is watching of herself as her own daughter.
No woman I know running into those woods, sun breaking overhead, ferns feathering around her calves, then falling into a bottomless hole or hidden cave or a well, a trap, and then the wide, wild sky so blue it’s black, and then the credits roll.
No woman I know made to appear alone in her own story turned into twins when you looked at them.
No woman I know thinks they would have escaped being burned, hanged, or drowned.
No woman I know answers “I’m still here” when her daughter calls back to her “Are you still there?”
No woman I know slips through the cracked door unnoticed.
No woman I know squares her cold shoulders and walks off her anger for as long as it takes.
No woman I know hurries into the future where there’s only more winter in the middle of the country.
No woman I know rehearses leaving until she becomes a character in my story and disturbs everything.
No woman I know and a plague of robins.
No woman I know half dissolved in fog, a quicksilver screen for memories that come too fast to control and too slow to avoid understanding.
No woman I know because steps are procedures for forgetting.
No woman I know and a plague of amnesias.
No woman I know sets off along the soft roads where there’s no longer a field behind the house or doors that won’t lock.
No woman I know mapped her route beyond this vanishing point.
No woman I know and a plague of footprints.
No woman I know short-circuits among rabbit holes smelling like minerals and remembering scum rings in the tub and the kitchen sink, stacked high.
No woman I know recovers her footing and moves on.
No woman I know slips off the path and onto another and another, each leading to the same house.
No woman I know retreats into a very realistic flashback.
No woman I know looks for a story about herself to stride into and take with her like a souvenir.
No woman I know and a plague of dolls.
No woman I know walks backward into something she knows is there.
No woman I know walks backward into the portrait.
No woman I know has a face emerging from the back of her head.
No woman I know steps on a dead bird, her face planted in a spider web, cysts on her tear ducts.
No woman I know leaves the flashlight in her pocket.
No woman I know wanders out of my eyeshot, animates my lust for clairvoyance.
No woman I know thinks there might be a horse for her up ahead.
No woman I know turns toward an insensate patch of sky thinking better to be incomplete.
No woman I know and a plague of holes.
No woman I know looks for a place as blank as water, as a blanket of snow, and walks herself into the sweet everlasting blur.
No woman I know changes her mind and can walk around after she dies.
CHRISTINE HUME’s collection of essays on sex offenders and women’s bodies, Everything I Never Wanted to Know, is forthcoming from Ohio State University Press (21st Century Essays Series) in 2023. She is also the author of a lyric portrait of girlhood, Saturation Project (Solid Objects, 2021), which The New York Times says, “arrives…with the force of a hurricane,” as well as several books of poetry. Since 2001, she has been faculty in the creative writing program at Eastern Michigan University. Find her on Instagram @christinehume210.
LAURA LARSON is a photographer and writer based in Columbus, Ohio. She’s exhibited her work extensively, at such venues as Art in General, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Centre Pompidou, Columbus Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, SFCamerawork, and Wexner Center for the Arts. Her exhibitions have been reviewed in Artforum, Hyperallergic, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Time Out New York. Her work is held in the collections of Allen Memorial Art Museum, Deutsche Bank, Margulies Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Microsoft, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, New York Public Library, and Whitney Museum of American Art. Hidden Mother (Saint Lucy Books, 2017), her first book, was shortlisted for the Aperture-Paris Photo First Photo Book Prize. Her work is represented by Contemporary Art Matters in Columbus, Ohio. Larson’s second book, City of Incurable Women, was published this year by Saint Lucy Books. Find Laura on Instagram @laura_larson_studio.