Recurring Nightmare

It was only a dream, but when I see him in the checkout line, three aisles down, my heart quickens, and I remember his eyes shooting bullets through my chest, two thumbs applying pressure to my throat.

The air in here is stifling. Leaving my groceries on the conveyor belt, I dash for the exit, nearly colliding with a woman steering two shopping carts, one carrying the three children who will devour the food in the other within a week.

The humidity of the late summer afternoon is a surprising relief to my lungs. But the reprieve is brief.

I hear the whisper of sliding doors behind—he’s followed me.

Continue reading “Recurring Nightmare”

Back to the Woods

When she wakes, she’s on the opposite end of the bed, and her bonnet rests on her pillow, where her head should lie.

But her pillow, the case, the sheets, and—when she peers over the edge of the bed—the carpet too, are not the same off-white they were when she fell asleep last night. They’re stained a greenish-brown, and it doesn’t take her long to find the culprits. She pulls her knees to her chin, dragging her feet, caked in mud, across the bed and leaving a trail.

“Oh, God.” She sighs and tries to run her fingers through her hair, but they get tangled in something other than her usual curly knots.

Twigs. Short, skinny, broken-off twigs tucked in her hair like stylish Bobbi pins. One by one, she plucks them out, careful not to tug too harshly on her curls.

One, two . . . five . . . eleven . . . fifteen . . .

The more she collects in her lap, the more she finds in her hair, along with leaves, dry, brittle, and crumbing when she tries to pick them, creating an even bigger mess.

After all these years, had she really gone back to the woods?

Continue reading “Back to the Woods”

#1MinFiction: Cycle

I was relieved to have a boy. That he was lighter than his father. That the Missus wouldn’t abuse him like all the others I bore.

He was raised with his white half, grew up to give me commands.

When his sister was born, I tried to keep them apart. She was black like me, slept in the attic…

At night, years later, I hear the stairs creak under his heavy boot. My stomach twists in knots when she reemerges with the sun, her dress torn.

© Nortina Simmons


#BlaPoWriMo: Work

Work all day under
the hot sun; at night lie still—
until Master comes

© Nortina Simmons


Saved by Grace

It wasn’t enough to sign, “We can’t see each other anymore.” He doesn’t take no for an answer, in any language. And when Felicity confided to her best friend that she feared Darrel was stalking her, Tippy scoffed and said she was overreacting.

But she’s seen his car drive past her window twice, and now there’s a light knock on her door, turned to a pound, turned to a kick. And then a sudden blast.

He has a gun.

It wasn’t enough that he had stolen Tippy from her. Tippy still thinks she’s clueless. Mute doesn’t equal dumb. She’s seen the naked photos, the video in his phone. Tippy was willing to do everything Felicity’s morals commanded her to forsake. Tippy could make as much noise as her stronger vocal cords could carry, egging him to press harder, stroke faster.

But he wanted them both.

Felicity dedicated her voice to the Lord the first time Darrel raped her. She speaks only to Him now. She offers her body only to Him.

But Darrel could never take no for an answer, and now no one but God will hear her scream.

She hides in the bathroom closet, praying for deliverance, fully aware that He could tell her no, like He refused to remove the thorn from Paul’s side—because His grace is sufficient. All things work together, she reminds herself. Not her will but His be done. His power is made perfect in her weakness. She was not given the spirit of fear, so she will not panic. She only wishes not be touched again, that she be made holy and taken into His glory.

Darrel taps the heavy metal on the closet door and rips it open. He’s always wanted to boast his strength, impose his dominance over her. He wields the gun in her face, and she exhales—closes her eyes and exhales—slow, smooth, as time freezes, and all of her breath flows from her body.

No words exchanged—his hatred has consumed him now. He pulls the trigger—a quick blast—and she is caught up in a cloud of fire.


It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt, “Writer’s Clue” was kind of a cop out. No offense to LJ Cohen, but c’mon, girl, all you did was tell us to write a basic story! So I took a little inspiration from the Daily Prompt: panicked. It worked out in the end. Maybe that was her point all along…

English #frapalymo: Deflowered

depressed woman lying on brown wooden floor

It Follows me like a shadow,
clings to me like my own skin,
rides my back until I break in
two—I’m a mule to the shame.

In the shower, I scrub off the
film of his semen in scalding
water until my inner thighs
blister. I feel like Jell-O. Police

will know I orgasmed. He’ll say
I wanted it—maybe I did. I see
why tribal cultures circumcise
girls—to keep us from being

whores. Carve out my clitoris
with non-sterile obsidian blade.
Wrap me in gauze, loose enough
to conceal the curve of my hips.

© 2016 Nortina Simmons


Written for Frau Paulchen’s Lyrik Monat, which translates from German to Mrs. Paulchen’s Poetry Month. Today’s prompt is: “film title.”

Only Friends

“Dreams are real,” he says.

I nod until he tells me he dreamt of our wedding night, how he lifted me off my feet when my dress became too heavy to dance and we twirled around the ballroom like we were the only two people in the whole world.

I open my mouth to correct him, but my voice escapes. We are just friends—words every man hates to hear.

We’ve been friends for over two years. When will we ever be more? I know what I want. You. There’s no one else.

He’s always been in love with me. He knows my every secret, what I love and hate. To him, we fit, but my stomach bloats whenever I think of him kissing me.

I just don’t see you in that way…

I don’t tell him of my dream, the dream where I return home from the hospital, afraid to go inside alone with the possibility that my rapist still lurks in the shadows.

How many more rejections will it take before both dreams come true? I count my lives down to the day I can no longer tell him no.

© 2016 Nortina Simmons


“Dr. Hammond gave Grace a lobotomy yesterday.” Tish speaks nonchalantly as if talking about the weather.

“Is she dead?” Renee asks.

“It’s like she is now.” Tish shrugs. “She won’t put up much of a fight anymore.” She reclines in the tub next to Renee. The water is clear, and Renee can see Tish’s blurred naked body just beneath the surface.

“Do you think Dr. Hammond does that?”

“He’s a man in a hospital full of crazy women.” Tish sits up and writes RAPY in permanent marker on the side of the tub. Then she stands. Renee’s eyes are drawn to her perfectly round bottom.

“Are you leaving already?”

“Yes, I’m getting pruned.” She steps out, walks over, and sits on the edge of Renee’s tub. “Unless you want me to stay.” She runs her fingers through Renee’s wet hair.

Renee’s eyes drift to Tish’s perky breasts, her hard brown nipples like chocolate chips she could lick.

The door behind them swings open, and Tish jumps to her feet. Dr. Hammond enters. He eyes the women, clicks his tongue in his throat. “Hmm, I thought the shock therapy was working with you two.” He writes on his clipboard and leaves the room.

Tish twists her lips. “Well, I guess we’re not cured, yet.”

Renee pulls her knees to her chin. “Will we ever be cured?”

“No,” Tish says, then submerges herself into the water between Renee’s legs.

© 2016 Nortina Simmons

#BlaPoWriMo: Mammy

Baby’s crying
I can’t feel my legs.
Baby’s crying
Six months since I bled.
Baby’s crying—
Mista’s just left the room.
Baby’s crying
Missus comes with the broom.
“Baby’s crying!”
she screams as she swings.
Baby’s crying
My swollen womb sting.
Baby’s crying
I rise to my chore.
Baby’s crying
as mine drips to the floor.

© 2016 Nortina Simmons 

No Holds Barred Poetry Writing Challenge: Day 22

Woman sitting in bathtub with water

My lover called himself a wolf.
I didn’t believe him—
his lips were too soft,
his eyes too green, naive—
but when we made love
for the first time,
he flipped me over
covered my head with a pillow
defiled me from behind
the way he’d seen it done in
endless internet movies,
and I finally understood.
He said he liked it—
relished the illusion.
I cried into the lukewarm
bath water of our
porcelain tub when I
realized I wasn’t
the first girl he’d
explored his fantasy with
but was the only one
who consented.

© 2015 Nortina Simmons