Cyn Said...

Engine : A Yes to Bipolar by Guest Writer Rachel McKibbens


Rachel McKibbens essay is submitted as part of The Body is Not An Apology’s #WhenWeSayYES Campaign. Raising money to build the world’s most powerful radical self love website. Give Here:


[Image: This is a photo of author Rachel McKibbens. She is a Latina…

Radical Self Love means no shame. Outing yourself with an invisible illness takes incredible courage. Rachel McKibbens shows hers here.



On my nineteenth birthday it snowed. It was an unusually snowy winter for St. Louis. There was already a few inches on the ground from the day before. It was really cold so the snow was still fluffy, but the streets were cleared. My dad and stepmom were coming over for dinner, my high school…

“Thing is, if we could get our culture to disconnect the righteously angry woman from the crazy unreasonable context it mostly has attached. The fact that we really do experience this every day, and thank you men, we really don’t want to need your protection, just want to walk into the mall without some man walking toward us and we have to decide if he is dangerous or not, and then he says fine or fat, one or the other and we still have to decide if he’s dangerous or not, and think omg I have on those ankle strappy heels and can’t run, and look around that parking lot for other people. It’s that all that ^ is so ingrained in us we just do it and it’s part of the day. I am perfectly willing to protect myself if needed but I weigh 130 lbs and have about 2 seconds to make that damage work if I can before I am on my back, then pray my hands are not pinned so I can sink my nails into his soft parts. Seriously.

“Do you fucking get it now? That is what we all do, what we are all taught to do (except the damage part, only some of us learn that).”


On my nineteenth birthday it snowed. It was an unusually snowy winter for St. Louis. There was already a few inches on the ground from the day before. It was really cold so the snow was still fluffy, but the streets were cleared. My dad and stepmom were coming over for dinner, my high school husband was in a full leg cast, so going out or to my parent’s house was difficult. I had a lasagna in the oven.

They arrived, and instead of bringing beer or wine, they brought a bottle of bourbon. Yeah, I was nineteen, my high school husband was twenty. Deal, lots of us start early. So it’s decided I will walk across the street to the grocery store to get some mixers. Dad gives me some money. I go.

On the way walking back once I cross the street, in snow mid calf deep and fluffy, I hear a snow footstep squeak. I am almost to the door. I turn to see a man literally flying through the air at me. He grabs me around my arms and we fall, him landing on top of me, on my back. I have my arms around two grocery bags against my chest because it is back in the days of paper only. Luckily. I am on my back with a young man on top of me. We are both breathing hard. I realize my hands are in front of me. I dig my nails into his neck and hold on. I start screaming. He starts wiggling. I dig my nails in harder and hang on. I feel warm liquid on my fingers, making it a bit slippery. I dig harder, still screaming.

He yells and drags himself away from me. He runs away. I stand, still screaming. I run to the door, still screaming. I run up the stairs, still screaming. I burst into my apartment, still screaming. The look on their faces, my dad, my stepmom, my high school husband. I was covered in snow from head to toe, clinging to all of me in it’s lovely skiable powderyness. But my fingers had blood on them. 

They brushed me off. Are you ok, are you ok? A man grabbed me. Did he do anything? Did he do anything? He grabbed me. Thank god, thank you god, he didn’t do anything. We don’t need to call the police, nothing happened. No police were called. We didn’t do that. It was more likely to result in one of us getting arrested than any perpetrator. 

Normal time resumed. Looking back I think maybe 30 seconds passed from the tackle to me arriving in my kitchen. Maybe another minute before they all decided I was ok. So my nineteenth birthday dinner went on mostly as planned. Lasagna. Cake. Bourbon and Coke or Seven Up. Attempted rape, but hey, the bourbon helps with that panic attack.

I saw my neighbor the next day, told her. She said yeah, his name is Herman. Lives over there. He tried that with me. I punched him and he went away. You ok? I nod.

Couple weeks later I’m in the same grocery store and see him, back by the meat. I run home and tell high school husband. He gets as puffy as a guy on crutches can get, we will go back and confront him. So I drive him over. About that time, Herman comes out of the store. High school hubby crutches his way over there, drops one and punches Herman. Herman falls down, and gets right up, kinda scared. He runs off. High school hubby crutches his way back to the care, all puffy proud he defended his woman’s honor.

And I thought, Huh, I did more damage, he still had  the scabs from my nails.


Oh poor boo, right? This is the one I can write about, the others are in heavily metaphored poems. Maybe one day I’ll write Another Rape Poem in the plural. 

Some Bridges

Some bridges need burning.

Not that you should make a habit

of disrupting the roadways, but there

are some places that should never

be revisited. Soaked it in coal oil,

set a case of roman candles

square in the middle. Prayerfully

light the match. Catch the tinder.

Call just the right amount of breeze

to fan the flames into a spectacular 

smoking pyre,  shooting rockets skyward 

so the other side cannot miss the destruction 

over your personal River Kwai.

It’s the ones along the footpath

you need to be careful with.

The small bridges crossed daily, unseen.

A little rickety, some creaking boards,

safe footing across the swampy part,

keeping your shoes clean. 

Your journey swift and sure,

with last year’s weeds winter dry 

where you step onto solid ground. 

Those are the ones you don’t even notice. 

It’s that cigarette butt carelessly tossed 

as you hurry onward thinking of other things 

that catches in weeds, feeds on

the tinder dry planks till they crackle merrily. 

You are miles away before the piers 

smolder down to the water line 

and disappear beneath the duck weed.

You will notice on your way home.

Your foot sinks into the muck,

your shoe comes as you pull it out. 

Then you will look up and see the marsh 

has no dry crossing, no magickal path, 

only mud and reeds and black wet spots. 

You will wonder, then,

where the little footbridge went

and how will you get home now,

how will you keep your shoes clean,

and if there are alligators out there.

But the creaky old footbridge has

donated her carbon back to the swamp

to feed whatever comes next.

Cyn Hanrahan McCollum 2/14/14

Click here to support help Rachel get to WOWPS 2014


So the it’s like this….the sooner I raise airfare the less money I will need to ask for….basically if I raise $500 by this weekend I can stop begging for money…and because I kind of hate begging for money if I reach $500 by the end of this weekend I will send anyone that donated a special edition chapbook and a sloppy love note covered in kisses and stickers! Deal?