Kilroy Was Here
Updated: Mar 1, 2021
I am of rock and sea as much as the infernal rage gleam of my mother’s eye, sleek born of tulips and sprawling thornéd berry bramble,
Tasting of the bitter sweat of years of underpaid immigrant labor and the sixfold screams of rural childbirth:
Do. Not. Fuck. With. Me.
The same salt runs through my veins as that which fed my grandfather pickled herring during the starvation days of occupation,
The same salt my ancestors cried as they watched their crops turn to dust that stayed in their shoes until they found a new home in a land filled with avocadoes and oranges and the holy salt spray of the
I am the offspring of harsh love and inflexible will, of slavishly devoted Delft dolls and the nightmares of a broken empire,
A child of the darkness that blankets both the day and the night in the stone cut north, suckled by sorrow-stories and tales of iron—
I. Cannot. Be. Broken.
I am cold steel in soft flesh, bought and paid for by rough hands working carbide into gunmetal, warmed by their sweat, educated by their curses, unyielding as Tungsten and those who work it.
I am the quiet ice of my father’s prolonged silence, the doggedness of his sad steps, the sound of his belt slicing the air, his fists breaking skin and tooth;
I am a glacier of unvoiced screams hiding beneath the kitchen table;
I am the ice packed tundra of fears beneath my sister’s bed, the tattoo covered scars of my brother’s limbs;
I am the quiet fury of a pent-up life unleashed against pen and ink—
I. Am. All. Of. Them. And. These. Are. Mine.
I am the half-whispered prayer muttered in a death stupor,
I am the pretend peace of four-part harmonies emanating from my mother’s hands;
I am the hollowness of forced praises to the god of misogynistic tropes and violent justification.
I am a child of anger, hurt, and human striving and I will not be silent.
Ruth Christopher is a Senior at UC Davis majoring in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She lives in Davis with life-partner & poet-in-crime Cyrus Sepahbodi, and her cat Louie Prima Armstrong Christopher Sepahbodi. Besides being a poet and a student, Ruth is interested in music, painting/collaging, cannabis activism, feminist theory, and works as a Salsa/Bachata instructor at Studio18 in Sacramento.
"There is a lot of interest in WWII history in my family which is probably how I became interested in the WWII era graffiti known as the kilroy. Drawing the kilroy and doodling "kilroy was here" strikes me as one of the most basic forms of self-expression available to men in very dangerous situations enduring circumstances beyond their control. The kilroy is a way of saying, "I'm here! I exist!" This was a major impulse behind the creation of my poem and the reason I chose the title. This poem is my own statement of existence written in very dangerous situations while enduring circumstances beyond my control. I hope it speaks life to you and encourages you to engage in your own form of self-expression, whatever that might be."
graphic by @fakiewilly