With No Immediate Cause

by ntozake shange

every 3 minutes a woman is beaten

every five minutes a

woman is raped/every ten minutes

a little girl is molested

yet I rode the subway today

I sat next to an old man who

may have beaten his old wife

3 minutes ago or 3 days/30 years ago

he might have sodomized his daughter

but I sat there

cuz the men on the train

might beat some young women

later in the day or tomorrow

I might not shut my door fast

enough push hard enough

every 3 minutes it happens

some women’s innocence

rushes to her cheeks/pours from her mouth

like the betsy wetsy dolls have been torn

apart/their mouths

menses red split/every

three minutes a shoulder

is jammed through plaster and the oven door/

chairs push thru the rib cage/hot water or

boiling sperm decorate her body

I rode the subway today

and bought a paper from an east Indian man who might

have held his old lady onto

a hot pressing iron/ I didn’t know

maybe he catches little girls in the

parks and rips open their behinds

with steel rods/ I can not decide

what he might have done I

know every 3 minutes

every 5 minutes every 10 minutes

I boughtt the paper

looking for the announcement

there has to be an announcement

of the women’s bodies fond

yesterday the missing little girl

I sat in a restaurant with my

paper looking for the announcement

a young man served me coffee

I wondered did he pour the boiling

coffee on the woman because she was stupid

did he put the infant girl in

the coffee pot because she cried too much

what exactly did he do with hot coffee

I looked for the announcement

the discover of the dismembered

woman’s body

victims have not all been

identified today they are

naked and dead/some refuse to

testify girl out of 10 is not

coherent/ I took the coffee

and spit it up I found an

announcement/ not the woman’s

bloated body in the river floating

not the child bleeding in the

59th street corridor/ not the baby

broken on the floor/

“there is some concern

that alleged battered women

might start to murder their

husbands and lovers with no

immediate cause”

I spit up I vomit I am screaming

we all have immediate cause

every 3 minutes

every 5 minutes

every 10 minutes

every day

women’s bodies are found

in alleys and bedrooms/at the top of the stairs

before I ride the subway/buy a paper of drink

coffee from your hands I must know

have you hurt a woman today

did you beat a woman today

throw a child cross a room

are the little girl’s pants in your pocket

did you hurt a woman today

I have to ask these obscene questions

I must know you see

the authorities require us to


immediate cause

every three minutes

every five minutes

every ten minutes

every day


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