The poem, “Lisa’s Ritual, Age 10” written by Grace C Kuhns takes us through the tasks and feelings of the young girl after she has experienced sexual abuse by her father. To what extent might the title refer not only to the physical ritual of cleansing but the psychological ritual of distancing her from the memories? This poem’s title refers slightly to the physical ritual’s she goes through to clean up. The author’s description of what Lisa does after cleaning up helps us imagine her in her safe place. From the title of this poem, I feel the title refers mostly to the psychological rituals that Lisa goes through to distance herself from the horrible memories.
The only part of the poem that I can tell that refers to the physical rituals of cleansing that Lisa goes through is, “lots of mouthwash helps to get rid of her fathers cigarette taste. She runs a hot bath” (353). This only tells us what she does, not what is going through her mind afterwards. It does paint a picture of what Lisa goes through to get the smell and taste of her father cleaned off her, but it is not what the majority of the poem is about. Which is what she mentally goes through after the abuse; how she unwinds from the terrible experience. In my opinion, this young girl shows an outstanding amount of strength, as Kuhns says, “She doesn’t cry” (353). For a young girl to not cry after the trauma she has just been put through tells me it’s like she is almost immune to it.
Could you go through an experience like this over and over again without asking for someone’s help? Lisa does, she deals with it in her own way, that’s takes a lot of strength. Kuhn re-creates what Lisa feels mentally, “Then she finds the corner of her room, curls up against it.” “The wall is steady as she falls away.” “When she feels the cool wall against her cheek she doesn’t want to come back. Doesn’t want to think about it. The wall is quiet, waiting. It is like a tall promise only better” (353-354). After the...
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