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This Poem About Sexual Harassment Will Haunt You, Then Make You Think

09/05/2014 07:56 am ET

However, in this video-reading of her poem "Wednesday," poet Olivia Cole describes a scene of harassment on a city bus that is especially haunting.

With rhythmic, visceral language, Cole describes a situation in which a man on a bus rubs his crotch up against a female passenger. The woman prepares her body for his further advances as a soldier would for battle, readying her elbow to jab him, if need be. Meanwhile, other women look on, sympathetic but silent.

"In this world, we are armed with subtleties and stiff silences," Cole says of women, in the video.

Cole then makes a larger, equally resonant point about what will happen when the male aggressor leaves that space -- and how important it is for women to be ready to protect themselves.

"He will be diverted for the day, but will come back with masks that keep out my fumes, moving through the mist toward my comrades, less well-trained, newer to the jungle, and wet behind the ears, taught to fight fire with sugar, which does nothing but sweeten the flames," she concludes.

Cole wrote "Wednesday" in 2010 with a friend from college. She published this video on YouTube in March 2013.

On her WordPress blog, where she also shared the video in 2013, she writes of her work: "I feel much the same now as I did then when I wrote the poem. Some things never change."

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