“Closer to the Loss” by Colette Inez

“Closer to the Loss” by Colette Inez is a graphic poem that shares the traumatic sexual violence endured as a young child. Published in the feminist journal Aphra, Inez opens up about her abuse in the hopes of breaking the silence of sexual violence against children in the household. Through explicit, graphic wording, Inez addresses how her childhood was directly affected by the trauma of her foster father’s abuse.

Colette Inez’s poem, “Closer to the Loss” was published in the Winter 1972-1973 Aphra journal. Originally, the poem is not placed side by side. Instead, stanzas directly follow after each other.

Inez became an orphan when she was eight years old and was in multiple foster homes until she was permanently placed in a foster home until she was permanently placed in Long Island, New York. There, she was abused by her foster father (Colette Inez). In the second stanza of the poem, Inez describes her time with “her foster families” in graphic and chilling words, “: / Daddy-boozers / in bargain suits / crouching at the dark / for a squeeze of her breasts” (Inez, 39). By using “Daddy-boozers,” Inez refers to the always drunken state of her foster father. As an eight-year-old girl, there was no way to protect herself against this sexual abuse, especially when her “daddy” was intoxicated. The use of “daddy” in this stanza is chilling as the next line describes how he would go “crouching in the dark / for a squeeze of her breasts.” By unveiling the truth about her abuse, Inez created a new pathway so that other women can feel heard and validated about their nauseating experiences. It reassured women that they were not alone. Their trauma was voiced through feminist periodicals and brought awareness to such cruelties.
Inez uses violent imagery in the lines, “To slam the child’s guff / bloody with sores” to put into perspective how critical her situation was at home (Inez, 39). The word “guff” is a metaphor for Inez’s genitalia. “Slam the child’s guff” explicitly illustrates the physical, sexual torture experienced by a child. “Bloody with sores” illustrates the severe sexual abuse Inez painfully experienced. It reinforces the idea that she will never go back to living a normal childhood because it was tortured out of her.

This is a portrait of Colette Inez (1931-2018). Inez wrote ten poetry books and won many awards for her poems.

Inez also relates innocence to purity as an important ideal in childhood. Being exposed to the evils of the world at a young age strips children of their childhood and changes their whole perspective of the world. Inez was exposed to the cruelty of the world and expresses her change in behavior when she says, “Don’t see her coiled, reptilian smile- / enough terror and rage / to ravage your loins” (Inez, 40). Reptiles are cold-blooded and can symbolize strength. Inez calls on her strength to keep her composure, despite the rage she feels. Her once innocent smile has now turned into a fury which she is fighting to release. The word choice in “ravage your loins” demonstrates the intensity of her rage. By describing her foster father’s penis as “loins,”––as in pork loins–– she sees her foster father as a pig. She is now a little girl filled with rage.

The ending of the poem uses graphic sexual metaphors to illustrate the end of her childhood by saying, “A belt’s tight notch / to move in close / like a zipper’s climb / or a doorknob’s cold, / closer and closer to the loss; / the worlds that drown / in easy sperm / gasping for love” (Inez, 40). The title of the poem is referenced when she says, “closer to the loss” meaning every second that passes by brings her closer to the loss of herself. “The worlds that drown in easy sperm” alludes to her innocence and lost potential of a normal childhood because of this horrific crime. “Grasping for love” is connected to how her foster father would use rape as a symbol of love and the darkest twisted ways love can be represented.


Works Cited:

Aphra, vol. 4, no. 1, Winter 1972-1973.

​​“Colette Inez.” Penny’s Poetry Pages Wiki,   https://pennyspoetry.fandom.com/wiki/Colette_Inez.

Inez, Colette. “Closer to the Loss.” Aphra, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 39-40.

In Memoriam: Colette Inez (1930 – 2018) | VCCA. https://www.vcca.com/in-memoriam-colette-inez-1930-2018/.