In A Hospice

You were lying
A question mark on its edge
A hipbone I couldn’t take my eyes off
Your hand that had lived too short
Resting under a cheekbone
That sliced your palm
Your skin was honesty
Rice paper thin
Stretched over willow
A glow still lighting up
But leaking
I passed you with my wares
On wheels
And you recoiled
Afraid to eat
Afraid to choke
Afraid of a custard cream
Afraid of every single
Tiny moment left
And it broke my heart
Into thousands
Upon thousands
And I didn’t hold your hand
Because I didn’t know you
And I should have held your hand
But I wasn’t meant to
And I should have held you
At least for a little while

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A Black Rainbow

Oh but I wish
I could be climbing Jacob’s ladder
Poised to slide down the dark rainbow
Black and crystal
An endless tumble down
To earth through storms
With a ringing in my ears

This longing comes and goes
The need hot
The echo of the need
Building goosebumps
Pouring vinegar
In oil
And stirring

All that want and fear
Never emulsifying
Sitting side by side
A yes and no
Cracked glass limbs
Cradling a tiny being
Fragile vulcanised rubber
Lost without love

I am needed
And I am wanted
But I’m a sailor lost
In a bathtub
Unable to scale the sides
Or pull at the plug
Only dive down deep
Among the weeds and stones

When wealth is a measure of worth
And success bartered
When my time is for sale
And my mind is an addled stew
That can be sold
To the lowest bidder
I’ll jump at the chances
To dance with the lightning

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Those Days

You talk of those days
When they’d burn us at the stake
When they’d bridle us
The Scolds

You talk of those days
When they’d sterilise the unmarried
Force feed the challenging
Lock up the hysterical

You talk and talk and talk
Without listening
Can’t you hear
The screaming

It’s deafening
The white noise you hear
Is crystal clear
To those who choose to listen

Those days are these days
That time is now
The burning
And the bridles

The detention centres
The sedation
The medication
The sterilisation

The force
Blunt trauma
Are you listening
Can’t you hear

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The Circus Tent

Oh the trapeze!
To swing and whoop and holler
My weight
A brass pendulum
Claiming the sky on either side
With each sway
As I slice back and forth
Holding with knuckles white
The cherry-red and tulip-yellow
Of the circus tent
A fizz of orange
The netting a jumble below
And the spire a pinpoint above
Look at the stars peeping through!
While I tumble and dive
Through time
And my safe space
Here in my tent
The rocking back and forth
A comfort and a joy

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The Metal Yard

Coat me in gold leaf
The edible kind
For I am consumable
Unwrap me
And devour

Sprinkle me with silver sugar balls
That live atop cakes
For I am decorative
A luxury
A bad habit

Brush me with bronze
Burnish me in steel
Watch my copper oxidise
And my iron rust
As I stand out facing the storm

Wrap me in arms
Held at their length
Breathe in my collarbones
And swallow my heartbeat
A metronome to count on

Lift me and swing me
Sway me and move me
Convince me of a truth told
Or I’ll dance far far away
Out of this metal yard

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On Exercising Empathy

I would like to try a little exercise with you. I would like you to try on some shoes. Most of them won’t fit, they’ll be too small but putting aside practicalities for a moment we can metaphorically slip them on for our purposes today.

Ok, so they’re on? Done up? Good. Now I want you to close your eyes and picture a young girl, 14, maybe 15, it’s not all that important-she’s below the age of legal consent, that’s all you need to know. She’s wearing a pair of shorts, a vest, flip flops, she’s a little bit mouthy, did you just hear what she said to her mum? Typical teenager right? Now, see that man over there? To her right? That’s her dad’s mate from work. That’s the man that in about 20 minutes is going to rape her. It’s up to you whether you watch, I’d prefer it if you did, to see the act, put into context, not some words on a page.

Because the act of rape is what she’s about to experience, not a nebulous “assault” or “a situation that got out of hand” or a “sex game gone wrong”. Rape, forced entry, deadly and life changing. I’d like you to watch, but I’m not convinced you’d have the stomach.

Right, moving on, the purpose of this exercise is not to make you feel ill but if it rattles, if you’re feeling uncomfortable maybe it’s starting to get through. Maybe it will open your eyes, to get you to see that these attacks and assaults, these rapes and murders that happen to women every single day are not happening in a bubble. They are not happening to cardboard cut-outs, these are real human, flesh and blood women and girls. And EVERY SINGLE TIME that you hold those women and girls responsible for their attacks you’re saying the following;

• They deserved to be harmed
• The men who attacked were justified
• That men will be believed
• That women will not be believed
• That the traumatised victims are not worth our empathy
• That the traumatised victims do not deserve justice

Every time you caveat a tilted head at a headline with “yes but” you join the scores and scores of onlookers who help create an environment and culture that treats women as second class citizens whose voices are not considered and whose experiences of trauma do not generate empathy but derision and blame.

You cannot ever know what the words “I believe you” mean to a victim of abuse, rape, assault. If you’ve always had your word taken, if you’ve always been listened to no matter what the circumstance then I can understand entirely why that would be the case.

So look, let’s take those shoes off and you’re free to walk on by. But next time, before nodding at the headlines, before agreeing with the reports, before questioning the tragically rare guilty verdicts I want you to think what you might say if you were sat right in front of those women and girls. Could you look them in the eyes and tell them they deserved it? If you were in the room with the attacks happening would you egg on the abuser, would you look away? If you were in the shoes of those women and girls can you think for one second what those headlines would do?

If you contain one ounce of empathy, I urge you to start exercising it.

Posted in child abuse, counting dead women, discrimination, domestic violence, feminism, newspapers, Over Sexualisation of Children, rape, sexism, tabloids, TV, Violence against women and girls | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Gap In The Writing

The welcome depth in white
Pulls on the strings
Tugging until sleep bellows
And if the heart wants
What the heart wants
Why can’t mine decide

It’ll laugh a little
And sit back on haunches
A potential energy
In waiting
Bound to use every fuse

It’ll knowingly wreck
And strip bare
Any thoughts found wanting
Any thoughts needing answers
It’ll rip apart the plans and stare
Into a gap in the writing

Where the buzzwords and cliches live
Where the reality gets ignored
And the expectations
Take over
And force a frogmarch
Down a path never asked for

So I’ll live a lifetime
In a foggy phase
With no directions
Or decisions made
And I’ll play at the role
Agreed by everyone but me

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