Annually I write a poem a day from February 8th to March 8th.
The Way It Is Still.
Where is this?
What kind of hell are these women living in?
Are we talking backward people?
This is UK 2017
This is the way it is still
Women harassed on a city street
Non-stop covert sexual nuisances
Innuendos in the workplace
Cameras on our bums on street corners.
Looks like we are everyman’s property
It’s a power thing and a controlling urge.
Protect my grandchild.
The Woman Club.
Two homeless women passed me
in the typical uniform of triple overcoats
and mounded scarves about their necks.
They never looked at me but saw me.
They had long ceased interacting with people
and were deaf to the speeches of do-gooders
and hardened to spit and insults.
It was an unfamiliar sight; two down and out women together.
Their partnering up
was a test of trust
absolutely tenuous and temporary
and only mutual for the moment.
Their world is particularly one where middle class ideals of all women joining in sisterhood is a nonsense
because when it comes down to it
they are seen as failures and threats
stinking and unshaved
non-deodorised, non conditioned and undesirable.
Their place on earth is defined by
the perceptions of others
and their affiliation to womanhood, challenged.
A State To Be In.
She said that loneliness
that is the state of her being lonely
was making her very low
but not so as to cry
because she said
her energy had been sapped away.
She said she was exhausted by loneliness
but that she knew there was no getting over it
It was just the way of it.
Her mother had said loneliness
comes to everyone
but especially to women
because they have people all around
and then not
as children grow and husbands die
and they must learn to go outside of the home
but never did so never do.
A carriage would solve the problem.
She said if you could just cast off
grab a coat and a pair of shoes
pop into a cab and go to wherever
loneliness would go.
Woman On Woman
The woman worker miscarried.
It was a private affair
Only her doctor knew
And he wrote dilation and curettage
But she needed two weeks to recover
So he signed her off.
Two years later at the interview
The huffing interrogator asked
Why were you absent for two weeks?
Well do you think you’ll have two weeks off again?
The woman held tight her mouth
Was on the spot
And let the nano-second slide
There was no help for an answer
The employer waited
And the answer should have been
How dare you ask that?
But she replied.
No. Hope not
Knowing the job was gone.
I pulled the duvet over my ample portions
and inhaled the warm air
It nestled under my arm
carrying a universal smell
from my special parts
of crotch and overnight lips
unwrapped and nightly worn
and I thought of FGM
as my vulva relaxed and reposed
I’d seen pain and stench and rags and screams
I clenched my muscles
and stiffened my spine
My mother-in-law appeared
wily, tiny and toothless
nagging in a high pitched whine
then all at once laughing
ready to do my daughter harm.
In the same commanding tone
she spoke of baptism
and I could not adjust the two.
I saw myself much younger
and wanted to smell flowers
to bring me up to date
away from threats and bloodied parts.
Light and Dark
Haply for I was born a girl
I am everyone’s property
I shall lose my tongue
and curtail my smiles
so that my mouth resembles my
as a hole only.
My cutter made me dry flat and closed
just the way they like ’em
I am dry and flat and closed
I have no shared emotions not even with my mother
My life is a desert
and if I iron my breasts and clothe my hips
I will have no curves to allure
the hordes of men ravaging our tents.
I believe it is this way for all girls
in every country.
I cannot sing with the nightingales
I cannot sing.
I cannot sit and read
I must peel and chop and roll and grill
I must bow in front of men
and allow my brother my school place.
It is the same everywhere I believe
I cannot fathom any other way
I hide my hair and hardly look ahead.
I rejoice I am a girl
My potential is never-ending
My choices are immeasurable
I sit beside boys and let them hear my voice
They listen and approve
defend me in arguments with our parents
and say State Your Case
I am looking upwards and over
Through ceilings and above,
My mind soars
My body grows naturally
with bits and bobs, hair and pubes
and I shower naked at the pool.
If I cover my chest it’s cold
otherwise I am woman in the making
My heels are my strength. My limbs carry me forward.
My mother shares her stories
I learn about my earned place
on this earth my soul.
and cannot imagine being ignored and unseen
unwanted yet sold.
How shall we celebrate our special day?
We could go to an art exhibition
We do that monthly
But the one we’ll see
Is for International Women’s Day
And there’ll be vagina cakes
and pussy hats
and women in boots who’ll ignore us
But the art will mean something
before we go on to venue number two.
Or we could try wellness just for women
And lay on yoga mats
Do pelvic exercises.
And make shopping lists in our heads.
Let’s ignore the Austen readings
and the Suffragist collage banners
Formed from feathers of Walthamstow swifts
That is someone else’s party.
We shall print in workshops
zumba in centres
and buy Veet on the way for our legs.
The Way Of It.
Tell your mother to brush your hair
The shine on it is the sparkle on the waves
Ask her to tie the ribbon on your waist
It will be tight like your future apron strings.
Tell her you need to play in the mud.
She will frown and tell you of sugar and spice
and place the cookie cutter in your hand
Ask her if the moon is a prince
and she will tell the story of a camel and her father and your father
Let her bathe you in sweet water from a rock stream
full of scents of the lemon grass
and purple aubergine
and date trees
And she will stare as you let the water trickle on your bare arms
then quickly clothe you in wrappings
and scarves and skirts to cover your legs.
Allow her to whisper her ways
as she puts skin on your skin
and you smell warmth and woman
and a grandmother and a wife
and then she can stroke your chin
Don’t ask her why.
Ask her instead to pull the fringes
from your eyes
so you can see tear droplets.