I never knew existence could be so heavy, that loss could mean a weight
pinning me down with a hand around my throat, he squeezes the scream out of my skin
and it stains the ceiling, from where I stare through glazed empty eyes at my floating soul
looking back at a me unrecognisable; that is not me and not my body. The room is shrinking,
imploding in on itself to a black hole and I am plunging deeper into futility
through night terror territory into one-dimensional existence.
The void threatens to swallow me whole but I am too absorbed in life light years away,
amongst the planets in far off, distant galaxies where I visit dying stars
until gravity has its way. Flung face down on the concrete dirt floor, a year grounded
with spirit split in pieces, until a word tugs gently at the torn hem of my dress;
it is ‘Hope’, gazing graciously, wide eyed and innocent,
she offers a carefully folded slip of paper
and I caress the crumpled surface, screwed into a ball tightly clenched in my fist,
a touch of reality passes in whispers through the pores of my skin, till palm unfolds
and pages begin their reverse origami, multiplying blank page after blank page.
Mine to fill with the words I could not speak, those conceived in silence, grown in the dark
and birthed by some sacred entity, some Mother Earth
who would not have me give up on this life lightly. The writing comes in clumps,
forms on the page like poorly fitting clothes, I had not measured the depth of my feelings
nor the circumference of these curdled thoughts. Their presence demands
each letter is loved into its lines, that each sentence is scanned for signs of life
and shown how to breathe on its own. I fill these rooms with rhymes.
When raindrops escape from the clouds and lick my exposed skin they taste sadness.
It is why they are always coloured blue or grey, and not pink with shimmering glitter,
because everyone knows the flavours of sunlight and rainbows and happiness
without the need for touch, but poetry must be absorbed and drill deeper than the senses.
It is why I wear shorts in thunderstorms, why each droplet feels like a kiss;
it’s how the words soak in, and it doesn’t matter if I sink or swim
because there are still more words on the river bed floor, carried by the currents
back to their source, eroded by those who have used them before. With thirsty lovers
drinking scrambled letters as if hearts were a limited resource. I wash off their scent,
running a bath with the words that stay as I patiently wait for the hot ink to flow
as once it runs cold I know what is lost and grieving has found a new story
and I can move on to the next part of mine. Warm, wet sand between my toes
and I wade into the ocean, the words lapping at my ankles.
I wonder how I was ever afraid of the change in weather, how it took so long
to discover the water cure. I collect the wild, wandering, infant words in my net, tame them,
teach them how to paddle, and when they come across another wild, wandering woman,
drowning as I was, I ask them to let fall their anchor, fill her lungs
with the most delicate creations, keep her afloat, bring her back to land
and show her poetry.
I have burned your strawberry fields to the ground. These flames taste sweet on my tongue,
dead plants breaking under my bare feet. I have been screaming since that June full moon
but Ceridwen used the twilight to brew me a potion and now a magic curse
runs words through my veins. Did no one teach you that witches don’t die at the stake?
We reclaim every cell of our bodies with centuries of words bled onto these pages,
for all the times a woman’s voice was hated and her rage was painted as something pretty,
without substance, without solidity, flimsy against the prison cell bars
that restrained our creative spark through history. We strip these silences down to their bones,
rebuild skeletons and hide them in closets till least expected, speaking in the language
of our ancestor’s ghosts, our words demand to be unchained from our throats
and now you can’t say you didn’t hear us say the word no because its embers
are scorching your sheets. Maybe now the next generation will read that freedom
is more than a concept. When anger melts into soft strokes of calligraphy,
I scribble a passionate prayer that our darkest points
do not brand us with armour nor harden our hearts. These ashes of dead letters
will fertilise new soil, for what are women made for but courage and fires in our bellies.
I will not stop writing till I can taste the ripe, delicious, sweetness of a strawberry
without it reminding me of you, and still then my writing will continue.
I will wet my finger, trace directions into the dust, brew courage on the stove,
hand out mugs to every woman who has ever felt the sting of a man’s branding iron,
marked by his hands, his skin, his cells.
A woman’s creativity cannot be kept in a cage and this collective fury
incites collective change. There may be tigers above and tigers below
but this moment is just one page in a library of feminist action,
I will not water down my reactions. The women before me offer their shoulders to stand on
as I hold fast to the torch that lights the way for the next one.
To me, poetry is oxygen. I don’t know how I ever breathed before without it.
The air is enriched, the wind brings ideas and phrases bit by bit
till they settle on the pen. With words I find freedom, lost in the images
formed in my imagination. Since I was a child
I pretended I could write stories and perform them, copying pages from books
and claiming them as my own creation. After dark, other children
would turn on the television, or creep downstairs for a midnight snack, but my feast
was a dim nightlight and a book of poetry. Reading is my meditation, writing my escapism,
I need them like I need my organs. Inspiration is all around us,
and those who don’t feel its breeze don’t know what they are missing. We live to create;
whether art, music or words on paper, and I can’t surround myself
with hearts and minds whose lungs don’t function the same as mine.
Creativity is the purest form of human expression, every inhale is a lesson
and exhale a forgetting, a letting go
of the poison that no longer serves us. I may be miles from ones I love,
ones I hope to see again, ones I have never seen and never loved
but where we share a connection, a swift breath, but still I can tie my words into a parcel
and send them like a hot air balloon across the sky in the hope they touch these others
and envelop them in another temporary reality, for just a short passage of time.
This is what I live for, and the more I get the more I want,
a shamelessly haunting addiction for fact or fiction. I have been in the position
where I wanted to die and a poem by Atticus saved my life. I have been in the position
where one I love tried to end their life and where no one else understood what it felt like,
but hooked up to a ventilator filled with poetry I begin to feel alright.
She both has roots and yet has none that tie her down. She aligns herself with the planets
but stands out from the crowd. She knows there is a past and a future but lives
here in the now. She calls herself Mother Nature and to her wild wisdom I bow.
Her words connect humanity and speak of love as a verb. Her thunder and lightning
demand to be heard. She uses every season to bloom and to grow,
she nurtures plants to flower in spring then kills them off with snow.
She serves the world with stories and rhymes, she passes on tales of old,
whilst we encourage the youngest to fill our shoes and pray their hearts
do not grow cold. She formed me from her blood and soil, she kept me safe with tears,
through the river beneath the river she guides me through my fears. She refuses to stay silent
about the matters of the heart, she names the deepest emotions and turns them into art.
She matches words to the world outside, she gives song to my soul and she empowers
me to speak my senses and leave no shame untold. She translates my mental states,
whether blessing or disease and she welcomes in my demons and makes them feel at ease.
She seeks out what is missing and speaks in prophecy, she understands the universe
and how it takes care of me. Her heartbeat is the purest sound,
synced with those who have come before, they teach me how to love my scars
and turn them into words with doors. She encourages me to share of my darkness
and my light because vulnerability is my power and I find this when I write.
Her touch breeds electricity that generates the words, which fall independent
to my hands direction, I hold the pen for but a turn. Her chemistry breaks down the bonds
to the reality we know, the reaction liberates the words as they burst out and overflow.
She does not intervene with my free will but moves me just the same,
she knows when to make a rainbow and when I just need rain.
She spurs me on to leave my work out in the world alone
because the words will always visit as this was their first home.
She reminds me of the beauty in this nature’s sacred earth
and that I am made from the same fragments so should appreciate my worth.
She taught me how to speak up and how to project my voice
because words belong to everyone and how I use them is my choice.
She wants us to change the world one stanza at a time and own our stories
like they are held to ransom and we are fighting for our lives.
For we are not separate bodies, we are all parts of a whole.
Some may sing, scream, write, paint, dance, or simply listen
but we each have vital roles.
So if your God is a woman, you are both blessed and likewise cursed,
for we can’t ignore the pain and suffering but we can write them into verse.