A Manifesto of Stolen Moments

A Manifesto of Stolen Moments

i. Space

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.

 

ii. Water

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.

 

iii. Fire

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.

 

iv. Air

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.

 

v. Earth

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.

 

Digging Up My Body Parts

Digging Up My Body Parts

I wore a long-sleeved black dress;

chiffon, bow tied at the front

and floating,

floating but heavy.

You said I looked nice today

and I wheedled out a ‘thank you’ with a side joke

of ‘don’t I always?’

Just keep it light hearted, don’t think about it.

Keira Knightley plays Colette,

a true story about a man’s power

and a woman’s fight to recover hers,

but you’re oblivious to its significance

and the meaning saunters past you.

I think the meaning sauntered past him too,

last time I wore this black dress at the cinema.

I don’t remember what we watched

but I can point you to our seats,

describe how he was sat on my right,

sweaty hand on my leg crossed away from him,

eyes baring down into my skin

and my red summer shoes,

where no amount of clicking those heels

would ever get me home.

Vote of No Confidence

Vote of No Confidence

I am lost amongst the words

as the blurred images

rush to the surface

and I replay them in full colour

whilst this page lies in black and white.

These tears are seismic,

measure them on the Richter scale,

ask scientists to analyse the data

and report back on their lack of statistical significance,

their minor impact,

the fracking continues.

Today, news broke of a police officer

who raped a thirteen year old girl

but all I hear on Radio 4

is Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.

Deal or no deal

will make no difference

to a country most in need

of an exit from ourselves.

Man Up

Man Up

I have worked with women

who love their men

even

as his hands grip her throat

and he gloats,

whilst watching her choke,

over how she takes him back

by the time he counts to ten.

I have seen the courage of women

who leave their men

alone

with pregnant belly and two children

in a land of words foreign,

she prays I answer my phone

and find her a safe home

where he’ll never touch them again.

I have felt the pain of women

caused by a system

that didn’t lock up their men;

he only raped her yesterday

and she tells me she’s okay

but the tears spilling down her cheeks

give her fear away

as a lack of evidence gave him his freedom.

Here I stand as a woman

standing with women

who are stood on by men.

All convinced that they knew them,

so now don’t all go thinking

that it could never happen

or you’d never let yourself

be in that situation

because we’re all in motion

on a spectrum

of tolerance and bystander inaction,

and to think

that those who get bruised

are any different

than you is fiction.

Being a victim

is not an addiction,

but a symptom

of the macho masculinity affliction

that sees violence

as an ever acceptable reaction,

or that too much testosterone

is the real problem

whilst breeding the notion

that this is the natural order of things

instead of asking the questions,

why do some men hurt women?

and why is violence such a deeply gendered phenomenon?

and why are these instead not defined

as gender crimes?

Worded as ‘women’s issues’ and ‘violence against women’

whilst men’s part in the process

is the invisible omission,

like there could be another explanation

to gender relations

and we just aren’t keeping up with the times.

So here I stand as a woman

standing with women

who are stood on by men,

and if you think

that you’re a good one of them,

then what are you doing

to be part of the solution?

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

It’s called a safe

for it holds something

not meant for you to take

but to a cracksman’s fingers

it’s just another code to break

as the handprints linger

in every crack about the place

did you know the DNA from

one dead skin cell contains

the genetic make up of the face

that smirked

as it ripped out and replaced

all that was inside

with fakes

becoming just a case

burdened with waste

as the safe

still looks like a safe

but isn’t safe

in the most fundamental ways.

(I don’t know how much

bodies go for these days

but I doubt your exchange rate

was worth more

than the price I paid.)

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

This is the last time

you will curse me

with your words,

break my spirit

till I cannot lift

myself up from the dirt.

This is the last time

you hand me

all your pain,

so heavy I sit on

and take the hit from

the shards of your grenade.

This is the last time

your grip

constricts my voice,

lungs without air

my words rot in there

since you took away my choice.

This was the last time

you tried to convince me

of your lies

that I should feel shame,

so I’ve poured petrol and doused us in flames

because men burn

but witches survive.

Trigger TV

Trigger TV

When even broken bones

burns

bite marks

internal injury

Her story

Her reality

is not considered worthy

neither for a charge

nor being found guilty,

when even without

Her words should be

Enough.

Maybe

if being an amputee

wasn’t internal

then you could see

as clearly

She wasn’t privy

to the memo

from the CPS and jury

about what constitutes believable,

since giving a reliable account

takes a PHD,

and to what degree

She just takes up your precious time

being angry.

Tell me,

is it as much

as he took Her body?