poem: exclusion

you do not notice it

– or there were times, perhaps, where you once did,

that with every slamming door

the meaning of my smile misplaced in you belief that you could

shut it again,

and again more;

 

when all my smile meant to convey

that whilst understood,

the slamming of the door was not something that was good

for me;

 

i am no saint and will not for this hurt apologise –

love forgives, and weeps those who weep

that clearer be the vision,

when love patient stoops to dry the eye

 

exclusion makes its scars, this flesh cannot but remark,

tho’ wish i often it would speak in quieter tone;

you hear it,

yet i am left unheard.

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It’s a Jungle Out There: Learning the Language of Danger (or, Don’t Dismiss ‘Feminine Intuition’) cn/tw

I’ve been reflecting recently, after meeting up again with an old friend, on how my perceptions of relationships have both evolved and changed: I first knew my friend when I was 18 and she was 3 or 4 years younger, and our families knew each other well. As it happened I was going out withan older member of her family, though it was a less than healthy relationship, for all sorts of reasons.

My then partner was abusive – but so were his friends. More than one or two of them, at one time or another, tried awkwardly, drunkenly or aggressively to shove their tongues down the back of my throat whilst trying to tune my breasts in to Radio Caroline by the magic of using my nipples for dials – and I was 18, and in an abusive relationship. Some nights, my nightmares were made of dozens of free floating hands.

It was a working class environment, but no, that doesn’t make domestic violence more likely. The violence, control or assault which comes from the more privileged social backgrounds just has a slightly different costume, and a mildly altered script. But [usually] LBTQIA/cis/BAME/disabled working class women are more likely to depend on social assistance from local government, to be able to extricate themselves from the violence. These were the women who were the core of my friendship group – they were hard working and house proud (rightfully so): they make sure the money stretches (less easy now), and get creative when need demands. Long before ‘upcycling’, LBTQIA/cis/BAME/disabled women knew how make the clothes, the furniture, or that old tub in the shed into something that felt like you had something new, and special.

The trope of the slovenly single parent on a council estate, given flesh via Thatcher’s hardening rhetoric in the ’80’s – and later ‘Little Britain’s’ grotesque cartoon of an over painted child in a pink tracksuit – jars in me, then as now. My family lived on a middle class suburban estate, very nuclear but my Dad’s lower management job was the first of the rungs of management to go in a number of large London-based corporations as they geared up for Thatchers first big privatisation push (so I had comparative but nevertheless very real privilege). But I had gone to a council estate Comprehensive school, and spent most of my early social life on that estate (a whole other story). And then spent the two years I was in that abusive relationship living on another- and I have to tell you (and if I do have to tell you, then considered yourself in receipt of a look), that every single one of those tropes about (usually working class) single mothers was, and is, a long, long way from the truth.

Whilst there weren’t less hands as I got older, I learned to navigate … all that stuff (insert gesticulating hands to indicate unwanted male attention) better. Okay, no, I didn’t: I just accepted I was happier and healthier learning not to be ashamed of being ‘the introverted one’** – so it would be more accurate to say that I’ve therefore spent less time in situations where …unwanted advances might be a possibility.

And no, that’s not the same thing as hiding. Though it is also true that even when you’re disabled, you’re not safer – in fact it’s more likely. A confident introvert doesn’t need to be a dichotomy.

But I also trust my instinct now, sometimes even before the evidence of my eye. My instinct is my instinct for reasons, and I don’t argue with it. If a person gives me certain vibes, that person and I aren’t likely to be developing any sort of relationship. And whilst I will own to being hyper vigilant (and chronically anxious), the reasons my instincts are my instincts, are because they learnt what I was slow to trust.

Contrary to what the patriarchal/masculine/western/christianised tropes will tell you, ‘instinct’ is nothing more or less than a subconscious learning of patterns of behaviour, the identification of trigger points, the body language, the tells – you know, those little signs of trouble; learning the language of danger, and of warning. It’s perfectly logical, and y’all loved Tim Roth doing it in Lie to Me.*** Memory is a muscle too.

There’s also the other face of the coin that comes with the extra vulnerability to coercive control, domestic violence and assault as a disabled woman – that we are simultaneously assumed to be sexless, absent of desire, and undesirable.  (And whilst I love my queer community – no, y’all are no more inclusive than able bodied communities a lot of the time, but that’s a whole other conversation).

So it’s no less a jungle now, than when I was 18, though I’ve through passed from Tropical Forest through to Tropical Savannah (and once, by accident, through a saltwater swamp, though this may be a slur upon saltwater swamps). Also, I’m not alone in sharing that whilst most predators are usually straight cis men, sometimes they are not****, so if you ever feel a bit Lost in a Scrub and Thornbush Savannah with that one I believe you.

* we used to call it ‘going out with’ when I was – well, younger. ‘Dating’ certainly wasn’t a term used within 20 parsecs of where I was spending my youth. I’m also apparently now of an age where I note these things. There’s probably no hope for me to be honest.

** I am the product of an introvert (who did a lot of pretending to be an extrovert) parent, and an extrovert parent, (they’re divorced, and happily so).  And it is possible for an extrovert parent to accept that no amount of cajoling is going to change said introverted child. 

***I once had a knock-down-drag-out with a friend who was one-of-those-screaming-misogynists-with-extra-mummy-issues (who thought of himself as a forward looking and progressive man – and yeah, I know), who insisted that ‘feminine intuition’ (grrrrr) was a nonsense, compared to the slightly dodgy, rather glossy pseudo science, that was the staple of Lie to Me’s 2(?) seasons – slightly dodgy, rather glossy pseudo science being apparently more acceptable than ‘feminine intuition’.  Because of course <insert rolling eye emoji>

**** Yes, women are capable of reproducing patriarchal violence.

 

 

poem: you never hid it well

 

you never hid it well;

and though disguised to some,

loves eyes beheld thee in thy whole, and saw the scars

though seeing in them love as well

– for even your disguise revealed

that which fear led to concealing.

 

and spoke it in your mother tongue,

through weft and weave

of things begun,

by poets verse and lovers kindred song

– and seeds of scattered wisdom

that no disguise could keep from giving

 

though storms are not yet calmed,

in caves of rest this love

still brings sweet balm,

for knowing of thee now, and now as then

– yet knowing thee still more

for giving now, forgiven then

poem: i did not fail to notice

i remember the day well,

when i first ran smack-bang-into

your unacknowledged

but very clear disdain;

for revealing what you had wrongly

assumed me to be.

 

you thought me a nice

quiet, well behaved hetrosexual

– but not even decently, coolly rebelliously gay-enough;

and discovering herself a little queer –

(too much for your taste);

i’m used to being a disappointment.

 

i masked-and-mirrored well, too much

and perhaps that did not happen without me;

but i’m not convinced that it is i, that owes the apology.

it is not i who is uncomfortable with who i am, and yet

its true that now i’m uncomfortable,

with this part of who you are.

 

so perhaps i shall, when time enough

has passed the sting of your disdain

from painful down to – well, and then;

and i will find within again the will try

and understand, without conforming who i am,

to something i am not.

 

neither pretended, or forgot;

and neither you pretending, but so verse might have

an ending, let me say –

i do not sigh with mean asides,

just weary, that myself might be enough

for someone, someday.

 

 

Poem: Songs of Raggedy Praise

There are Sundays when all I can bring, God

are the cries of a broken heart

a voice that is sore from the weeping

a mind that is flying apart

 

And I wish I could give you something of value

but its all that I have to bring

these songs of raggedy praise 

for my God, who is brother and king

Some of these tears are so bitter to taste

Can I give them to you God, please

I want to give more, but please take them away

for it’s all I have and can give you today

 

Oh I wish I could give you something of value

but its all that I have to bring

these songs of raggedy praise 

for my God, who is brother and king

God takes all these tears, now not bitter to taste

and these raggedy prayers straighten seem;

and the feeling suffice, so much warmer my heart

still raw from the ice, let it not make me hard

 

How I wish I could give you something of value

but its all that I have to bring

these songs of raggedy praise 

for my God, who is brother and king

Poem: The Woman I Am Is A Feeling Too

 

I’m still learning to name

who I am,

who I’ve been

to recognise self and

name all of me;

all that was odd and

jumbled up

like glob-knot of string

I still carefully unwind,

the revealing it brings;

 

 

I learnt to find self by

the gifts that I got

from hands that were worn

but made tender with love;

and tender hands taught me

that what I was given

was not to store up

in some

quiet private heaven –

Justice to fear won’t give in,

and liberation welcomes all in.

 

And it doesn’t reduce us to things

And it hopes and it loves

and it never gives up

and all of the feeling I bring

is part of the woman I am

and I sing

we are bodies

but we are not things –

stop pinning it down like

a butterfly’s wing,

as if that in itself is all that defines

what makes a butterfly

grow wings

to fly.

 

the poet can speak as she finds –

and weeps,

when justice of feeling is robbed,

and speaks liberation in captors retort;

the cage was undone,

but the chain?

the chain

was hung loose round our necks,

once again.

 

 

 

 

Poem: Meditation on Matthew 25: 31 – 46

Stranger, be not afraid –

come in, come in, the table is laid.

I see thee be weary, please sit yourself down

You are tired, you are thirsty  – come, see now

you can rest from your worries and

your burdens lay down.

 

Stranger be not afraid –

come in, come in the table is laid

I once too arrived here, a stranger like you

Be assured you can lay all worries down too

Find here a place where from sorrows released

Where indeed you are known, and loved – be at peace

Stranger, stranger

Why do you beg, for some crumb of food,

for these meagre dregs? Stranger, begone

for I shall not share; but in my great mercy

I will at least, leave you alone

to beg on the streets.

 

 

Those with most power are not the least

(Though they claim the title –

but God knows, and God see’s)

and though the world tells us – turn the stranger away

God calls you out now: hear God say

When you shared nought with the stranger, you shared nought with me.

 

Poem: The Evidence of My Eyes

Above the raucous, above the clashing

crashing, ever raging din

there is a softer

quieter song

that yet does soar

– i hear it sing

it will be well, it will be well

it will be well, let faith come in

 

And though the claws that rip me,

do not concede, do not desist,

that song so sweetly

calls me up

i could climb up

– I could insist

it will be well, it will be well

let hope like smoke, inhaled, be well

 

Song, sung high and sweet

above the woes

and cares beneath

that lifts me up

i will climb up

– high above, and clear, complete

it will be well, it will be well

and I will tell of all love speaks.

 

 

Poem: I Know Thee, Fear

I know thee, Fear

 

You that stalks my halls like the sweetest of traitors

keeping me from my king,

(with most earnest and well meant intention) –

yet you look at me, as if offended that I should speak mention;

 

as if I forget myself,

as if I have broken some pact or some treaty

I did not sign;

am I supposed to be quiet? but I am too tired

not to speak.

 

Maybe I am incomplete

not yet, or not enough or weak

do not speak of days when I have not praise

but bitter tears

 

Yes, I am not brave.

 

But there are days

when I know that even though

I am the helpless fish

in your coarse hands

 

you will sometime grip too tightly

and I will slip

quickly, quietly –

– oh let this stream swift carry me away!

 

I know thee, Fear

 

though I would have you

be a stranger to me.

 

Poem: I Dare

 

When I dare believe that love

Can also be received – or

daring more, can be held and without chains

will not let go;

Or when that reassurance

That with patience doth restore us,

Tender reaches with swift might,

Then all is right, I do not doubt;

And feel do I your arms around me,

once again – and love that binds me

grows the limbs that guard

this sacred, solid ground.

For though so often I am lost

More often still that I am found,

And cherished more for having lost

Yet never losing loves sweet sound.