Before the sweet spring rain

In the shower

before the sweet spring rain,

my body embraced me

today.

And surely

this is something of God?

My addled work-spun brain

tries to explain, explain, explain,

but there is nothing

that can compare

to the rich full-hearted subtlety

of body reclaiming you,

with only my whimpers and tears

as songs of the reunion.

*

This time,

of light and shadow,

played out

in feathers of

ivory and jet

each

that found me in the garden

and the bed;

poised are we,

before what we know

and know not what yet.

*

Moonlight streaks my hair

as I begin to heed

Old Saturn’s teachings;

and though

I am sure world

will ensure I forget,

casting me into rosy sleep,

as it must:

I know.

My body is Great Mother.

She does not need to

only be sought in woods,

creeks and beaches,

although in these she

resides and is embodied too.

She is me.

Neck down,

canyons of hips and thighs,

loving me, gently yearning for me

to remember and know

and receive her secret wild, bloody wisdom.

And so I know the Earth,

And so the Earth knows me.

So help me

TRIGGER WARNING: rape, sexual assault, femicide.

I wrote this poem in a passion of clear, hot anger upon reading about the atrocities committed against Ukrainian women and girls by Russian soldiers. It is becoming clear that like virtually all conflicts that precede this one, rape and sexual violence are being used as weapons of war and that horrific war crimes are being committed.[1] News that leaves me cold, sickened, frightened and horrified, as it always does.

When writing this, I had Ukrainian women and girls in mind. I also had in mind the Yazidi women of northern Iraq and Kurdistan who were systematically raped by Daesh militants; I had in mind the unknown thousands of black enslaved women in Britain, the Caribbean and the USA who were raped by their enslavers; I had in mind the unknown thousands of indigenous women who were raped by colonial oppressors[2]; I had in mind the 61,158 sexual assault offences recorded in England and Wales at year end June 2021[3]; I had in mind the students raped whilst I was at university in Manchester between 2010 and 2014; I had in mind Jyoti Singh, the woman a group of men gang-raped and killed in Delhi in 2012; I had in mind Grace Millane killed in New Zealand; I had in mind Sarah Everard, abducted, raped and killed by Wayne Couzens in 2021; I had in mind Sabina Nessa, Ashling Murphy, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman; I had in mind the unknown numbers of transwomen raped and murdered across the world. All acts of terror and violence committed by men.[4]

I am heartened by news that, as of 2021, the UN has begun to impose sanctions for rape as a human rights abuse.[5] But the anger, sorrow and fear I feel is still so profound. I was unsure as to whether to even publish this poem for fear of it being ‘too much’. But having typed out all of the suffering above, my worry dissolved by my wrath.

I want to live in a world where perpetrators of sexual violence are held accountable. Where I don’t have to worry that a walk to the park on my own could be my last; where my husband and I don’t feel the need to escort teenage girls home at night because they are scared of the men who touched them on the bus; where I don’t live in perpetual fear that such an act of violence could be committed against me and my body, and those of the women in my life.

This poem was inspired by all of the stories above, by my love for my sister, family, friends and beyond. It was also written in response to the tale of ‘The Loss of the Voices of the Wells’, written down by Sharon Blackie in her book If Women Rose Rooted.[6] I am forever inspired by Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.[7] I found writing this poem extremely comforting, connecting and powerful: I hope it speaks to you too.

So help me,

Great Mother,

I would I were

a wolf.

I would rip him,

each and every him

who has done this,

limb from limb

worse than any

frothing Bacchant.

I would have the wind

whisper a reminder

to him discretely

each and every morning

upon waking

with cold, sinister severity:

‘You committed an atrocity’.

And the darkness of night

would swallow you

yes, you

consume you

for one hundred and one years;

the dawn would hold

no hope,

just a pale shadow

of what you have lost

by your own actions,

your own violence.

I know you are not

beyond redemption and restoration

I believe that with all my heart, but

first, I would have you

raked over the coals

of despair;

I would have you

contemplate the horror

of yourself

day in, day out,

crying in pain

over and over again

wondering how

you

a gift to the world

could become the profane.

No joy from bird’s flight.

No warmth from embrace.

No tenderness from the sea.

I would have you cast adrift

prostrate in the desert

of your being,

to consider the bones of your kind,

the yellow moon

casting you in

sourness

as all of Earth’s women

who have been, who are, who ever will be

along all the webs of the matrilineal lines,

the witches, the maidens, the crones, the hags,

all of us queens,

every single one

in our billions,

howl and claw and roar,

rendering you deaf and dumb

at the ancient, timeless horror

that is

you.

And you will know yourself.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/03/all-wars-are-like-this-used-as-a-weapon-of-war-in-ukraine

[2] ‘EmpireLand: How Imperialism has Shaped Modern Britain’, Sathnam Sanghera, Viking Press, 2021.

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/nov/04/highest-ever-number-of-rapes-recorded-in-england-and-wales; https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/natureofsexualassaultbyrapeorpenetrationenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2020

[4] I want to show an awareness here that the rape of black enslaved women by their enslavers created the conditions for violence to be perpetrated against them by white women. Dr Yaba Blay explains in great detail here: https://momastery.com/blog/we-can-do-hard-things-ep-79/  

[5] https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/angelina-jolie-campaign-rape-war-landmark-un-sanctions-b921377.html

[6] https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Sharon-Blackie/If-Women-Rose-Rooted–A-Life-changing-journey-to-authenticity-and-belonging/23812711

[7] https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Clarissa-Pinkola-Estes/Women-Who-Run-With-The-Wolves–Contacting-the-Power-of-the-Wild-Woman/7000774

Aching pink

Aching pink

sky that mourns

and groans,

trembling,

drenching world

with admonitions.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

Evergreen nods,

as grief is always so,

flexing her roots

in the marbled

earth.

Dusk in

uncanny rose

entreats:

What more?

What more

Could I have done?

Moon readies

to cast her darkness

reminding in

inky calm

that sometimes

there are no answers

there is just

the sitting and

observing all

that we don’t

know:

the vaulting

uncertainty,

cavernous,

that rallies and

quakes with

breathless ice.

Murky pink

breaks;

a balm of indigo

soothes;

and we wait.

Flies come.

They hover

and twitch,

low-pitched and frantic

in their desperate

melancholy.

Then we remember

that they too

only yearn

for sweetness.

So, we wait.

Headache

Working week

has laid me

on the floor.

And my head

thumps.

Every crest

and trough

of week’s ocean

and odyssey

has me wincing

and my eyes

cannot bear

any more

harsh blank light.

Questions reverberate,

yapping and nipping

at my bones:

gnawing as I bend,

crawl,

drag to

bed.

Always

something

is exhausting.

Stomach makes moan

and in my own

ammonite embrace

I yearn for the

sweetness, the space

of silver birches

in quiet wintry confidence

clamouring for

splendid blue sky;

the cerebral

wonder of a

barn owl

in flight,

hauntingly innocent

curious, composed

carving morning’s

gloom with

prophetic white;

labyrinth that

but a week ago

cushioned my feet,

guiding my tears, twists

and turns

through knowing

spirals, as I shed

skins, losses, shames

and years.

So it was.

So it is.

And so,

I breathe,

and space

moves magnificently.

Vulture

I feel the itch

and scratch of

coarse polyester

grating, sanding

at my skin;

dreams of trying

to take off

into the air

before landing

hard with weight

pressing and flaking;

torrents of

dirty dishwater

swirling, kicking

up the rotten mulch

unbearable;

I hop and

recoil through

my day

as though life

is a hot poker

smarting and cynical.

Then

moonlight beckons.

And I remember

that the veils

have lifted

and I am in

the time

before I bleed.

Wood’s gradient sings.

I cycle along

the ridge of a great dam,

clutching at the wall

and I am the water

the drop

bicycle

all.

Soft grey

Rain

opens her arms

as slumbers of

Forgiveness and Quietude

stroke my hair,

kiss my brow.

I burrow

I listen

I receive

even as ground falters

and I tremble

at the mystery,

gape at the awe,

I feel my

inky wings

stretch,

finally,

and into

moon’s night,

I soar

ready to pore

over the glistening entrails.

Silt

Silt:

potential banks,

meanders and

beds

that flurried

and formed.

Then

drifted

did not bind

and bend

and the river sighed:

another course to wind.

The fertile earth

that was lost

became found

home

elsewhere

but gone are

the shells, and

sweet grasses

and clover

of a

ground conceived.

Footsteps not taken.

Sun and stars

that did not

bathe a time

with blessing and

light.

The silk of

silt,

sleeping,

dreaming

of smiles

hands

hearts

homes

lips

amongst the

wistful whistling

reeds.

November

November.

Season of

roots and bones;

heart opening

heart breaking

Black Moon

breath taking.

The fleshy

bowls of hips

the Jurassic

curve of spine.

We wind,

ushered

in with

whispers

and descend

into night,

a rich resolute

night.

Faces

divine and

profane,

all and none,

materialise, meet.

And we

are here on the floor,

cradled,

lifted,

lessons and loves

sinking in,

drawing the blanket near;

whilst down

below

aromas

of Earth, onion and pine

beckon us to the river.

Damp decay

mingling

with the

sweet potent

crunch

of possibility.

My words are

My words are

not perfect

but they are

full of heart.

I long and aim

to speak rubies

and sunbeams;

More often,

they feel plain,

though strong;

lacking the elegance and poise

of a

craftsman,

but holding

the simple

complexity of

soil and salt.

Humble,

because the true

symphonic lakes and

reservoirs of me

cannot be truly

spoken.

I would like to impart

my mysteries

with the eloquence and precision

of noon,

but they remain

veiled

by gauzy pearl sheets.

Especially now,

as night draws in

and the great

crossing lies ahead.

Inky alchemy.

Shafts of light.

A great path,

damp and dark,

opens.

I tread softly,

a night-pool lapping

under the dim

magnificence

of a black moon

rising.

Glory.

I turn in fear

but cannot bear not looking.

La Loba.

Under her shadowy

wing and root

I rest and reside,

Hers,

in this moment of passage

formidable, terrifying.

Greatest most loving

wild mother and

guide.

Even though

I ran to the lanterns,

a hotel lobby

without a key,

harkening to the

pangs of panic;

she is with me,

ferocious and kind,

burning, growling,

the river running beneath

an earthly life.

Birthday Eve

Somehow

a bull snorted

silver

and the sky

hummed pink,

the cotton

richness of

clouds golden

with sunset.

A trail, a road

waving and

weaving across

Her firmament,

pied beauty

no possibility

of losing my way.

No detours

through other

chasms and cosmos

bright;

no other

celestial seas

or turtle shells.

Just this place.

A teeming,

beating heart

in time.

And this time,

with its waxing abundance,

bee-dance

and goldfinch sweetness,

that lines,

as ever,

the crags and mountains

and canyons and oceans

of my own

being.

Fragrant, fertile

and, yes,

fleeting.

I arrived

sighing with

life, death, life.

Bursting with joy,

yet, for months

I was grieving.

Three crows

Three crows

flew by:

black on the

pale blue

sky of dusk.

Pointed.

Determined

Flocking.

And I felt

the sweet

aches,

the strawberry-breath

of summer.

Spring continues

to bludgeon and

quake

with ferocious

storms and

riots of green

But I felt the

flicker

of something

more serene.

The calm of

days stretching

long and lean.

Languid hours.

Spring is sticky,

excruciating.

I long to love it,

but it feels like

a frothy mist

in which

I cannot catch

A foothold;

or perhaps

I still lack the grace

to flow and

know its torrents

when I step

blinking, in disbelief

out of Winter’s

nest.

But now,

I feel the spark.

The coursing.

The legs relishing,

lingering light,

speaking hope

blooming and bright.

An ancient

aliveness

after the pangs

of birth.

Pale sheets.

A ringing glow,

the great

sigh of the Earth.