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Women's Walls & The Fractured God/dess

When I was at University many years ago, doing my B.A., the Arts Faculty ran a great initiative for a semester in which the women's toilets on the first floor were open for graffiti. Women could write whatever they liked, uncensored -- and of course there were a few verses in the vein of"here I sit, broken hearted", but the vast majority of conversation was uplifting, supportive and empowering. I didn't understand how important it was then. I hadn't yet really been tested by my relationships with men. That has changed. I have collected a series of poems that explore abuse, physical and otherwise, that girls and women face at the hands of those in power, most often men. I would like to share them here, and encourage you to write your own, so that women's voices continue to be amplified. I do not hate men. I hate abuse of power. This is about equality in all things, including the right to safety and security.

Some of these poems have been published elsewhere, some are new, some never made the cut before - I have removed all the titles. I don’t think we need another label.


The owl sat the pussycat on his knee

and said “little girl, won’t you come with me

to a wonderful candyland fantasy

where I’ll do as I please, for no-one shall see.”


When spring came that year, we joined hands

in a ring-a-rosy dervish; I

giggling, you wondering how.

I only notice now, from your Kodak blush,

that the push of the crowd made you cower

as you thrust your pigtailed prettiness before you:

gold, like Maccabee’s shield.

We played pat-a-cake in the summer,

cross-legged on concrete like beggars.

You envied me my knees

free of daubed mercurochrome;

my home, too poor for even a coat of dust,

but just a pocket full of seeds,

not a coffin of secrets.

I saw you flinch and twist

as your wrist cracked under his hand.

Leaves fell without pause

and you did not break their silence,

nor I.

The autumn and I awoke

to you: broken in the first snow,

golden eagles spread saintly

about your head.


I was never thirteen. There was a year the cosmos folded; now I'm older I can see that the warp of tongue and tree made a knot of normalcy and unravelled. I have lived the years that matter, but the scattered light and logic took a foot and then another from the soil and stage to smother days that shattered into months meant for someone else: the scene was cut. I breathed and bowed, but I was never thirteen.


Pine it was, soft wood harried hard

by phantom kicks to bruised imaginings

unhungry eater of slaughtered dreams

it smouldered slowly

inside out, like the making of a Koori canoe

Closed, it became a paddle.

The river has one end

and one beginning.


“Never trust a poet.” That’s what Daddy said to me,

when I was knock-kneed in the factory

and knocked up on the floor

while the whiff of something more

drowned in Brut and milky tea.

Lord Tennyson was late again

and half a league behind me

so he missed the mouth of hell

I described so bloody well

after waiting in the mill for him to find me

And the body odour hugged me, brotherly

with a slightly leering passage to the right

where the rotten gods had laced their boots up tight

and sabres bared, they left

to assault the barren cleft

while the mothers waved their banners in the lee

Trust a poet’s patterns while he traces them in air

for wayward thumbs to print in stammered ink

and bloodied girls to think

there’s an exit from the pink

to erase the flash of muddy underwear

But disillusion issues cold

from waters barely flowing

where currents travel there and back

but in between their charge is slack

and lives drift by, delightfully unknowing


And so she sang, though silence filled her throat and tipped her cup, no longer full of coin; he took her arm, and on her skin he wrote an epitaph, then lurched away to join the whisky women flailing in the pews of yesterday. The organ pumped and ground a hymn to falsity -- her grimy muse wept filth with his assault upon the mound, and as she watched, he winked and broke her nose with kisses. How she bled and loved and tried, and how the music swelled, for so it goes when notes are passed as currency for pride. The time became her signature; her song enfolded her. She breathed. The night was long.


No longer green, today the jade spreads faded suppositions through a future mewling extra cream in streams that once knew lemonade. One yes and then the nos rush in, a dynasty bred just for height, a kite with tails of docking line as finest China coats the skin. He seeks, he seeds, he smooths his way; decay is dancing on his string, a tincture bleeding salt and oil to spoil the surface of the clay. But wheels will turn, though weary feet don't meet the ground the way they should we stood where God was greener still and willows bent beneath the heat. The vase inverts, its soaked debris is freed from sugared water walls and crawls to reach the hollow stem where lemons burst upon the tree.


To dream in tongues


washed with lye and rebirthed

by leech and lyric accident

To unremember

myriad blows

of flame fists upon cowered gold

rebutted by alloyed spear

It echoes


and never shows

fissure faulting in treacherous silence

Singing hymns to shadows


You thought my fame would let you lie upon a feather bed, not rise for trivia like babies’ cries or doubt that shut out half the sky. You stole from me that cold July. Two minutes in between my thighs; the embryo that would arise was doubt that shut out half the sky. And in the end, it passed me by, that elder dream that turned my eyes within; what kind of fool relies on doubt that shuts out half the sky? The kited dragon cannot fly when tethered; so by toothed surprise she snaps and breaks the hated ties to doubt, and soars to claim the sky.


As bacon spits on tender skin

the sun climbs weary from the sea

so breakfast rituals begin

Our tempers are already thin

so tired and cold, we disagree

as bacon spits on tender skin

We recollect our every sin

and trot them out in litany

so breakfast rituals begin

I seek a quiet place within

just for the sake of harmony

as bacon spits on tender skin

The silence louder than the din

of dishes in cacophony

so breakfast rituals begin

It’s easier to let you win

than argue again endlessly

as bacon spits on tender skin

so breakfast rituals begin


Wonder how I ended up in me. Remember years of sup- plication, settling down, like layers in an unwashed mug and I, the hemlock, ploughed and dormant, folded by domestic drug. Once the numbness, rigid cold like coinage. Wipe the mouth, old winter gone. You follow fire and soot its crackling, shadow strings upon the wall. Bowed back to you, open eye on fading glow. One draught, the spark flew wild. Pasture, black to green, defiled: awakened. Weeds seed madly, toxins spreading, stop the breath of creased, decreased and cowed. Deal to conjugal lie a welcome death.


I am the peach, with poison seed.

You stroke my skin and think me warm --

I’m death to every mouth I feed.

Beneath the surface, insects swarm

and seek to break this fleshy cage;

you stroke my skin and think me warm

but what you feel is buzzing rage

that stings me as I cry, I cry

and seek to break this fleshy cage.

Inside the seed is dry, so dry,

and cold enough to numb the thought

that stings me as I cry. I cry

for summers buried, children caught

with icecream dreams, remembered sweets

and cold -- enough to numb the thought.

A last embrace for he who eats:

I am the peach, with poison seed,

with icecream dreams, remembered sweets,

I’m death to every mouth I feed.


Today, upturned, I look for the lie, the strawberry syrup disguising the base that drips from the tongue of the mockingbird mime to a crystal decanter of sky. Where truffle pigs root through a midden of pearls all stamped with a date of expiry inspiring stampedes as the dogma decrees with a sniff from its perch in the sun. And nobody looks in their pockets, and nobody stands on the ground; instead they despair, with their feet in the air and I bleed, but their glasses are empty.


When night wins shade from weary day

and you approach with teeth, with tongue,

I will not wear your negligee.

You dazzle with your wild array

of verse contrived to best be sung

when night wins shade from weary day.

My honest flesh in nude display,

too smooth to hide your barbs among:

I will not wear your negligee.

The dark can’t hide your dank decay --

you’re faded now, no longer young,

when night wins shade from weary day

you stumble like a rondelet

with no refrain; you harp unstrung.

I will not wear your negligee

nor paint myself your shade of grey

to beg for scraps your mouth has flung.

When night wins shade from weary day,

I will not wear your negligee.


There was shit on my shoe

and I licked it off

thinking it was toffee

Savouring taste and texture

and the only thing stopping it going down

was the bile rising to drown it

Remembering the times

I should have wiped you on the kerb

but licked you off instead


Somewhere under yesterday

your happiness was killing me

I heard Jimi Hendrix play

Beethoven’s second symphony

on mandolin with Morrissey

whose aria was heavenly

Someone threw a dead bouquet

a colander of Beaujolais

the trappings of the bourgeoisie

all locked up with a minor key

Left of yellow disarray

you wandered into Rick’s café

and ordered from the cold buffet

then washed your feet in Sencha tea

your Buddha belly on display

in corpulent discourtesy

Folded into leased esprit

I decreased and stole away

and fallen into liberty

I made it over yesterday


The day I fell asleep­, the lights went on in studio six. Behind my lids, miles of cable and gaffer tape twisted around Herakles preparing hydra three ways as Hera criticised his lack of sauce. Two fallen stars turned to boys on a staging ground; a city wall was raised, razed, dusted and fed to wolves with crossed eyes. I rolled and the world turned with me. The princess puzzled isoperimetrically and someone found the salt. No, there is no room in this dish for an elephant, unless poached. Beware, the idols are burning. Here in sleep, I am divine and diviner. It has happened: it will happen. Myth and man are no mystery. You turn your back, fiddle and the world catches fire. Where are your roses now? Nobody will have you. You are evicted, extracted, amazed. I offer you my vision; you cast it aside. Tomorrow I will wake to blindness, rise, and tread my eyes into the dirt.


she wears the holes of crucifixion from the years spent standing in place of a cock at the mercy of the winds that swirled across the steeple now fallen, her wings are torn from her back and her breast is exposed from behind so her traitor heart can pump its last into the filth upon which this church perches like an aged buzzard too blind to do more than peck feebly for bile beneath her hand, the shards of a once-sealed jar stab at her skin, and within its shattered curve is a single white feather


I have swung with Galileo, selling new world views to lonely sorrowers in the spotlight of collapsed suns The conversions are isochronous; from speculation to contempt with the pull of a string as minds are drawn back It’s easier to tuck heresies between my legs one hundred at a time than to tumble these crumbling towers Regardless of weight, worth or birth all things will fall


This is no sonnet. Please don't count the feet, for they have wandered far across the page and left no prints; they travelled by conceit and arrogance. They stomped upon a stage too bright for them, too delicate and pure, and tripped. They would have fallen, but the choir was soft and sang the sweetest overture to clumsy interlopers. We aspire to laurels, accolades and patrons grand whose pockets match our own inflated worth; we mentally design ourselves a brand to leave a mark upon this barren earth. Abandon hope of glory, praise or purse: You've naught to sell but this, a worthless verse.

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