In Progress: Darkness (4)

Out of darkness, there are people who give a damn. In what seems one of history’s darkest weeks, my journal was laden with inspiration from people all over the world, which reminded me how quickly the tide can change for better as well as worse.

The first was film-maker Hazel Hayes, known as ChewingSand on Youtube. I’ve watched her films and vlogs for a while now and her October video brought something home. Hayes recently created a short film ‘Happy‘, something I identified with fully, something which made me cry and something which made me realise I’m not doing too badly when it comes to being ‘happy’. However, in Hayes’ October video in an interview about this short film she discussed ‘baggage’; how we linger on the difficult moments of our past, insist on trudging forward with them still wrapped around our ankles and then ask why we are not happy. She said, we never seem to have a “bag of happy”. Her words have already begun to inspire a poem of my own on this subject. Although, still in the process of writing (strangely, baggage is not the easiest to write or rhyme about), I hope to share it with you all soon. Until then, I urge you to watch Hayes and heed her words. We continue to chase happiness and simultaneously refuse to acknowledge its existence. The need for happiness, love and affection is palpable across the world currently, I urge you to stop looking for happiness and be it if you can.

The second was from Stef Sanjati, another Youtuber, but also a blessing to the community as she educates such a young audience about transitioning and being transgender. She posted the following spoken word poem about surviving sexual assault on her channel this week called ‘I can’t feel clean‘. I am fortunate to have not been sexually assaulted, however, what chilled me to the core and made my heart bleed was what felt like a perpetual chain of young men and women relating to Stef’s story in the comments section of this video. The pain, love and support was incredibly powerful and it made me consider, especially after the Women’s March, the need for people to share their experience until love and listening ears are the only response to a sexual assault allegation. I understand, such allegations have been poisonous or misplaced but this does not warrant swift condemnation on all who make such an allegation. Those who falsify claims need love and listening ears just the same and I would rather listen to an allegation than stamp them all into the dust, forcing survivors to retreat into the bodies they no longer wish to call home. Inspired by Stef’s words I was fuelled to write something about my experience as a woman. Entitled ‘Femininity‘ it also became a spoken word – something far out of my comfort zone. As a teacher, I like to remain private so recording my voice was terrifying enough, yet in the spirit of speaking out, loud about something important, it felt necessary. I enjoyed it, I felt like words I often store inside had meaning for once and could maybe make a tiny difference in one person’s perspective. We need voices and I hope my small chime may figure in the chorus we are currently hearing.

Finally, the last person who inspired me this week was my own Granpa. He left a poem of his in my inbox. I hope I may be able to share it with you one day as it was a striking comment on current world events – as I read I was lulled into a false sense of security, to be mercilessly dragged out by the pace of his words towards the end. I was inspired because I have been writing since I was 12 or 13, some of the poems on this blog were written before my twenties. I often spend my time reading the work of others in a limbo of praise and envy. Granpa’s work showed maturity, conscious crafting and time. At the moment, I believe my writing often reflects the haste in which it was written, driven by passion and feeling more than thought and thesaurus. My Screaming Twenties is about what I create in this time where all I seem to do is fumble in and out of weeks feeling on top of the world one moment and flat the next. Perhaps, in eight years I’ll create My Thinking Thirties (shall I copyright this now?).

Out of darkness, come people who fight, survive and use their voices and words as weapons. I witnessed this far afield and close to home this week, and it gives me hope.

Advertisements

Femininity (Spoken Word)

Content warning for sexual assault. 

For the spoken word version, click here.

Aged 13 a man followed me into town by my side until I asked him why.

Aged 14 I was told I was frigid, not good enough or girlfriend material.

Aged 15 I was emotionally manipulated by a man who should have known better.

Aged 19 I bathed, for forty minutes, oblivious of the man who stood on the sink in the stall next door and watched me.

Aged 20 my personal space was invaded, my thigh touched by an unknown man on a train.

I have not been sexually assaulted. Yet, my femininity has been violated, my womanhood taken advantage of.

‘Oh it was harmless’ a wardrobe staple, instead of an LBD because that’s too provocative.

I have not been sexually assaulted.

Yet, millions have and will be as we continue to ignore the survivors and the victims, the invisible scarring and mottled buried bruises.

She could have spent her life unflinchingly, unconcerned about the man opposite her in the carriage.

He could have been liberated, not abused, instructed to ‘man-up’.

We could live in a world where sex doesn’t sell and rape does not form as a constellation in the night’s sky and on our thighs.

As long as it is ‘could’, as long as equality seems utopian, we will continue to raise our voices in unparalleled clamour for all who need us too, we will continue to identify as feminist and we will continue to fight back; because, since the dawn of time it seems, Adam has been attempting rip out the rib, given to Eve.

 

 

Photographer: Khusen Rustamov

 

Sheriff

For my beloved April Fool

You revelled in rebellion,
In a swagger, renowned,
Infamous, even,
You held the golden star of,
Trouble, Mayhem and Chaos,
Sheriff.
Kicking dust in your Angel’s face,
Kissing goodwill goodbye, shaking
Hands with the devil,
And demonic drinks,
Laughing within hell, you were
Sheriff.

Screams, Shouts, Sighs,
Knocking at your knees,
Quivering upon your bottom lip,
Trembling in your palms,
Overcome by a love, a fear, unknown,
It happened, Sheriff.
Blossom tainted cheeks,
Wrinkly fingers and toes,
Flipped your world upside down,
Famously, I remember,
Sheriff.
Nineteenth of the month,
You said,
‘Pleased to meet you Ma’am’
 

In Progress: Approval (3)

Instead of recounting different days from my journal I wanted to summarise the running theme through this week. Last week, I was the new girl. My entries focused on settling into a rhythm and routine; it was nerve-wracking, vomit inducing and exhausting. This week, I wrote a lot about success, self-doubt and seeking approval.

It is no surprise I recently began writing regularly again and to all but me, this is no big deal. I stopped writing aged sixteen. I rarely wrote again unless it was a blog post or message in a card. Poems and journal entries were scarce. I have some idea as to why this happened, which isn’t relevant here.

Coming back to writing now, at a time where the best way to share is online has certainly changed the way I feel about writing. Before, it was a very private affair, less so now which brings this week’s topic into play – approval. For weeks I have been toying with the idea of entering competitions; as it stands I have entered only two – one a poem, the second a short story. Admittedly, when I read past entries and even others on WordPress I am aware of being out of my depth. However, poetry is also up to interpretation so I must at least give it a go. This desire to give it a go brought in to perspective two things: where we seek our approval from and when self doubt appears.

I also fluctuated in my belief in my capabilities as a teacher this week, as in any profession I am sure we all do at some point. Someone complains, something doesn’t work or you just do not achieve the results you had planned for. In my reflective state on a lazy Saturday afternoon I have learnt two things.

First of all, I thought I had always been driven by winning. I have always sought approval be it from a parent, friend or teacher. Especially now, when popularity is sign posted with followers, likes and monetised content. I wrote recently about feeling stifled by writing for a purpose. Thus, I decided I would only attempt competitions if I felt like I had something to say and submit, much like why I even write in the first place. There is no set time I sit down and write. Before, I sought approval because I was not getting it from myself. I was not sure of myself and therefore needed others to tell me, however, when you do something out of enjoyment, it doesn’t matter. Of course, I love to hear people’s feedback and know if they enjoy what I’ve created. That said, over this week I realised recording words, thoughts and finally finding a place for the lone sentence you’ve been mulling over for hours, hands wrinkling in the washing up bowl, is underrated. I write for enjoyment, not for consumption or for approval. The lesson here is, if you truly enjoy something – winning and approval should become periphery. Otherwise, reassess why you are doing something and if you are happy.

Secondly, I tackled self-doubt head on this week. Validation of our to-do lists, choices and performance is almost ingrained in our very being. I do not believe society made us this way, I think we always have been this way – I mean, Caesar needed it. Results remind us we are moving forward; we’re not stagnant pools or at least cannot stand, standing still. So when we feel as if we are stationery or ‘failing’, doubt creeps up on us. Of course, it will always pass but in my experience it always takes some kind of success to shift it. What I think makes some people so good at tackling self-doubt is by changing what they see ‘success’ as. For example, my Year 9 class struggled this week and I had to overhaul the lessons I had planned for them over the next week or so and move their assessment. I was gutted I hadn’t noticed earlier they were struggling. Cue self doubt. Yet, the next day my Year 7’s had a brilliant lesson where they peer-taught each other and produced some excellent work. The success was not with the Year 9 class but it was enough to remind me we all have moments of returning to the drawing board. This success could have been even smaller, it could have been showering or greeting someone in the morning you usually ignore. Riding the wave of success is exhilarating, I just need to remember they’re not always tidal, sometimes they lap quietly at the shore and feel just as good all the same.

That’s me this week, I hope if you’ve felt a moment of desperation or doubt you find success somewhere soon, no matter how big or small.

A Writer’s Block

 

Sometimes I think,

And I almost convince myself

I should write a book.

 

I imagine my words transformed

into stories.

I imagine my dreams of old faces

and long lost romances realised

in print.

 

Yet a fear holds back

the river, the fluidity

of unadulterated creativity.

 

Because they say you should write a story

worth telling, one you would want to read.

I ask, what if the story you wish to tell,

Is the very one you wish you were living?

The faces and romances in my dreams

would play out on paper and pages,

instead of on concrete and skin.

 

I ask, would ink, typed spaces and an editor’s scrutiny,

Write off the possibilities which rest within

the crumples of my pillow?

Would the consumption and criticism,

Consolidate my life as it is and isn’t?

 

Sometimes I falter and worry.

What if the story worth telling

asks for too much of you?

Fuel

I wish you had known me before you,
People talk as if you made me,
Moulded me into the woman.
See, the girl already existed,
This woman you see was in fruition
Innocent and different, sure.
Still, there was substance before
The catalyst met the pyre,
I was already a girl ready for fire. 
Now I smoulder, I’m bolder,
But I wonder if I’d have been the same?
If you were just fuel to the flame?

For A

White walls and hospital gowns,

All things you would have left in lost and found.

Yet lately, clinical cleanliness is all you’ve known,

So there are a few more things I would like you to know.

 

You were missed, amongst the chatter and gluesticks,

An empty chair in a classroom which

Had come to cherish your presence.

 

Still you write about paling into insignificance,

As you become more than you imagine

With every word, poem and page you fill.

 

So I hope your courage, scars and smile are

Never lost for others to find

Although, I’ll happily teach you how to wear them

With pride.