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Sticks & Stones – International Women’s Day

Sticks & Stones by Serena Malcolm – a poem for #internationalwomensday #IWD

*** TRIGGER WARNING – Domestic Abuse ***

I actually wrote this poem a few years ago. I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful husband of 11 years, but before him I experienced emotional abuse in a relationship.

I am not alone.

There are so many women and men out there suffering verbal, psychological, financial, and physical abuse every day. Too many. And it makes me angry and frustrated and sad. These words, brought to life by some of the amazing women in my life, are a celebration of those who have survived, who have found a way through and out.

And I acknowledge that while this particular poem is focused on female domestic abuse survivors both the tormentors and those on the receiving end can come in any and every shape, size, and gender.

Please, make sure you check in with your friends and loved ones. Learn the signs, educate yourself on ways that you might be able to help.

But most importantly, be there.

This particular poem is featured in my book This Haggard Alice, copyright 2021, all right reserved.

For help or more information on domestic abuse please visit https://www.refuge.org.uk/

Let’s Play a Game

When you are introduced to sexuality
at 7 years old,
When you’re told
that it’s OK to expose and to explore,
That your
private parts are for so much more,
That touching them is fun,
A game to play
where you win… you win… you win something?

When by 8 you’ve already begun
to understand desire
and how it masquerades as of love,
When you find yourself
a dove
inside a fox’s den,
When
you’re alone with him then,
And you have to pretend
that you know what goes on
between women and men,
And then at 9 you develop
a crush on your older brother’s friend,
But he can’t see you yet,
He just can’t see
until you play up
to his fantasy,
Oh yes a doctor he shall be,
And you a patient who is ill,
And only,
Only,
Only his touch will make you well,
Egos swell
because you play the part so well
and you win… you win… you win something?

When in your teens you surmise
that your virginity’s a lie,
A fine line
between his and your desires,
And you have already mastered
that pantomime,
You know how to reel him in,
And find that men take what they choose,
But if you pay your dues
you may get a dripple,
of a morsel,
of a smidgeon of his whim
and win…  and win… and win something?

When at 17 you find yourself in front of a queue
of boys who would be men
Knife-toting,
drug-slinging,
Self-professed “badmen”,
And again
you let yourself pretend
– naïve to exploitation then –
that it’s you controlling them,
That they can have your body
but they cannot reach within,
Deep within,
Where you bury all self-hatred,
all the violence and the sin,
And all the judgement
from your friends
who just watch you
like a rabbit in a pen,
Trapped
inside a game that
you’ve forgotten how to win,
But you do,
You win…. you win… you win something?

And then when you are 25 and 10
again you end up in a car,
So far
from where you came,
And you cry while yet another man
stakes his claim,
Burns with his desires,
Wiser now,
No point in fighting flames,
So you just lay there in the fire,
You lay there ’til he’s done,
Until the drugs that laced your drink
have had their silken hold unspun,
Until the sober crack of morning sun,

And then you run,

And leave your final moral fibres
Atop the bedsheets of that viper
that lay steeping in your blood.

When all that was said
is done,
You will find you have become a husk,
of a shell,
of a remnant
of a woman whose miseducation summed =
sex is not love.
Sex is shame.
Sex is not affection.
Sex is pain.
Sex is not fun.
Sex is just a game.
A game that you long ago believed that you could win.
But you win… you win… you win nothing.

© Serena Malcolm 2021

#poem #poetry #sex #childabuse #sexualassault #childsexualexploitation #CSE #ProtectOurGirls #childhood #innocence #abuse #pain #StopVictimBlaming #lifelessons #fragility #women #importantmessage

To My Children Not Yet Born

To my children not yet born;
Goodbye.
I will think of you,
I will dream of you,
I will miss you,
I will mourn you,
I will carry your silken
memories
in the furrows of my face
as I cry for you.
Goodbye.
To my children not yet born;
I am sorry.
I cannot be your mother,
I cannot rock you,
I cannot kiss your bruises,
I cannot read you stories,
I cannot watch you grow,
I cannot see my hopes
for you spun into the
fabric of your
grown up lives,
I have failed you.
I am sorry.
To my children not yet born;
I love you.
Though I never heard you
speak
those words to me,
Though I never saw
your smiles,
Though I never smelled
your hair,
Though I never felt
the press
of your perfect lips
against the
sallowness
of my cheek.
I loved you.
I love you.
I will love you
evermore.

The Lion’s Share

Camel aside,
the straw that broke the lion’s back
was not in fact
a straw at all,
but the utter gall
of the Pride arriving
after
the fall,

Her cry was guttural

and yet they stalled,
But had they been there still
– had that been their will –
curiosity may not
have lured this fille into his crosshair,
(c’est la guerre!)
wherein
she stood ensnared,
fear-rigored,
as the hunter squeezed the trigger,
Triggered flashbacks
of lives played back
from one through eight,
Had they remained,
they’d have stayed her fate.

But it’s OK,
For she’s surprised to find
that she no longer minds,
Even when (for the ninth time)
she lies
exsanguine
on the arid plain
with no-one there beside,
she no longer thinks it unfair;
for when it comes to
those disposed to care,
in all her lives,
and in all her prides,
she’s always had
the lion’s share
of eyes
turned
blind,

cold shoulders

i n e v i t a b l y

bared.

Battery Pack

As I sit on the top floor of my work building, back nestled against the safety door that leads to the roof, I try to ignore the pulse in my forehead, the result of a morning of pretending.

Pretending is hard.

It’s like turning one of those new-fangled cordless vacuum cleaners up to maximum and listening as it squeals into overdrive, chewing through dust, and skin fibres, and air, and crumbs, and hair, and tiny barely-there, itty-bitty, minding-their-own-business dustmites, until suddenly – just when you think it’s reached fever pitch and your head is starting to throb from the noise – silence. It’s dead. No warning, no pomp, no circumstance; it just won’t work anymore.

That’s what it’s like to pretend. Day in, day out. Look at me! I’m so happy! I’m so smiley! I’m sort of a bit funny (or at least I think I am, and please don’t tell me otherwise because my fragile ego cannot cope with any more ammo for my self-deprecation)! I’m super bubbly! Oooo so much banter! Oooo the frivolity! Oooo the frickin’ hilarity! I am just on, on, on. Whirring away, burning through my little battery pack until… boom. I’m done. I’m spent. I’m empty.

And that folks was exactly how today went. Or rather half of today, as it’s only 1.50pm. I got up from my desk feeling utterly shattered and walked out of my office building without a word. I then proceeded to wander aimlessly around the streets trying desperately to recharge my battery pack enough for the Second Act.

But when I got back, I stepped one foot into my office, into the laughter, into the chatter, into the suffocating heat, close quarters and pairs of judgy eyes… I stepped into the mere thought of yet more pretending and I realised in that instant that I just couldn’t do it.

Today is not the day.

So I turned on my heel and marched straight back out again. And before I knew it, without so much as a conscious thought, I had ascended six flights of stairs, and found myself standing in front of the roof door.

And for a minute I looked at the sign that says “NO ACCESS ALLOWED ONTO ROOF WITHOUT SAFETY HARNESS BEING WORN” and wanted to scream “FUCK YOU SIGN. FUCK YOU AND YOUR SNOOTY FONT AND ANGRY RED BACKGROUND. YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO. FUCK. YOU.”

And I looked out of the window, and I placed my trembling hand (rage? fear? lack of caffeine???) on the door handle, and… I crumpled ungracefully into a sloppy, frumpy, ugly, overweight pile of uselessness on the floor.

Then I pulled out my phone and started writing.

I could still do it, you know. I could still open that door…. But Google says you can still survive a fall from this height.

And what an inconvenience that would be.

Back to pretending then.

Better find a way to recharge. Stat.