My First Publication

This very short story won third prize in the ‘Room to Write’ inaugural short story competition in 2014.  If you want to read the whole thing it’s on https://roomtowritepublishing.wordpress.com/competition/our-2014-short-story-anthology/

It’s free to download.

It’s an extract from something much longer I’ve yet to finish. I can see flaws  and am itching to edit but won’t. This is what was published.Girls learning laundry work at Saltaire School in the early 20th Century

I’ve edited, couldn’t help myself.

RUBY FLEET

‘I want to keep a photographic record,’ Mrs Stephens says to the visitor, her hand with its soft fingers that have never done a day’s work tight on his arm, digging into the fine wool of his coat. It would be soft to the touch that coat, soft against my skin. Her lips, wet and red, are reaching up to his ear.

‘I want to show how my girls progress.’

She breathes the words. Her eyelashes flutter. Charlotte, her daughter, does it too. It pleases only them and makes them look as if they are about to take a fit.

I am not ‘her’ girl.

Mrs Stephens waves her free arm, the sleeve too tight around her flesh. She tells him what we do, how we work. She doesn’t talk about how the boiling water and the lye that scalds our skin, how our fingers crack and weep, how our backs ache. Her knuckles brush my shoulder as she walks past.

She steers Walter Proctor past the coppers and the pails of water and the mangles. ‘Mrs Conti is an excellent photographer, and, being a woman, she doesn’t engender … excitement,’ she says, looking under her eyelashes, a bead of spittle on her lip. The first time Mrs Conti came she was with her husband, Jack. He has soft brown eyes, a rosebud mouth and a prick big enough to satisfy the oldest whore in Totterdown. We wore ourselves out talking and thinking about him.

Mrs Conti’s come on her own since, pushing that barrow of hers across the city, too tight to pay a boy a penny, stronger than you’d think she’d be. Walter Proctor nods at Mrs Stephens. He must know the patterns on every flagstone for he’s not once looked away from the floor, not once looked at us.

The smell in the room, our sweat, the sour milk smell of the soap, still allows me a whiff of him, coffee, a wood fire doused by water and something sharp, lemons. There’s a heat to him, underneath that buttoned vest and coat. His hands are restless. His neckerchief is so tight against his neck it must hurt. His fingers, long and pale have blunt edges that would press in were he to touch me.

We’ve been sorting the laundry, hiding away the worst of it. It wouldn’t do for Mr Proctor to see the way we stain our petticoats and our bed sheets, to smell the coppery scent of old blood. Mrs Stephens has filled the place with oil lamps. She’s only just had the fires lit under the coppers. The steam from the tubs would make it impossible for Mrs Conti to take a photograph. It wouldn’t do for Mr Proctor to sweat.

I could make him sweat.

A Review, Virtual Tides by Paul Casey.

This is painful for me. The initial draft of this was for assessment and it wasn’t well received. I have however worked with Beth to correct it a quite a bit and present it here now for you all. What happened to the original? You will find it in the ‘F**k it bucket.’ This version may even find it’s way onto DURA. I am not holding my breath though.

Virtual Tides

Paul Casey

(Salmon Poetry)

Pbk: €12.00.

This collection is prefaced by a Wallace Stevens quotation “unreal things have a reality of their own” and in Paul Casey’s poetry, to paraphrase the completion of that quote, as elsewhere, we have realities taking shape out of what can be perceived as the very unreal.

We allow those deep realities to form from concepts that seem intangible to the reader at first pass.Then, within the pause that seems to inevitably follow the reading of most of the pieces contained therein, coalesce.

Subsequently, with the mustering of all the benefit of hindsight, read back and you see the purpose and the meaning that Casey was trying to convey. Also as likely, or partially at the very least, is the meaning you wish to give with the poet as your guide because what is poetry without the imagination of the audience, of you.

Virtual Tides is the latest collection from Paul Casey and his third overall. He has been published in journals and anthologies worldwide in countries as diverse as his native Ireland and South Africa. The collection brings together poetry dating from 2013 to 2016 published originally in journals as diverse in subject matter as is the aforementioned geography of publication.

Whilst mostly staying with traditional stanza based verse Casey does foray into prose poetry and also, more occasionally, to the completely free verse where he indulges his more whimsical side. This last grated initially but once revisited and studied the echoes were quite different. I began to hear what was being represented and was simultaneously delighted to find that he had entrapped me in that whimsy. This was especially evident with the alluring Water Signs which needs to be seen as it cannot really be quoted abstractly here.

Whatever form the poet adopts, the now alert reader will become aware of a sense of literary cubism, confronted as we are with a many faceted examination of modern living, technology and the attendant remoteness and distance that seems to occur as a resulting symptom. For Pointing at the Sun illustrates this beautifully with its cityscape and its inhabitants viewed through this alternative lense.  The poet then involves us with an attempt to show how we could, and should, reconnect to the natural, the spiritual and the ancient. He asserts how the natural especially does already have a connection to modern life. A meditation on this can be found Inside the Bonsai where “Clipping around and around us precisely/ You whisper to me”

What particularly struck a sonorous chord in me is the sense, at times very obvious within Casey’s writing, of the relentless march of technology whether it be a beneficial thing or not. Virtual Companion offers this starkly with the opening scene setting line “this android I married.”

Whilst not averse to the straightforward rhyme and the one occasion of the alliteration that literally goes on alliterating for what seems like forever, with Bar Beings, these obvious devices lull the reader into a false sense of security about his far from obvious subject-matter. Casey is also unafraid of the interspersing of material that delights in what can be described I feel best as ridiculousness an example being matchbox where the poetry becomes ever more compressed along with our subject.

What we complete in an all too brief fifty five pages is a detailed character study of the poet.  From the perception of his roots in ancient Ireland to his railing against technology and the effect it is having upon us spiritually and socially. Virtual Tides is however designed to allow you to free your mind and imagine and therein lies this poet’s greatest gift.

Paul Casey, I have become an admirer. In dipping back into this collection I’ll be meeting you regularly inside the bonsai, that is watered fluoride free, as you would wish.

Matt Richardson.

Five Finger Death Punch

I smile when I hear the ‘five finger exercise’ mentioned in class.  It makes me think of the band ‘Five Finger Death Punch’.  At first, that is what I was silently cursing these exercises as, a death punch to the brain.  It is meant to be difficult, making you think and reflect, like weights for the mind.

Before I embarked on this course, people would ask ‘Oh, what do you write?’  The defence was always ‘short stories and crap poetry’.  This course is making me realise that I am capable of writing poetry.  I borrowed a book from Gail, meant to be for reviewing on DURA, but on reading it, knew instantly that I’m not knowledgeable enough to write an academic review.  It would have been an opinion piece.  Instead, I used it as inspiration.  I flicked the pages and let the universe decide.  Poem 8 from Beneath by Simon Perril it is then.

my sister went first

we’d a pact

that after crossing

she’d show she’d left

by gripping a weft

of unspooled wool

white-nuckle tight.

In the event she swung

and I saw the slug

of her tongue

and wept

at her outstretched palm

Point of view

She had always been the braver of the two, living up to her elder sister title.  There were two extremes with her, the best and the worst.  Anything in between was unacceptable.  Demanding and telling at the same time, ‘I’ll go first.’ she said and promised to tug on the wool that was meant to hold them together on this latest daredevil adventure.  A discussion seemed pointless to the outside world, Shelley would always go first, but this ritual always persuaded her brother, making his second place bearable and justified.  She reeled him in with this tactic flawlessly every time.

Voice

I was fed up of being played around with.  These damn kids had their fun with me, I’ll tell ya.  I was meant to be a cute little bootie, or maybe a Christmas sweater, or a goddamn tea cosy for some a these English types, who like to drink tea in weird shaped pots insteada coffee like regular folks.  Instead, whadda I get?  Tossed over to a girl that shoulda been a warden.  She had dictator stamped all over her, I’ll tell ya that for nuthin’.  She turned my life into hell, twistin’ and knottin’ me around into cat’s cradles, passed along into her brother’s filthy hands and gettin’ God knows what all over me.  Here I am, all outta shape and dirty and whadda them two do? Takes my sister, a nice red number all new and unspooled outta the bag and takes her on some stoopid secret mission.  I’m still waitin’ for em to come back, they been gone a long while.

Rhythm

The jagged rocks jutted

from their hiding place

clawing with their points

for a leg an arm a face

 

The jagged rocks hungered

many an empty hour

sharply slowly waiting

poised  to devour

 

The jagged rocks rejoice

she enters their domain

woolly lifeline falls with her

ripped by the strain

 

The jagged rocks are sated

sporting bloody smiles

the hunger will return to them

in a short while

Place

The cave was a palette of grey and black.  Nothing shone or twinkled here, as if the darkness had sucked the beauty from it centuries ago.  It stank of death.  The jagged rocks hid the floor, sentinels poised to attack.  The air was thick with icy nightmares bristling your skin with wrongness.  Every fibre of human being screamed GET OUT, but the two children swept fear aside ignoring those instincts in favour of burning curiosity and took another step toward the entrance to Hell.

Gorgeousness

The unspooled wool twanged and snapped under the strain of her white knuckled grip.  Mark stumbled backward as Shelley fell in an un-choreographed surprise dance.  Open mouthed in horror, the silence of her scream conveyed her fate as the rock sentinels grasped for her flesh.  The head struck first, giving birth to crumbs of stone that rolled into the abyss.  The mother, a grey pyramid surrounded by a moat of blood protruded from Shelley’s right temple, her slug tongue reaching for her shoulder.  Her wide disbelief eyes stared at the roof of that terrible place, palm extended upward pleading to an unseen God.

I know none of these are perfect.  I know I am well over my word count.  Sometimes you have to take a few hits to get to the title fight.

beneath

‘Dividing the Spoils’

This is the sonnet I wrote for homework on the theme of Divorce. It was really challenging and I could redraft it forever. There are rhymes to be had that I haven’t found. In the process of getting from draft twenty to here I’ve rewritten it another six times. I think I might call a halt here.

‘Dividing the Spoils’

You can have the ponderous furniture,
The weight of that old, brown, inheritance,
And that absurd painting she gave to you,
That you hung above our marital bed
The oven is yours, the freezer my cold self.

I’ll cleft the kettle and halt that last brew.
We can chop the toaster and cleave the fridge.
Let us take a child apiece, the boy mine.
The girl yours to remind you of your wife.
Or will I  use your father’s fine toothed saw
To cut through hair, to rive from brain to groin?
My share will be where the mole marks her cheek,
And his grazed left knee with its star shaped scar

|I’ll tend to the beating of their bruised hearts.

Networking and Community

When I started this course, I had to admit that a huge reason was to do some great networking. I’ve been networking in the literary stratosphere since I was about 15. I started going to creative writing classes on Saturdays, then went on to volunteer my time to culture events, book festivals, writing workshops and publications. As I got older, the volunteering turned into interning and is transitioning now into bits of paid work. However, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I’m the girl who is happy to be paid in literary experience. I am not at all adverse to doing more volunteering, so that is what I am doing. I am a volunteer at the Dundee Literary Festival. I haven’t exactly done much this far as the two events that I was supposed to cover the roving mic both boiled over with interesting conversation, meaning that one only had time for two questions and one had no time for questions at all. Nevertheless, yesterday, whilst doing the latter of ‘working hard or hardly working’, I got to see some events which were extremely important to me.

The first was a conversation between Kirsty Gunn, Ron Hay, Lindsay MacGregor, Eddie Small and Gail Low, discussing The Voyage Out, a publication celebrating ten years of Writing Practice and Study (WPS) at the University of Dundee. The book is an international anthology of fiction, poetry, essays, art, film and science, all about voyages. For me, having been an ungerdrad WPS student and now an MLitt WPS student, I felt proud to be in my fourth year with the department. There was a lot of talk of the lovely, sorely missed, late Jim Stewart. Kirsty answered ‘Jim is behind so much of what we do on the writing program,’ when asked how much input Jim had on the publication, and I wholeheartedly agree. There was no us and them at this event, just one group of people listening to another group of people discuss something everyone in the room was excited about. I cherish my copy of The Voyage Out, given to me so kindly by Eddie, whose name is just above Jim’s in the credits.

The second event was Livewire! If anything could assure me that I made the right decision to take the journey onto the MLitt course more than The Voyage Out event, this was it. I won’t go into too much detail because I’ll be writing an essay on the event, but I have to write a bit… On the MLitt last year, the students were thrown into the deep end of performing and were asked to perform around this time in their first semester. They performed in what used to be Shrink to Fit, an offshoot of Superstore which has now evolved into a different pub for about the 7th time since I moved to Dundee. I remember seeing a lot of nervous performances but being absolutely amazed by the talent and the utter balls they had, performing with a mic so early on in their MLitt course. (Be careful what you wish for…) But the performances I saw yesterday was not comparable. I saw six calm, confident writers take to the stage and read eloquent, considered pieces which were refined and performed so well. I was working the roving mic and the last question was near the back so whilst I waited to retrieve the mic, I allowed myself a moment to stand at the back of the room and look at the whole audience and the six accomplished writers on the stage. I don’t think there’s a better feeling than feeling like you belong somewhere, and I felt it yesterday.

My point is is that I’ve been ‘networking’ for seven years, never turning down an opportunity to meet new people in the field, to help out if I can. I don’t see myself stopping any time soon. This week has felt like a tidal wave of things to do, life and class are at a crescendo and I barely have space to breathe, but I couldn’t resist putting myself forwards to help at the Dundee Literary Festival. Peggy, who runs the festival and Literary Dundee, is incentive enough to volunteer. She is a fireball of energy, enthusiasm and friendly personality who definitely spoils her volunteers in amazing literary experience. Yesterday, although I was technically working, although I tried to introduce myself to as many people as possible, yesterday didn’t feel like networking, it felt like I was part of an amazing community.

What is a Live Wire? I know now!

I’ve just dashed (yes, I know, FABULOUS word choice) from a LiveWire event for the Dundee Literary Festival. Run by Eddie Small, the event is an ongoing production that showcases the writing of recent and current students, and no doubt a whole lot of other people also but I’ve only been to one so give me some leeway here. And, call me stupid if you will, I was walking home and wondering why in the Hades it was called ‘LiveWire’. It’s live, sure, but there’s no wires. Even the roving mic was just that, roving, and in today’s world of Health and Safety regulations, you can bet your bottom dollar that it didn’t have a wire. Then, as I came home and sat by my computer, I realized that I felt electric. My fingers are actually pulsing as I type this. Maybe it’s because I know I’ll have to do one one day, or maybe it’s the awesome talent I just witnessed that inspired a creative surge in me, but either way I feel electric. And then it hit me. Live Wire, as in the one that’ll kill you if you touch it.

I get it now.

We’re approaching a nervous section of the course. The place in the movie where the sea starts to swell and some screenwriter adds a joke to the movie like, “Hey guys, hope we don’t sink,” while he washes his hands in a sink. And then, because the movie is called “Sinking Ship” or “Titanic 2” we all know exactly what’s about to happen. That ship’s not arriving in any port, any time soon (insert dirty joke here). I spoke last week about it, and I’ll continue doing so until they’re over – assessments are coming. But, unlike last week, I am more confident. I’ve had formative feedback on a review I submitted – the main critique being “be less catty” – and I’ve had a one on one meeting with Kirsty. So I have followed Gail’s advice and removed certain phrases from my assessed review on The Girl on The Train that poke fun at Paula Hawkins cameo being removed from the film adaptation of her novel. So far, so good.

It is from my one on one with Kirsty, however, that the true pride of this week lies. I submitted a rough sheaf of five pages of manuscript for her perusal to begin working on my portfolio for the end of semester one. I shall keep most of what she said confidential, as I am too cowardly in the face of fate to jinx the most exciting part of what we discussed, but I would like to share a short extract from one of the homework exercise she gave us.

 

The kitchen is his favourite room of all. A fridge and freezer stand side by side, the top of the fridge more yellow than its brother. There is no work surface. No unit. So the fridge must suffice. Gentle yellowing is an easy price to pay. Another bare light bulb swings from a pendulum coated in cooking grease. But the room is large, the window larger still and so it swings on unnoticed. Its early evening. The sun hasn’t set yet. And so the window is alive with honey light, seeping in through the glass and coating every surface of the kitchen. Checkered linoleum, a burnt kitchen table – scarred with the mark of an incense stick let to burn for too long – and a dull green microwave that, only in this light, looks like it’s worth a million bucks. He stands there. In the honey light kitchen. And wonders how he came to be so lucky. Many flats have kitchens only half this size. Cracks in the ceiling are nothing compared to the gloriousness of standing here, right now, in the warm sunlit air. The window sits slightly open, just a crack so that cat can’t stray too far out, it’s too high and he may fall, and a breeze weedles its way in – no doubt jealous of the boy’s dumb grin. It notes the disheveled pajamas hastily thrown on between the bathroom sink and here, and congratulates itself on being incorporeal, unneeding of such mix match clothes. It stands beside him, that jealous gust of wind, and basks in the sunlight of another day endured. The boy feels it with him but says nothing, not wanting to scare it away. Instead he sniffs, in between tears, at the fragrant vanilla that gently wafts around them both.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I once quit my job and spent every penny I had on trying to get my first novel published. It didn’t work. But now, as I discuss my work with other writers and explain the heart of what I’m trying to write, I feel that little bud of a daffodil – the flower of hope and Spring – unfurl after a long Winter of disappointment. This piece if about me, about what a place I know, and it’s the heart and bones of who I am. A boy in his pyjammas thankful to still be alive, to still have hope and to still be writing.

Travelling Has Become A Theme

Well, my weekend was certainly busy, I managed to get home and celebrated my dad’s birthday and managed to get some much-needed reading done on the train. I finished Constellations and got started on the next book on my list, I’ll be writing a review for Constellations so I won’t say much more about it. Just watch this space!

Speaking of space, my attention has been grabbed lately by the idea of multigenerational spaceships. The distances in space are so huge that attempting to cross them in the lifetime of one person is not likely to happen until we can figure out a way of reliably making wormholes. So making ships that are communities with the idea of generations coming and going on the ship, all knowing that the journey is truly for the benefit of their great, great, great (etc., etc.) grandchildren. I just can’t help but feel that such a setting would make for great inter-personal drama. Children feeling as if their choices were taken from them, parents sacrificing their futures for their children (and children’s children), and all taking place in what must be one of the most claustrophobic communities possible. Do they have the chance to communicate with other ships? Or are they limited to the people all crammed into the same tin can flying through the vacuum of space at almost light speed? I just think it’s a setting rife with possibilities. I have not gotten around to writing anything for it yet, I am a bit too busy with other work, but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to getting my hands on when I can.

I have also taken the time to get stuck into my portfolio project. I’ve managed to overcomplicate it for myself by not just making it an extract of a longer piece as I had planned, but I am also intending on having epigraphs at the start of every chapter – and for the portfolio at least – every time I change the scene. Like I said it means I have to do a lot more work, so far I’ve written a sonnet and a short skipping rhyme that will be put in at the beginning of the piece and at the star of the second scene. I’ve been trying really hard to make them work in the world I’ve built, they’re meant to be from that world, you see. So the sonnet is a piece of work by a poet during the timeframe of the story and the skipping rhyme is briefly mentioned in the work. The idea is that the epigraphs will add to the feeling of a deep and intricate world building, especially the later ones which will include extracts of letters describing scenes in the story from another’s point of view and even, if I can figure out how to write it, a piece written in the style of an academic essay. I quite like the idea of suggesting that a lot of the people in the story will one day be interesting to historians, as, after all, I deal with a lot of royals in it and at the very least they would be remembered. I think this has influenced my reading of Constellations, the book shows how the loss of so many people changes the lives of those who are left behind so perfectly, that I can’t help but be inspired by it.

How Satan was predestined to take charge of all god created but did not want responsibility for!

Hey, First post and I thought I would go in heavy……………………..here goes!

Creation Story: Inspired by Paradise Lost.

Does anyone remember me as an Angel? I was the Bright Morningstar.

Fairest in all the creation of my father, But none recall this now.

Heaven is but a dream to even me. All my time there was by my father’s grace.

The day of my creation, was when I fell defeated from that unassailable foe.

I lost the war in heaven, a war I could never win, and was withdrawn from paradise forever.

It terrified God’s loyal Angels that I even tried and it was only God who could smite me.

But he could not kill me. He had foreseen my fate.

He needed me cast out because of his latest creation, That of the race of man.

 

In them he found traits the need for which he did not want to be responsible.

For this he found use in me. I was cast down as my father’s proxy.

He of infinite forgiveness and mercy could not bring himself to forgive.

On this I pondered and after a thousand years the answer occured me.

As if my heavenly father granted me the ability to now see. As if he acted still.

I brought my daughter Sin into the world of men and our bastard son Death born of rapine.

I was to tempt them to their fate through Eve as god knew as inevitable.

I was to bear the responsibility as the divine sacrifice to preserve his sanctity.

 

I am the Satan now, the enemy, the adversary, the accused and the defeated.

I can still appear as an Angel, for that is what I will always be, as Lucifer.

When I see my father again, and I will, it will be as an equal and not as his servant.

I will walk past my brothers and sisters who art in heaven still, and they will fear me.

I will stand and face the divinity as I did what he could not bring himself to do.

I will gaze upon his grace as it can no longer blind me as it does all others.

Even the Angels must still veil their eyes in his glorious presence. That was ever so.

And I will speak unto him of his shame that resides in me and he shall know woe.

 

Hell is the place where I now reside and it is no separate place from the world of Earth.

Hell resides there, this home of man, where none can see; where none ever look.

On the untended ground and in the idle minds of ill gotten men it festers.

On battlefields fresh and ancient it lingers and in dead things lately ignored.

There, out of sight, as if in a desert on a dusky night in a lonely place, it conceals itself.

Hidden so that none may know and all are taken unawares on to Pandemonium.

My home, my heaven, my freedom, my punishment and my father’s melancholy.

 

Feedback and criticism welcomed!

 

 

 

Blaschka’s Sea Creatures

blaschka_nr213-2blaschka_nr45-2 blaschka_nr250-2

Our conversation in class this week about the D’Arcy Thompson Museum reminded me of this piece from last year, inspired by Blaschka’s glass sea creatures and an old photograph. After the section below it spirals out of control and is, frankly,  an over complicated mess so any suggestions as to what could  happen next would be welcome.

“The young man is wearing his best suit. Only it’s not his. The jacket is too big, the trousers too short. It’s his father’s perhaps, an indication of what he will be in thirty years’ time, broader, shorter, still poor.

He smiles then remembers and closes his lips so his broken teeth are hidden.

The ring on his fourth finger catches the light. I watch him in my viewfinder, upside down, the photographic process briefly giving him the power of a spider to scuttle across his ceiling; if I allowed him to move.

The painted backdrop is cracked and peeling, my uncle’s work. The young man doesn’t complain. The people in the waiting room, dressed in taffeta and wool, will not complain. I am what they can afford.

I would prefer to record the young man in his work clothes, a stained vest and torn trousers, the overworked muscles in his arms visible and his hair wet with sweat. I would have him smile. There would be no badly painted scenery. The rotten timbers of my attic studio and its flaking plaster would suffice.

He will return the suit to his potbellied father and, in his own clothes, smelling of sweat, he will deliver the photograph to his sweetheart who will think him handsome. There will be a flare of light on the right of the print caused by a worm hole in the plate holder because in this place every timber is eaten, some to the point of crumbling. A  fine dust settles and invades those things which should be clean for the alchemy to work.

His sweetheart will accept the inadequacies of the image, just as she accepts him.

This is how they are. This is what I show of them.

The next customer is a woman, hot and overstuffed in black bombazine. In her outdated mourning she is still, clearly, more prosperous than the shop girls, soldiers and labourers who are my usual customers. She presses herself into the wall as the young man in the borrowed suit passes. She stands between her sons and they smirk and stroke their tailored coats of fine wool. Thick necked and cow eyed, they show even teeth. I have allowed them entrance ahead of those waiting. No one complains.

The boys lean away from one another and their fists stay clenched. If they dared to open their fingers and flex their hands, if they looked at one another,  then they would surely launch themselves and all I would capture would be the widow looking solemn and a vortex of movement obscuring her skirts.

They loathe one another.

When the waiting room is empty I make the prints that have all the imperfections I expected and more. I sit and wait for the night, the threadbare nature of my accommodation obscured by lamplight and shadows.The glass sea creatures, delicate and translucent, that line the mantelpiece, that flicker in the meagre light from the fire, are the rest of my inheritance, my preferred part, a reminder that this was once a prosperous place until my uncle’s obsession shrank his premises to this dusty top floor.

Getting Thoughtful About Stealing Lines

I find lines that other people thought of weaving their way into my own writing. I find myself finishing a piece, reading it in class, coming home and realising that I have stollen. Like a chocolate bar falling into my pocket at the shop, I have stollen without meaning to, but I can’t bring myself to feel sorry because who doesn’t like free chocolate?

I wrote a piece yesterday in class with Eddie, who is a dear friend and source of inspiration to me always. Eddie told me I was a suffragette. I was to write about the men leaving for World War I… Then I had to write about them coming back after four long, hard years. This is a sad piece because between all the words on the page are the people who didn’t get to come back from the war, the ones who don’t get to be in stories about homecoming.

Here is my piece:

The war has changed us all. I never thought I’d work so much with my hands. I always wanted to be a reporter, but from our side there hasn’t been much to report. And there hasn’t been much time. Yes, four years have gone by, but I’ve barely had a minute. We never stopped. 

I’m a munitionette. I think we call ourselves munitionettes to make the job seem nicer than it is. I’ve been making instruments to be used to kill other women’s men and boys, but I can’t think like that. I have to keep reminding myself that what I’m making is to protect our own. 

When they left, many of us stopped shouting to be heard, there was so much to do, so many new worries. Being heard was slumped to the bottom of many to-do lists. I kept going to meetings, the odd march, signed my name on whichever sheet needed women’s signatures. But I also learnt how to fix an engine. I learnt how to tend a farm. I learnt how to make weapons to kill people. Knowledge is power, I kept telling myself and now I’ve got the type of knowledge a man would be proud to possess. How can I go unheard with all this knowledge?

The crowd is smaller than it was those years ago. So many meaningful members of our community aren’t here today, either because they don’t have anyone to welcome home, or because they couldn’t come back alive. Even those who are here are smaller. The weight of the world has been hard to shoulder during the war. 

As well as a suffragette, a typist, a handy woman and a munitionette, I’m also a daughter waiting for my dad to return. I had these visions of seeing him again, saying ‘Look Dad! Look at the grease under my nails, the callouses on my palms, aren’t I like you now? Look Dad, look how much I know.’ But again, just like before, now isn’t a time for me to be heard. 

I have something to admit. One of these lines does not belong to me. The line ‘look how much I know’ has been borrowed from a heart-warming poem by Sarah Kay called ‘Mrs. Ribeiro’. Here is the link, please take a few minutes to listen. I’m not sorry that I stole this line. It is such a simple line but I feel it holds so much. ‘Look how much I know.’ It is full of pride and excitement. In Kay’s poem it is a proud child, excited to learn, but for my suffragette, it is pride and excitement that maybe she is worthy of being listened to. It is a hopeful line, but my suffragette had to keep it inside, to put it on hold with the rest of her hopes of being heard.