Pre partum- Post partum
I remember the slow progress
over uneven snowy road stopping at times
When I became too punctured by the pain
Screaming again and again
“Get it out of me!”
And never the same, though I tried ‘letting go.’
And few explain that torturous cruelty
ahead of you in that miracle of birth -
Thighs shackled. Split like a divider -
Legs akimbo, quivering from the lack
of blood flow. And you? You do your best
in this distress to focus on a halo of light
Your eyes like the martyr lifted in flight -
Breathless, even with
breathing techniques as you beg to hunker down
but the missionary forced on you
Steel paddles plough into you as your carcass
is cranked further apart
and you spit out, “For Christ’s sake !”
Yes, I remember the day I disappeared
The clock stopped on the wall
as they shouted their obscenities to “Push”!
The Judas eyes avoiding me as the creature
slapped out on me, slipped like silk
on my skin. The first curdling wail
blushing the air but all mystery
drained from me
as the sear of a surgical scallop
sewed the uneven rack of my ripped flesh back ...
The Scullery Maid’s Monologue: A Woman's Worth
(* The Recorder 1914)
I heard the master say in his ‘La-di-dah’ voice
“Nowhere’s safe from this purple, white
and green brigade who demand their equality!”
As he read out loud how
a rowdy crowd caused a lively scene
at Palmers Green.
When men threw flour and eggs
at them Suffragette’s!* And how that Mr. Goulden
and a Mr.Prout were roughed up
and routed out...Chased by lads on bicycles
from ‘The Triangle’ right down to
The Fox taverns’ tram!
And Gawd bless us if a woman wasn’t manhandled
and her pamphlet torn up too!Then
the mistress gives the master
an awful earful at how the meek wife
and Suffragist mother
are forced to crime
because Asquith’s government who refuse
women the vote! She says his nibs
“ ...must not come home
until you’ve spoken out in Parliament!”
And being the progressive lady
says how she differs from the late queen
who thought all suffragette’s were
hateful heathens who’d perish without
a man’s protectiveness. That 1914
is the modern age where women
will prove their effectiveness
against the tyranny attitude
that politics is a male preserve
and domesticity deservedly feminine -
though all agreed that in society
a woman’s worth only improves
when men go to the battlefield!
Then she tells of brave Mrs. Mary Clarke.
Youngest of that Pankhurst family
who, force fed, ‘up an’ died the week she was
freed from Holloway. And rests now
poor ducks, in our Southgate cemetery!
“Why only last year,” The mistress says,
“Young Emily Davison was force fed,
forty nine times!” - Forty nine times
before she threw herself under the king’s horse!
And now this talk that the fighting men
will get the vote but we women won’t !
Now if I could, I would join the ‘sisterhood’
but war needs me loyalty.
So I’ll build me scrub muscles up -
Ready to fight like Boudicca in deeds
not words for this female plight
and listen to Cook’s good advice:
To teach our boys better -
To change the law’s letter
And one day, have our say.
Hear that swish and sway of skirt
all the way to Parliament