the effort halved

your head placed naturally on the pillow of my lap,

it’s cramped (with crumbs and coffee stains)

but we make-do, being each others’ lucky coin

or soft toy rabbit.

the train, it’s going faster now, it’s chaotic

and we share one set of lungs.

breathing amongst foreign character is more comfortable

when shared.

it sounds tiresome to many, our organs intertwined,

but it’s behavour now.

what we do, we do in tune.

experiencing the same (with the same sandwiches and toilet breaks)

i’m seeing this journey through her eyes.

i used to be afraid of public transport

(now, the effort is halved.)

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Moira’s Diary – The Handmaid’s Tale

Thought I’d post this on here after finding it on my laptop. It’s a creative response to Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, giving Moira’s perspective instead of Offred’s narration in the original text. I wrote this for AS English Literature a few years back and it received full marks.


The following is a printed transcript and extract from a recently discovered diary; the writer is believed to have been a Handmaid of the Republic of Gilead, two hundred years earlier and to have escaped months before the renowned uprising. The diary was discovered five hundred feet underneath what was assumed to have been a well-known contemporary brothel. The text is below; although much is illegible, it is now being used as source material for Gileadean Studies, at Cambridge University, England.

 

This place is outstanding, I guess it could be said. Outstanding, not in the way in which is stands out, I mean, it’s a fucking brothel. More in terms of the immense coup pulled off by the men who run Gilead. Virgins for wives, whores for pleasure.

The wallpaper is a ghastly, vomit-yellow, peeling from the walls which enclose us. On occasion, the yellow mucus surroundings utterly implodes upon itself and begins to reveal confessions of the previous versions of ourselves, the whores who made it out breathing. Or the ones who didn’t. Black scrawls of fears and revelations of things that would horrify a God fearing nation. Ghost stories are written on these walls, those yellow pages of neglect and rape and power and desperation.

She thinks I’ve let myself go. She’s judging me. Bitch.

Her back arched with discomfort. She leant back against the mustard couch, her veins mounting to the surface, pupils dilating and the reek of anxiety from this hooker-to-be drained my nostrils. Offred. Oppressed Offred. This couch bleeds with the absence of what used to be; self-respect and dignity traded with a sickly-coated ironic façade of the Virgin Mary.  The yellow couches are often smeared with blubbering weakness; tears that black smeared tissues couldn’t staunch. She is Mary and Eve. I am Lilith, cast out. Condemned.

“You don’t mean that.”

Confessions line the walls. Pages of yellow paper; peeling from the core. Black declarations and ghost stories and autobiographies. It makes me anxious. Am I next? Where do they find these black biros, to add to this log, this community, of those who pass over when that time comes? Those who couldn’t cope?  I am barricaded by whores with pipes between their lips. My throat is a desert, my tongue grains of sand. If I could, I’d growl. That wouldn’t be speech, but speech is golden. Speech isn’t allowed. Men’s biology is an imposition to our mouths. We are gagged for their desire. We are gagged by it. They enjoy watching us choke.

Offred’s eyes are padded cells for examination. She’s fucking my head. I almost feel guilty.

You left. I know. Aunt Elizabeth’s clothes are still at the back of my closet. The Red Centre would kill to have me back; it’d brighten the place up a little. I’m a symbol of almost-salvation, for those Handmaids. At least, that’s what the rest say. There’s a couple who arrived in the last six months, from a centre nearby. I was just a myth to them. The woman, who took an Aunt’s clothes, tied her up and ran. Maybe they’ll be my last fucking words, a couple of years from now. My scrawls, my memoir, up in dark ink, behind the wallpaper of this haven. Ironically, I’ll be a Saint.

We slept in what had once been a hotel lobby. The citrus walls, flaking with what had once been cries for help. The hotel business was shut down around fifteen years a go. It was supposed to be cleared completely, yet a closet still stands. Some consistency remains. Scrawls of Latin, I’m guessing, engrave the base of the wood. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. It made me smirk. Offred would’ve laughed too, had she been there then. Now, she’s sunk in this sallow chair, my mirror image, uncomfortable and exposed and violated, in this unflatteringly tight corset. Not your best look, pal. A gift from her Commander probably, with not a word to spill from her clownish red chops. I could slap her across the face. That’d give a bit of colour to those pasty cheeks. She looks starved. You never used to be able to shut her up.

I’m not Moira. Moira, full of spirit and rebellion, the mythical whore, who offers faith. I’m a replacement, a scandal. Glazed with face cream and fishnets.  I’m not her anymore. I’m a thing, a symbol, a number. I’m everything I stood against. I’m an object. I’m fucking men. I’ve had Gilead force-fed down my throat. I’m choked and I’m retched and I’m gagged for the pleasure of those who dominate me. For the pleasure of those who dominate us.

She looks tired, her youthful face prematurely aged. She used to suffer from the curse of youth, particularly in college; it was a real effort trying to get her into clubs.  Now she has no problem, clearly, the Commander on her arm, her first night out in years.

Luke aged her, too.

I’m nostalgic with this college girl sat beside me. I’d never let her leave the apartment dressed like that back then. She never had the legs. Bless.

You may as well be my mother’s daughter. She loves you more. No jealousy, though. A shared sisterhood.

My heart aches, memories make my mind throb; another large strip of paper peels towards us. My heart jolts: ‘…die’ is the latest word in the log of ghost stories, hidden behind yellow covers. I’m fenced in, I’m going crazy, my heart is racing. I swallow and swallow again, bile circling my gut. Offred is

 

This is the last of the transcript. It is believed by those who discovered the Handmaid’s diary, that the remainders of this extract are missing and that either the pages have been torn out, or the author did not write any more.

This Beating Shape

One year

encompassed by my heart strung

across Paperchase postcards;

a tangible copy of my soul, now sat waiting

in your College pigeon-hole.

 

Legs intertwined amongst our make-shift bed of

blankets and last night’s sweat and lust.

With you, lust isn’t temporary, lust is

sick to my stomach, a comforting nervousness.

The way your lips imprint my collar bones,

our hearts stitched as one.

 

One year of your fingers sewn to fit between

the gaps of mine.

The way your hair shines in the depths of winter,

for you are the sun’s companion in the frost.

365 alterations to my otherwise mundane

days of feeling your breath on the nape of my neck.

Even when your lips are 2 hours away.

For your shadow, your fingertips have formed a

carbon copy on my heart.

 

You have it always. This organ, this beating shape

under layers of skin, you’ve only strengthened.

I know that’s true. My rib-cage, now painted with

turquoise forcefield.

I’m not afraid anymore.

You’re to thank for that.

No, I’m Gay (A slam poem)

Hi, my name is Lu-
Wait, it’s not like you care.
You’ve already made assumptions based
on my hair,
Both the length on my head
and what’s down there.

For my sex life, my body image
is clearly your business, broadcasted news.
If you can convince me it’s a phase,
for it’s God’s message (well done you.)

Clearly what porn portrays is
a rehearsal for my real past time.
Asking if I scissor is obviously fine.
But you don’t want tips, you’re not that way inclined.
You ask if you can join,
for lesbian means fetish…
So why would I mind?

As if holding my girlfriend’s hand
is some kind of offence
Yet your Porn Hub’s biggest fan,
So it’s doesn’t make sense.

I mean, you’re clearly what I’m after,
what’s missing, the guy I’m really looking for.
A man whose surname I require,
‘Two women only?’ ‘Fancy a threesome?’ Wait,
you’re telling me you’re —”

‘Can I watch?’ ‘So, what is it you do?’ isn’t invasive at all…
I have it easy, ‘boys are dicks’, I’ve heard it all before.

A ‘gay marriage’ is different, exotic, some big day out,
‘I went to a GAY wedding’, your colleague exclaims,
but behind closed doors, nothing’s changed.

Sure, I wear dresses, makeup, no buzz-cut in sight,
for if it’s not penetrative, it’s not real sex, right?
‘Please make me straight’ I’m no church goer, but I pray,
‘I’m not interested’, ‘I’m taken’, ‘I see you as a friend…’

No, I’m…
gay.

My Experience with Homophobia

Aged 14, when confessing to my Mum that I was attracted to girls, one of the things she was concerned about was any backlash or horrid comments I’d receive at school. Understandably, teenagers can be mean and the slur ‘that’s so gay’ was used more often than I can count.  But thankfully , this was never the case. From this, I never thought it would be. It’s the twenty-first century. In 2015, same sex marriage was legalised. Love is Love, right? Wrong. To some, even in 2017, making comments and glaring even when my girlfriend and I are walking in the street is a reaction that they don’t think twice about.

I want to write about one experience in particular because it’s something that made both my girlfriend and I feel unsafe. As a woman, in any context, gay or otherwise, men making derogatory comments is unsettling and would be enough for someone to retaliate. But in the scenario I faced recently, my girlfriend and I stood up and left. There was no one there to say ‘hold up, that’s inappropriate.’ Before your thoughts cross a certain path, no we weren’t being overly affectionate (although I doubt straight couples would even be asked this.) We weren’t talking loudly or making out in the corner. Weren’t drawing attention to ourselves, weren’t even sat near those who verbally attacked us.

Friday night, Birmingham, a cocktail bar. We’d just been out for a romantic meal, like any other couple we thought we’d enjoy a drink in a location presumably open to all. We’re sat on the sofas, enjoying our drinks, chatting away. No kissing. No overt PDA. There’s a group of men in suits around a table sat a distance away from us. We don’t even notice them initially, we’re just enjoying our time together. That is until, and no this isn’t the first time we’ve experienced this, our night out together is cut short.

“This isn’t a lesbian bar.”

The group of men laugh. Staring at us. Laughing. My girlfriend and I have to look at each other, wide-eyed, to check we really did hear them right.

The fact of the matter is, whether we were being affectionate, should not even be a factor in this. What’s worse is, we couldn’t say anything. We were outnumbered, by a group of predatory men, looking at us like we shouldn’t be allowed in that bar. Like my ID is expected to provide a small print stating ‘heterosexual’ before ordering my pina colada. The comments didn’t stop there. At one point, I hear the word ‘strap-on’, followed by stares and laughter.

“We’re leaving.” I say, feeling afraid to take my girlfriend’s hand. We’re shaken up, the night’s ruined.

What horrifies me is that it’s twenty-seventeen and homophobia is still something, I, a twenty year old gay woman has to cope with in society. It’s bad enough being beeped at by a man in a lorry, being told to ‘smile love’ and take it as complimentary, because I’m a woman. It’s worse that I’m a gay woman. I never thought that would be the case. ‘It’s legal now.’ ‘It’s treated the same.’ ‘Why do you even need gay pride anymore?’ are phrases I hear repeatedly.

Now, I’m not asking for sympathy. Not asking for your apologies on behalf of these men, telling us we shouldn’t be allowed in this bar, because we’re two girls on a date, at 8:30pm. What I’m asking is for you to reflect, to question if things really are as liberal as you assume. Because yes, things have drastically improved from the 1970s, but internalised homophobia, and external on occasion, still exists. And under no circumstances should I feel afraid and attacked for my sexual orientation, in a bar in the early evening. A place that to many ‘unsafe’ wouldn’t even come to mind.

“I hate the word homophobia. It’s not a phobia. You’re not scared. You’re an asshole.” – Morgan Freeman

Lady of the Bus

Her skin may need an iron’s once over,

Its pigment is brash and fuchsia.

But she smiles more than she did back then,

So why bother with that cosmetic nonsense?

Her day’s dictated by today’s timetable.

‘Lost’ doesn’t exist, ‘it’s adventure’, she insists.

Quarter to the hour, or ten past,

The maze of her head, sign-posted by

A free seat (complimentary, if that teenage scoundrel

gives up his.)

She’s a first-class voyager, companion to her wooden aid,

Clutched tightly like a hand to hold.

She has a favourite chauffer, but their presence is

unreliable,

Young enough to be her grandson,

But pretty eyes all the same.

Today’s audience don’t quite meet her gaze,

‘sorry for your loss,’

Something she can’t quite place.

Maybe she’s just forgotten her keys.

 

 

 

The Illustrated Man

His canvas is withered; once a gallery display,

Now ‘distasteful’ graffiti on recycled paper.

If auctioned back then, they would’ve been collectible,

Now faded, only fluorescent in sepia

photographs.

 

Once young and kicking, but that’s forgotten,

as if his art’s backdrop was always creased mess.

Once complimented, they’re now ignored,

Like taboo patterns on fragile casing.

They’re not dated, out of fashion, archaic,

It’s the exhibition that’s aged, he’s sorry to say.

 

Long-sleeved shirts are preferable, as if

He’s wounded; an eyesore, black marks smudged

Illegible to the twenty-something critic.

He’s too old for regret in something

once sublime. Now, a stain he can’t fix,

an embarrassment, named ‘tattoo.’

 

An embarrassment, named ‘tattoo’,

Once sublime, now a stain he can’t fix.

He’s too old for regret in something

illegible to the twenty-something critic.

He’s wounded; an eyesore, black marks smudged.

Long-sleeves are preferable, as if.

It’s the display that’s aged, he’s sorry to say.

 

They’re not dated, out of fashion, archaic

Like taboo patterns on fragile casing.

Once complimented, they’re now ignored,

As if his art’s backdrop’s was always creased mess.

Once young and kicking, but that’s forgotten.

 

Photographs, now faded. Only fluorescent in sepia.

If auctioned back then, they would’ve been a masterpiece.

Now ‘distasteful’ graffiti on recycled paper,

His canvas is withered; once a gallery display.