Available Options

If it had been clear
there were no options
but to conform: to be
sexually available and
compliant. Obliging, at
the expense of my sanity,
well-being, career.

If I had realised that
I had to act docile. Girl
treated as child; woman
disguised as girl. Hours
spent every day, preparing
the body for display, my
mind for instruction.

If I had guessed that
education would query
suitability and acceptance.
That speaking would be
seen as aberrant behaviour.
Unruly and rebellious.

If I had known there
was a name for what I
would face as a woman
seeking liberty to be herself.
That misogyny would aim
to rule out my possibilities.

If, as a girl, I had faced the
daily onslaught of sex and
violence, packaged as culture,
news, while sisters succumbed,
disappeared behind closed doors.
Were deleted from the streets.

How would I have shaped up
for battle and survival?

Would I have caved in, stripped off,
strutted my stuff to get noticed?

Acted ‘sexy’.

How could I have assumed
I would have rights and opportunities?

Desires of my own.

That, as a woman, I might be equal
before the law. Allowed at times, to
roam as free as any élite man.

If I had been trained to be fearful,
while awaiting male approval;
forced to be as dainty and quiet
as possible: respecting the status quo.

If I had been taught that my value
was proscribed as sexual and
procreative. A double fetish. That
these limits would circumscribe life
and feeling. Render my body and
its movements targets for profit,
exploitation, surveillance.

How could I have aspired to be a
person, as well as daughter?
Human as well as woman.
Citizen as well as mother.

How could I have asked my first question?
And, without flinching, looked you in the eye.

For an answering music.

 

val walsh / 2007

 

 

 

 

 

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Sacrifice

Not living your life,
not being yourself,
is bad for your health.

Injustice gathers momentum 
over the years. Masking
heart and soul. Life in arrears.

Ageing and degeneration
come early, snatching
time and faculties:
disputing identity
and status.

Unimagined liberty
laid waste.

 

val walsh

Silent Submission

We keep their secrets.

Their intrusions,
fumblings and
violations.

Because no-one
will believe us.

They will plead
provocation or
invitation.

Innocence for sure.

Our reputation
they will damage.

Composure wreck.
Confidence crush.

Credibility
dismiss. Sanity
dispute.

Women’s liberation
deride and curtail.

val walsh (2004)

Crimes and Trials

There are many ways
to lose a daughter.

To father loss
Rape by friend or
relative. Trauma
aftermath. Drugs.
Desolation, mental
disarray. Despair.
Self-inflicted death
after incarceration.

There are many ways
to lose a daughter.

To honour, patriarchy.
Father and brothers’
terminal discipline.
Packed in a suitcase,
or scattered in the
woods, to feed the god
of misogyny. Avert
love, stifle sexuality.

There are many ways
to lose a daughter.

To the boyfriend from
hell. Dominant, studded
and chained. Spineless
yet controlling. Dependent
and drugged up. Silent
but watchful. Directionless
and draining. Consuming
her generosity, her energy.

There are many ways
to lose a daughter.

Suddenly, unawares. Or
gradually, again and again,
over the years, as she grows
away. Leaving early, returning
late. Intermittent, always in
haste. Stalking the fridge.
Frenetic and silent. Sleeping
all hours. No conversation.

There are many ways
to lose a daughter.

Because she looks different
on the street. Goth or punk.
Intellectual, vivacious.
Daring and independent.
Beyond reach and sexy.
Tender but self-sufficient.
Until stabbed to oblivion.
Revenge on rebellion.

There are many ways
to lose a daughter.

Because she fights injustice.
Investigates criminality and
corruption at the highest level.
Relentlessly. Setting fear aside.
Or organises women at risk.
Providing information, education,
inspiration. Materials for living
beyond fear and abuse.

There are many ways
to lose a daughter.

Systematically, with painstaking
care. Or casually, without due
regard. Knowing but helpless.
Sleepwalking into stand-off,
despite intelligence and desire.
Drained of brains. Experience
irrelevant. Words like rocks
in your path and heart.

There are many ways
to lose a daughter.

All of them preventable
catastrophes.

val walsh / 2011

Is that all there is?

[With a nod to singer, Peggy Lee.]

There’s the organised working class
and the business class, he declared.

That’s it. The fabled western binary.
Either / or. The perfect war footing.

The business class, I pondered,
certainly suggests money and
ownership. Buying and selling.
Profit. Suits and shiny shoes.

Multi-millionaires, the landed
gentry and the aristocracy.

Irrefutably the 21st century business
class evokes greed, exploitation and
corruption on a mind-boggling scale.

Because now we know about the excess
and dominance. Powerful vested interests.
And the enduring sense of entitlement.

It is public knowledge available for scrutiny.
Corporations, multi-nationals, big business.

Does the enemy business include small
businesses? The self-employed?

Freelancers?

The organised working class, I thought.
Who might they be in 2011? Can anyone
join? More important, do they have a plan?
Are they well equipped and ready?

The organised working class. Are they
numerous? Organised? Willing?

Enough of them to do the job?
Single-handed. Heroically.

The organised working class or the
business class. Are these locations
or identities? Or both. Attributed or
claimed? Do we declare who we are?

Who we think we are. Or do we get
told? Labelled, classified, deployed.

And where or who are women in this
meagre landscape? Or black and
minority ethnic groups? People with
disabilities. Gay and bisexual people.
Transgendered? Or professionals.

Amongst others.

All the hybrids, making connections,
fuelling change. Being creative.

Are we all spread around the place?
Visibility reduced. Influence dissipated.
Our politics diluted to serve the purpose
of others. Again. At the back of the bus.

Or are we, together, the road map out
of this well worn dead end?

val walsh / 2011

Let’s Not Label and Deny

     

            I finish reading the poem.
Well, he says, quick as a flash.
You don’t think much of men, do you?

            It reminds me of 1970s
Spare Rib
        man-hating,
                 chimes in another.

Everything is different now,
          a woman rushes to protest.

Things have changed.
         Men have improved,
                      a voice intones.

My son-in-law has always
helped with the kids and house,
          a woman declares.

The chorus subsides.

I draw breath.

Hey.

This is not about me.
It’s not personal.
It’s not sexual.

It’s what I know
is still going on.

The group is silent.

Women tell me their stories.
I watch their lives.
Read their struggles.
Count their defeats.

I listen to their confessions.
Hear their shame. Suffer
their unworthiness.

Then fingers crossed,
breath abated, I await
their anger: fuelling exit
and survival.

Delayed departure.
A kind of reprieve.

The prospect of lift-off.

val walsh / 2006

Public Domain

But wasn’t she asking for it?
Ah, the line in the sand.

She looked too good to you.
Too glamourous perhaps.
Too feminine, too ‘sexy’.

And beyond reach.

So wasn’t she asking for it?
Ah, the line in the sand.

She couldn’t be mistaken
for one of you. Boy or man,
with or without a beard.

Too ‘woman’, beyond reach.

Of course she was asking for it.
Ah the line in the sand.

She offered intelligence,
generosity, hard work.
She invited engagement,
cooperation. Respect.

She was asking for this,
in return, to be heard and
understood. A tacit request,
reiterated, denied.

Corrupted by your will
to possess and control.
Your latent desire,
posing as harmless

entitlement. You’re really
sexy when you are angry.

No, she wasn’t asking
for that. To be fingered

as if she were party food.
On offer. For consumption.

val walsh /  06 2013