“Thick words of gratitude, what a price to pay…Stuck in my throat, I sell every word I say”

Utah Phillips said “The long memory is the most radical idea in this country. It is the loss of that long memory which deprives our people of that connective flow of thoughts and events that clarifies our vision, not of where we’re going, but where we want to go”. Now we can take Utah as a man of his country or a man of his class. As an American or as an anarchist. The long memory is something we are all grasping at.

We, who have a history of struggle to draw on, but nothing firm to grip for our draw. Reaching, pulling, reaching, searching. There is a pain from our void and a cry from our anguish. Oxygen to a drowning woman, rushing, filling, soothing, stinging. We must breathe in our struggle. Absorb life into each cell.

We crave life.
We crave joy.
We crave release.
Each word, each line, each song, each novel. These are our footholds. Our handles. The pencils we have carved, from the roots of our pain, through the body of our blood, to the branches of our future. We carve our own tools. With these we can draw. Draw on a long memory. Sketch in our voids. Vividly painted in love, we see.
We see.

I see back to the women and men whose words I clung to, who bled poetry for me to drink in the dark. I feel for the women and men, whose calloused hands pulled me from under. I grasp and I cling.

They pull.
They sing to me. And I swim.
I swim.
I break through. I drink in the nourishment. The power and the joy. I float in the slipstream, their sunlight it warms. It wakes and it burns. It feeds, consumes and it burns. I can scream. I scream to my sisters and to daughters unborn. I run to my brothers, my son will be forewarned.

I see to the door. And I leave it just ajar.

And when the quiet comes I remember
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation”.
What Oscar awoke was acceptance, who knew it slept here?

“You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.”
This one was the quiet nod from across the room. Not silent, Bob, but knowing and watching, singing and strumming.

“We negotiate with chaos
For some sense of satisfaction
If you won’t give it to me
At least give me a better view”
And Ani. Dear, dear Ani. Bleeding pools into shadows on a cave wall.

But she who has held me so often, without, I would just fall. A beautiful rage, her Skin shining, a beacon to that door.

“I’d like to invite you
To this pretty little thing
Where the fruits of your labors
Are eaten by the queen
Yeah I’d like to bequest you
A seat with greedy boys
But I’m sorry,
I’ma stop you, at the door”


8 thoughts on ““Thick words of gratitude, what a price to pay…Stuck in my throat, I sell every word I say”

  1. Hi Sian Steans
    This is great: I love the way it’s a conversation with a real ideal reader that ripples out to become a poem and then back again. Call and response, dreaming of a dialectic and creating the conditions for a conversation. It’s knowing though, with very high expectations of what can be done. Have you read any of the writing of Traci Kelly? She’s a performance artist and sees writing as a political action connected to her work. She deals with women’s knowledges and how they can become real. Magic.

    • I don’t attend Rebel Women. I have childcare commitments on Thursdays and must make alternate arrangements one Thursday a month to attend trustee meetings and often other times for paid work too so such I have no desire to miss more time with my daughter for unpaid performance. This might be something to discuss with the women who do attend regularly. Many of them write also. And many of them may like the supportive sharing environment of Rebel Women to perform in. Not my bag though.

      • Ah! I was a parent with a young child once, twice. I know how that unpaid performance can mount up. Is that how you see Rebel Women? I thought the idea was that it was a great place (and thus a safe place and a creative place) to develop culture in Nottingham that’s missing. A piece in the jig saw.

      • I see it as a consciousness raising group. But if it starts to be a performance thing than that would change and I’d see it as unpaid performance which is fine if you need to perform and want to share your work and get feedback that way. Just not for me.

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