A Lefty Winter Tale

Reading Time: 1 minute

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Welcome to Ungagged’s first short story competition! We know our listeners are a creative bunch, so we thought we’d give you an opportunity to showcase your talent.

 

Theme: A lefty winter tale.

The theme is broad and can be interpreted however you feel – judges are looking for something original and well written that holds their interest.

 

Wordcount: No more than 2000 words

 

Deadline: 3rd January 2018

 

Entry: Pay as you feel. Suggested donation £2.50, but no one will be excluded because they can’t pay.

 Email your entry (in the body of the email, not as an attachment) to ungaggedleft@gmail.com with the subject “short story competition”, and send a donation for entry – if you can – to our Paypal

 

Prizes: The stories will be judged by a panel of Ungagged contributors.  The overall winner will appear on the site, win a £50 cash prize and have their story read out on the podcast. A shortlist of our favourites will appear on the Ungagged website, and may also appear on the podcast.

Prizes will be paid via paypal or cheque. There is no geographical restriction to this competition – anyone can enter and we will do our best to accommodate other currencies if the winner is outside the UK. We do ask, however, that entries are in English (or Raiphish!).

 

Technical stuff: You retain all rights to your work. Writing must be your own original work, which is not under an exclusivity deal and you are free to publish. By entering you agree having your story published on the Ungagged website and podcast.

 

Winner will be announced at the beginning of February

Advent

Reading Time: 1 minute
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Teresa Durran 

 

The inky dark December sky outside is punctured

Holed by a luminous moon, cold and full and bright.

But inside, there are three candles and eleven tea lights burning

There is peace, there is warmth, there is complete quiet.

 

Shifting currents below the surface are heralding something good

An almost imperceptible sense of motion quivering the air;

I sense a faint scent, a trace of a taste on the edge of my tongue,

The aroma of hope. A hint of something stirring. Something’s there.

 

Tantalising. Something deeply hidden is turning over,

Slowly but steadily, like a flower bulb moving below ground

To reach cold winter light far above. Like a mediaeval coin

Long buried in a field, waiting for the right moment to be found.

 

Spring is distant but all is not lost.

Sunlight always overwhelms frost

A Gift Comes Calling…

Reading Time: 3 minutes
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Neil Scott
This story also appears on Neil’s blog
As the scientists looked at each other in disbelief, outside their Lower Withington building across the street, Corey stood up, turned his head from side to side, stretched and took his first tentative steps in the 31 years he had been on planet earth.No one had ever wanted Corey, not even his mother, who had abandoned him on the steps of the Cathedral, just a mile or so away from the spot he sat every day in his wheelchair, begging for change. On the run up to Christmas people felt guilty. Those people who walked past him trying not to meet his eye, as he said, “Have a good day.” He could afford to eat something most days.

His usual day would be like nothing these people had ever experienced. His Christmas would usually be a fight for food, a bottle or two and a fusty mattress in a spike (he called it that name, laughing, because the others in the dosshouse had no idea what he was on about), and middle class liberals assuaging the guilt they had for voting for less tax and a massive “defence” budget, served food on their once a year penance; food the local supermarket usually threw into the skip that his hungry, misshapen bones wouldn’t let him reach.

It had been reported as a rock, around 400 metres by forty, “Oumuamua,” “The Messenger,” and it had shot past earth, steady, silent and faster than anything that had ever been recorded in the solar system. And the scientists heard the warming, comfortingly embracing noise in disbelief, as everyone did.

Report of “Alien Spacecrft,” December 2017 HERE

Corey wasn’t the only life changed when the signal enveloped the earth. Opaque eyes saw colour and faces for the first time and cacophony, orchestra and whispers vibrated auditory ossicles newly formed in old ears.

Jessica, whose life support had been switched off while her family wept around her hospital bed in Belfast, suddenly sat up and laughed. She was 97 years old, and wanted to dance and no one, not even those expecting her demise were going to stop her.

Five year old Michelle clicked her knees back into place and the screams of her mother stopped as she emerged from under the fifteen year old Ford Escort, driven by the suddenly sober Iain MacHick who hadn’t seen her run onto the road to try to catch her pink rubber bouncy ball. MacHick cried, and was glad he would never need alcohol again to feel equal to the task of living. Michelle had learned not to run onto the road. Her mother glared at MacHick, took her child by the bloodied, but uncut hand and walked away from death.

All over the world, sickness, illness, inabilities and disability disappeared.

John, who had always wanted to examine the stars ever since he first watched Power Rangers twenty-five years before this moment, cried as he read the message on his screen. It had affirmed the message in his head. The knowledge he had regained. The lost feeling, he had lived with all his life, a background noise that everyone had fought, grabbed, self-medicated and stolen for, to muffle. Screens across the world were carrying the same affirmation of what everyone all at once knew. The knowledge they would gain later had yet to filter to them and TV producers and directors puzzled over who had intercepted their signals and minds.

Tina and Kodi pointed at the interactive smart board in Mr Kumar’s class. Mr Kumar was explaining how to use a speech bubble, when the board seemed to switch itself on.

Most of the class of eight-year olds could read the message when it first flickered onto the screen. And then they all could, even Demi, who had never been able to read her own name.

Demi knew it was a Christmas Gift. A Gift from Santa, who Jack had said that morning didn’t exist. She knew he did and he had given her the gift of reading by switching on a part of her brain that she had until now, not explored.

No one panicked, and everyone in shops laughed at the stupidity of the money they no longer needed.

Debts disappeared as they all knew, suddenly, how ridiculous the notion that people owned things.

The world started to feed itself and heal, and the hoarders and those who had accrued billions of everything were forgiven as prisoners were. They had not known what they were doing. They had been forced into a system that really was absurd, sick and had nearly killed the world by mistake.

People rushed to ensure no belly was empty. The horror of the old system hit everyone at once and they became free.

And the message that came with the cure, the first contact, the reawakening, the resetting of Earth became a message they all understood from the second the long cigar shaped craft enveloped their senses as it sped through space towards other galaxies long forgotten and left in the cold.

“Welcome back to the Universe. Sorry we took so long.”

The Gift

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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Available FREE on iTunes and Podbean

We’ve a real gift of a podcast for you this episode, since “gift” was our theme. Of course, we didn’t all stick to the theme – this is Ungagged after all…

In this episode, Red Raiph will be retelling The Raven, Em Dehaney will be talking about Christmas gifts and not always getting what you want, Chuck Hamilton will be reading White Ribbons For Indy, an article written by the Ungagged collective, and later coming back to read his own piece, The Monkey Trap, Ola’s Kool Kitchen will be chatting about how white supremacists on social media fan the flames of hate and misinformation and Richie Venton will be back with the second part of his piece on the 1917 Russian Revolution. Paul Sheridan will be telling us all about the Diggers movement, Damanvir Kaur will be giving us the latest in the Free Jaggi campaign, and George Collins will be talking about the rise and fall of Empires.

We will also be hearing from Victoria Pearson, reading her short story The Clock Strikes Christmas, An Alternative Christmas Tale, and  Steve McAuliffe with his poem “Why is Tyranny a Dirty Word?”, Debra Torrance will be talking about the Gift of Hindsight, and Ruth Hopkins will be telling us exactly why we should be horrified at Trump referring to Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas”, and Derek Stewart Macpherson will be giving us a whole stockingful of of gifts, talking about the Gift of comedy, the gift of freedom, and the dubious “gift” Trump just gave Jerusalem.

We’ll have all of that, plus music from Blackheart Orchestra, Jackal Trades, David Rovics, Mullen, Joe Solo, Steve McAuliffe and The Mighty Ur, Argonaut,  Sharon Martin,  The Cundeez,  Gallows CircusThose Unfortunates, The Wakes,  Attila The Stockbroker, The Kara Sea, and Robb Johnson.*

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This episode was presented by Debra Torrance, Edited by Neil Anderson and produced by Victoria Pearson.

Neil Scott wasn’t able to be in this episode, but he still found time to write a gift for you. Check out his short story A Gift Comes Calling…

And Teresa Durran also just missed out on this pod, so has written a poem for you to enjoy, called Advent.

* All money from Merry Christmas One & All, the Single by Robb Johnson, will go to the Brighton Community Night Shelter & Sussex Homeless Support, so please buy if you can, for 79p, from iTunes

Get yourself Ungagged and let us know what you think of this episode in the comments, or on our twitter or Facebook.

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Ungagged is a not for profit co-operative, and we rely on the generosity of our listeners. If you’d like to donate us the cost of a newspaper or a cup of coffee, you can do so through PayPal here.

 

Steve McAuliffe & The Mighty Ur

Reading Time: 2 minutes
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Steve McAuliffe & The Mighty Ur

Back in early 2017, Steve McAuliffe (a regular performer of his own poetry on the Ungagged podcasts) set upon a quest to track down the legendary and mysterious musician, The Mighty Ur.
As he explained to the somewhat bemused website producer, V Pearson, the quest was triggered by a strange dream:
In the dream I saw a huge mouse-like man stood against a backdrop of rolling hills that seemed vaguely familiar, he was pointing at a nearby river, I remember the sound of its churning, rushing waters was almost unbearably loud. I also remember my dream-self thinking it must have sounded even louder to the mouse-man who possessed huge over-sized ears that rose above the crown of his head. Suddenly the day-time scene switched to night and the mouse pointed upward toward a star which was shining brightly in the darkened sky. I instinctively knew the star to be Sirius, and the body of water I believed was The River Ure in North Yorkshire. From my recent readings I was aware that the ancient Sumerians believed Sirius to be home to their pantheon of mighty gods, their capital city was known as Ur. The connection was made. I had heard that the infamous punk musician Andrew Monks had moved back to North Yorkshire, to a place called Leyburn (close to the Ure), and he had renamed himself ‘The Mighty Ur’. Upon awakening, I knew exactly what I had to do. I knew that I was destined to work with him on a musical project that could possibly change the world of poetical/musical collaboration for ever.
So a week later, when I arrived on his doorstep bearded, bedraggled and sopping wet from the waters I had swam across to reach him, I was not in the least bit surprised that he was expecting me. In fact, he had built a studio to record what he called;

‘Songs to tear down the prison walls and to liberate the mind’

The rest, I guess is …. Well, it’s a work in progress’.

 

So there you have it. The Mighty Ur’s mission is to tear down the walls and Steve McAuliffe’s mission is to rebuild Albion from out of the rubble.
From out of this necessary and hopefully complimentary tension they intend to birth a new kind of world, a kind of anarcho-utopia. This may sound ridiculous and hugely over-ambitious, but at the end of the day and in the midst of these strange times –
Well, who knows?

 

You can follow SteveMcAuliffe & The Mighty Ur on twitter

The double-a-side single: Albion Sleeps / Socialist Cortinas by Steve McAuliffe & The Mighty Ur is now available on iTunes, Spotify,  and many other platforms.
Their celebrated EP ‘rejecting Soma’ is also available on iTunes, Spotify and Bandcamp.
An album is rumoured to be in the works.
‘-Beneath the pavement, the beach!’

Gallows Circus

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Gallows Circus
Gallows Circus play blues-hearted, dirty, rock – inspired by the likes of; Led Zeppelin, Blackstone Cherry, Free, Reef, and Thin Lizzy. Creating original songs that induce head-nodding and chin-growth! All achieved by way of catchy riffs and vocal melodies, supported by a robust rhythm section that, once combined, will have you singing the songs for weeks after you’ve heard them.
Formed in Kent in the UK in October 2016, Gallows Circus have since worked on the contents of their self-titled, debut E.P. that was released at the end of 2017 to enthusiastic reception and critical acclaim.Although the band are a newly-formed entity, they are continually adding to thier set of original compositions and have already created the material needed for thier first studio album -which is due for release in 2018.

In the meantime, Gallows Circus are moving crowds with their sharp, gritty and memorable live shows, playing gigs up and down the country.

Have a listen on soundcloud, or follow on Facebook or twitter

The Blackheart Orchestra

Reading Time: 2 minutes
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The Blackheart Orchestra

The Blackheart Orchestra are a British singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist duo comprising long term collaborators Chrissy Mostyn and Richard Pilkington.

The band blend musical styles in a non-conformist way seamlessly sidestepping boundaries to create their unique classically driven, emotion-drenched music.
One moment their sound is minimalist and fragile weaving melodies and atmospherics with silence to create ethereal musical landscapes that leave audiences and critics describing their work as haunting, enchanting and captivating. Other times the pair create a mountain-like wall of sound using ancient synthesisers, electronic drums, acoustic, electric and bowed guitars and bass to create vast energetic symphonic climaxes. The band have drawn comparisons to Kate Bush, Ellie Goulding, London Grammar, Pink Floyd, Steve Reich and Ludovico Einaudi.

The pair have toured extensively in the UK, Australia and New Zealand and are touring with 60s legend Melanie Safka and Canadian songstress Jane Siberry before embarking on a headline tour of Europe in November.

“A great band”
Aled Jones BBC Radio 2
“Beautiful and powerful. their music is inspiring.”
Steve Hackett, Genesis
“Their music gives me the chills! So beautiful.”
Melanie Safka
“Utterly magical”
John Gilmore, BBC
“Absolutely beautiful”
Good Morning TV (New Zealand)
“They take their audience from heartbreaking to uplifting in a single song”
Western Star (Australia)
“The Blackheart Orchestra remind us why music lifts us up”
Dalton Delan, American Public Television (USA)
“The pair sound like an 8 piece band, incredible”
Sally Naden, BBC Radio
“Supremely gifted”
Nottingham Post
“Stunningly beautiful, this duo are on the fringe of true greatness”
Kensington and Chelsea Today, London
Find out more on their website, follow on Facebook, or listen to their new album ‘Diving For Roses’ on spotify, iTunes, or Amazon.
HELLO 2018!
We hope that you have all had an amazing Christmas and New Year.
We are really looking forward to getting back to the music and already have some
really exciting plans in place for 2018 starting next week with our UK tour which sees us visiting lots of towns and cities that we haven’t played for a while spanning from the Scottish Highlands to the Isle of Wight.
TOUR DATES
Jan 13 GOODLEIGH Village Hall
Jan 19 BBC Radio Lancashire (Live session)
Jan 25 MANCHESTER Rebellion (with Lifesigns)
Jan 27 SHREWSBURY Meole Brace Hall
Feb 2 RAVENSHEAD Music @ The Hall
Feb 5 HAWICK String Theory
Feb 15 CAMBRIDGE CB2
Feb 16 FRODSHAM Kingsley Community Centre
Feb 18 BIRMINGHAM Kitchen Garden Cafe
Feb 23 WIGAN Old Courts
Feb 24 STROUD Under The Edge Arts
Feb 28 LONDON Hope and Anchor
Mar 2 MANCHESTER Three Minute Theatre
Mar 3 MOLD Cilcain Hall
Mar 10 BEDFORD Cranfield Hall
Mar 16 EXETER Poltimore House
Mar 21 INVERNESS Ardersier Memorial Hall
Mar 23 KEITH King Memorial Hall
Mar 24 CLATT Village Hall
Mar 30 PORTMAHOMACK Carnegie Hall
Apr 6 CARDIFF Ocean Arts Centre
Apr 13 ISLE OF WIGHT Quay Arts Centre
Apr 14 SOUTHAMPTON Art House
Apr 27 EGREMONT Florence Arts Centre
Apr 28 LIVERPOOL 81 Renshaw

White Ribbons for Indy

Reading Time: 6 minutes
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This article was a collaborative effort by several Ungagged writers.

“It is incumbent upon each of us to be the woman that [killer’s name] wanted to kill.  We must live with this honor, this courage.  We must drive out fear.  We must hold on.  We must create.  We must resist. Andrea Dworkin (2007)

 

Online, in an increasingly polarised section of the internet called “the Yes Movement” (nationalists versus progressives/lefties etc… )  Men, and women, just a fortnight before the eighteenth anniversary a hate crime that shocked the world, were defending the strange position that Scotland does not suffer from sexism. In fact, some people outwardly stated that “gender was not a problem,” and that the feminists were going too far in asking for gender balanced panels at meetings.

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On December 6th 1989, a man decided that affirmative action (positive discrimination) in École Polytechnique in Montreal (a university in the city), was keeping him back in life.  He walked into an engineering class, where he lined up all of the women students and shot them, shouting, “I hate feminists…”

The fourteen murdered women were Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, and Annie Turcotte.

The murderer’s name doesn’t matter.  In fact I won’t be mentioning his name in this article.

In all we do to remember the injustices against women, be they small as exemplified in the online #everydaysexism hashtag, or in this terrible event and in the dreadful statistics that show our society has a problem with violence against women, we must remember these women had their lives cut short by a man who blamed them for his perceived loss of privilege.

Many people came into the Scottish twitter spat, #manelgate, saying they hated feminists (regardless of the adjective they used before the word),or saying they weren’t feminists, and they “saw men and women as equals.”  One of the panellists went as far as to say that people who were highlighting this issue were attacking him as a man.

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The chilling thing about this Twitter “conversation” this week, is that it mirrors debate and discussion in civic life in Canada before and after the awful event in Montreal.

On the lead up to that event, there had been an increasing reaction from some men on the legislative moves towards equality.  “Men’s rights” groups were springing up, as the campaign to give women equal rights and opportunities in society was in its infancy.

The killer’s suicide note, which in the weeks after the massacre had been withheld by Montreal police, was chilling.

“Would you note that if I commit suicide today it is not for economic reasons … but for political reasons,” it read. “Because I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker … I have decided to put an end to those viragos.”

He listed all of the aspects of life he thought women had taken advantage over him and other men.

In sum, the killer held feminists responsible for all of his personal problems, and had also made a list of women to be shot, including politicians and business women.

Some “intellectuals” and public discourse after the event, blamed the perceived victory of feminism as the cause.  And the word “veragos,” a word that had become prevalent in the discourse before the shooting, was used on occasions during debates in Canada about interventions in cases of domestic violence.

One of the masculinist rhetorical strategies to absolve the responsibility of the massacre from the killer to feminism, was to talk about a “feminist plot,” there are many examples of this across the internet (I recommend the research of Mélissa Blais), but one chilling quote from a piece by a Masculinist, Francois Brooks (1999) entitled “[Killers name] et les feministes,” says,

“On December 6, 1989, there were in fact 15 victims shot down by an insane idea introduced by an outrageous feminism. The idea that men are executioners and women the victims must be eliminated.  What’s needed is love, simply love. It would have taken women to love [killer’s surname], to save him and the fourteen others from the murderous idea engendered by the feminists.”

It was, according to Brooks and others,  women’s fault for not loving the killer that the killer murdered women.

We saw the same again in 2014, when a 22year old man killed 6 people and wounded 14 others, in Isla Vista, California. Again, we don’t need to state his name. He left a 100,000 word manifesto and a youtube video explaining his motivations, explaining that he wanted to punish women for rejecting him and that he envied sexually active men so he wanted to punish them for their sexual activity.  He stated in his manifesto that in his self-proclaimed ideal world, he imagined that he would;

“quarantine all [women] in concentration camps. At these camps, the vast majority of the female population will be deliberately starved to death.”

Once again commentators speculated that had more women loved him, been more friendly to him, given him the attention he wanted, he would not have committed his crime. When feminists and journalists tried to frame the motivations of the killer against a backdrop of a patriarchal society that tries to rob women of agency while shaming men who do the meet up with a stereotypical masculine ideal, they were shouted down on the basis that the killer murdered men too, and had mental health issues. The hashtag #NotAllMen was born.

Masculinism and meninism claims that there is a feminist conspiracy – feminists are hijacking their lives and organisations.  And this  discourse happened in Canada AFTER 14 women died at the hands of a masculinist. And happened once again AFTER a meninist had expressly stated that his reasons for going on a killing spree were that he didn’t feel women were giving him what he was entitled to.

Psychologist, Patrizia Romito arrives at the following definition of the ideology implicit in blaming the victims and the whitewashing of male violence and misogyny;

“[A] set of concepts and beliefs grounded on a distortion of reality and conceived, sometimes unconsciously, for the sole purpose of protecting the interests of the dominant group, in this case, the perpetrators of violence.”  Furthermore, she writes, “to protect these interests, blaming the victims may turn out to be insufficient; in some cases punishment must be dealt out.”

The killers have been heroized by masculinist groups and individuals. Heroizing takes three main stages, “first to be known and accepted, any hero must carry out actions.” Second he must be officially confirmed, whether by a government, a group of admirers, or a population. Finally, “he must be institutionalized, that is given institutional status to ensure his immortality.”(Julie Perone 2007).  

The Montreal massacre is well known, and is commemorated every year in a series of events across Canada and indeed the world. And there has been attempts by men in articles and in ceremony, to legitimise and celebrate what he did as “understandable,” and a tactic worthy in a perceived fight against feminism.  The killer has in turn been excused by pseudo psychologists and the press in Canada, almost, in some masculinists eyes, taking on the mantel of a martyred hero for the cause.

 

 Nicole Brossard, a writer, stated,

“Reading La Presse and Le Devoir, … I have wondered if [killer’s name] will soon have received more sympathy than his dead and injured victims.”

 

Micheline Carrier (2002) says,

“Each week, women are murdered for motives similar to those of [killer’s name], that is, the inability to let women determine their own lives and become full members of society… The “fathers lobby” downplays domestic violence and, ignoring reliable data, claims that the violence of women against men is equal to if not greater than the violence of men against women. Some men believe that recognition of a right for women results in the loss of rights for them. These people demand legislative changes that would limit the rights of women and endanger women and children living in a violent environment.”

 

I am not suggesting there is a masculinist/meninist in Scottish society who is about to kill women because of Yes groups being called out for the gender inequality that seems to be prevalent in the groups and their public meetings, but I am suggesting some men need to look at the language they used during that discourse, and how easily some played the victim card, and were in turn given sympathy. 

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Screenshot_20171203-160912Screenshot_20171203-163241.jpgOur words have power, perhaps greater power than we mean them to, and we should be mindful of how that power is directed.

A society that has 51% women can no longer make excuses as to why women are excluded from political and other civic discourse.  We need to be looking for solutions.  Some of these crowdfunding, victim blaming speakers would do well in standing aside or refusing to sit on a platform that is at the very least, not gender balanced. Society is skewed, violently, in favour of men in many ways (WASPI women being one of the latest to hit the headlines, the disproportionate effect of Universal Credit sanctions on pregnant women another).

Women’s voices need to be heard, promoted and normalised as part of public discourse and women need to feel safe and confident they will be heard, not demonised, or worse for speaking out and taking their rightful place in a society that has a long way to go to be equal. We can do better than this. We should be doing better than this.

If this has led you to reflect on what you could be doing better, or just inspired you to do more to stand against misogyny and violence against women, we’d encourage you to look up the White Ribbon Campaign which was set up in response to the Montreal massacre,  who aim to address men directly – so they understand the scale of the problem, and become part of the solution, alongside women.

Umbrae

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Teresa Durran 

You can’t run away from ghosts. They’re too sly for that.

They slip and slide after you, seeping through cracks

In your consciousness. That grey silence just before dawn

Where your fears rush in and create a gap?

That’s their favourite place. Their space.

 

Throw yourself into your work. Go on.

Add hours to your day, have a full calendar.

They don’t and won’t care. They’ll just stay,

Half formed, opaque, happy to delay

You have to pause for breath sometime, don’t you?

 

They know this. They know you better than you care to believe.

Paused between dream and day, between think and say

They’ll find you. At your lowest, they’ll remind you

Of all the memories and fears you thought

You’d so cleverly left behind you.

 

Try this. Welcome them in. Face them down.

Stop, and slowly turn to gaze directly in their eye.

Say ‘hi, come on then, I’m here, do your worst’.

Say ‘is that all you’ve got?’. Because it will be. Burst

the spectre of fear. It isn’t scary at all if you soak it with love