Day 15 (9 December 2010)
This poem forms part of the We Are Here series, a collection of 16 poems by Antonio Lyons that look at gender violence from a male perspective.
In a flash.
I stood outside myself watching myself.
Half-filling the doorway of this too small room.
A sheet stretched across a nothingness of space seeking privacy on the other side of the divide. Shallow light casts a dim ray from a lonely bulb and years of grime that layers the windows.
She sat on the floor half in shadow cradling two half-formed lumps of flesh to her breast.
She cried silent tears interrupted by soul-searing wails. Each note heralding a new life of everlasting torment.
The slippery red marks like crudely drawn pinstripes show the path the man had travelled as he was dragged from this too small space.
Finally, his justice measured out in kind, but too late.
I stared at her through eyes that could not hide their hatred, disgust and hollowness.
Echoes of who I should have been rang dull against my ears.
And I watched me, scales reflected in my eyes passing judgment...upon judgment…upon this woman…this mother…this wife…this vilest of creatures. I shuddered at this other me that passed this sentence wishing that death would follow her as swiftly as it had her children…consuming them in a violent instant.
They will never breathe again or exhale laughter with the great billowing sound that made their sides ache.
I judged her, because her children were dead and she did nothing…nothing.
She sits there cradling their lifeless bodies to the breast that feeds them and arms that held them and a will that was not strong enough to protect them.
She says she could do nothing. That he was too strong and that she had nowhere to go and that she was afraid for her life and, and, and, and, and.
And I want to strike her and force her to open her eyes and look upon their still faces, bodies still flush with warmth.
But I can’t and I won’t because the key which she keeps carries a sentence that will brand her soul forever. She has learned too late that her inaction was action, and their deaths are equally her burden to carry.
My conscious plucks at me at this harshness and begs me to review the case.
To place my soul in her stead.
To drape myself in her feminine skin.
To wear the burden of her sex.
And I gaze less harshly broadening my scope. There were others that should be on trial here. Those who were neighbours, and family and friends who said nothing.
In their silence, they added a blow or two to the horror that ended these young lives.
My hands stroke the walls that define this place and feel the breaths of those on the other side. Lives shared through walls the thickness of onion skin carry this burden as well. I stomp my foot, and the floor and ceiling shake, echoing the torment boxed in these cubed hovels. I know with the certainty of time that they all bore witness to the slow murders. They turned a deaf ear to children’s screams and a mother’s silent whimpering and earnest prayer.
Countless casually observed lives, pain artfully ignored and turned as carefully away as a lover’s roll in a fit of snoring. Rolled and rolled until the abyss claims yet more innocents and we all sleep more peacefully.
I watch her sitting on this thin floor covered in dust bunny memories and missed opportunities that scatter at the force of her grief and I shed a tear for those two small still lumps cradled to her breast.
Anger overcomes me and I begin to hammer at the paper-thin walls. On the other side they try to tape together the fragments of their guilt. But my anger is too much and their multitude of hands are not fast or strong enough to keep my determination at bay. I push upon ceilings and stomp through floors until there is only us clinging to the framework of this untrue structure.
She sits balanced on a beam clutching a babe in each arm. She reminds me of the scales of justice. A sorry sight indeed. She cries no more, but her moans still persist. That will never end. Her offspring will never rise and she shall carry on, but never forget.
There are so many perched. Heads bowed the weight of their shame heavy on their shoulders. I see clearly that this is where we must begin. Here in this skeletal state with nothing lying between us but pain and hope.
In the face of this paid price of death, we can begin again. We can construct something new and firm on this foundation.
Feel the breeze blow honestly across your face?
It is time to build…again.