Gone midnight and I needed somewhere to press reset
Eardrums still reverberating, my mood was all wrong.
One moment was high alert, the next anger and disbelief.
What could be calmer than a graveyard? Natural shadows
from trees were a balm to a country girl who'd felt welcome
until tonight. I was used to being told it wasn't a girl's job,
heard the same banter many times over, but never been touched,
groped or assaulted until now. It's just a moment's lapse.
Instead of being first to leave, I'd mis-judged by seconds
and bunched with a crowd. Fool me once... I'd not leave my job.
I would still do what I loved. But I needed to hit stop
and refuse to rewind. Refuse the post-mortem of blame.
This wasn't my fault. The rustle of leaves reassured me.
The graves remind me history doesn't stop even if life does.
The noticeboard's Cyrillic script looks like the scrawled notes
I'd made to write my review from. A deadline looms.
But for now I have St George's Churchyard, its ambience
whispers that I can slay that dragon, I will survive tomorrow.
Diary from Holloway Jail February 1907
(Alice Hawkins 1863-1946; suffragette, wife to Alfred, mother to 6)
6am the prison is holding its breath:
those moments before the electric lights click on.
Muscle-memory folds the two rough blankets
over the flat pillows and counterpane
while we clean and stretch out the night's cramps.
Breakfast is invariably a pint of tea and brown loaf.
Why is an equally-experienced and educated widow
and parent paid less than a childless man?
I couldn't find an answer in the Trade Unions
who didn't think of women as breadwinners.
I worked and worked but if anything happened
to Alfred, my work was worthless.
8am Chapel 10am Exercise Even damp
air is welcomed. Talk is banned so one
can only watch and guess another's crime.
Some have babies. Imagine being born
in a cage. Will they learn to sing?
11am back in cells until dinner:
haricot beans and potatoes
or pressed meat and potatoes
or suet pudding and potatoes
all with brown bread.
Refused entry when Winston Churchill
spoke at Leicester's Palace Theatre.
Alfred had to speak for me.
Without my vote, how can a politician
stand on a democratic platform?
4pm Tea is a pint of cocoa
and loaf of brown bread.
I was told, "Get back to your family."
One son joined the Army, another the Navy.
Both could vote, but me, the woman
who brought them into the world,
how could I have no say?
8pm Lights off I stretch on a mattress
where you feel everything and ache.
Room just a degree too cold to soften
the course weaves and welcome sleep.
Fresh bruises to count in the morning.
- Emma Lee