I wrote the poem Lesbians partly in light of my own experiences as a gay woman, but also partly in response to the Clapham Common incident of Saturday 13th March 2021 (involving an ill-advised and ill-judged ‘police crack-down’ on a public mourning/women’s rights event in the United Kingdom) and the increasing feelings of dread and uncertainty that many women currently experience. The reason that women are feeling less sure of their futures, I believe, is due to an insidious rise in violence against women and girls in recent years, and also the many losses women have faced during the last few years – particularly during the coronavirus pandemic of the last year – to things such as their incomes, livelihoods and sense of security. This is well-documented in national statistics, and likely global statistics, too. Why is it that when the economy suffers, women are so too often the first casualties?
The poem below, while focusing mainly on lesbianism, does reference feeling the need to ‘hide’ behind a door, the persona contemplating ‘entering a long sleep’ and worrying she has ‘had her time’ by twenty-nine years of age. Sarah Everard, the lady killed recently on the streets of London and who the Clapham Common vigil was created to commemorate, was only thirty-three at the time of her murder. So there are darker themes at play in this poem. At what age does a woman or lesbian feel that she is ‘past her prime’, or at heightened risk of malicious crime against her, and why does she feel like this? There is an intense feeling of ‘threat’ within the poem, of the persona struggling to know which way forward is safe. I believe this is a common feeling among women and girls at this present time in our society. By the end of the poem, the persona has not offered us a conclusive and definitive way for her own lesbian to carve her own path forwards, and so we are left wondering what might happen to the persona. In many ways, there are many women in a similar situation right now, scared of their futures and wondering which way forward is safest to them.
It goes without saying that most of the women gathered at the Clapham Common vigil on Saturday 13th March 2021 are unlikely to be lesbian-identifying women, however this is by-the-by. This poem merges both my own experiences as a lesbian woman and my strong feelings in response to the Clapham Common incident of Saturday 13th March 2021.
You can read the poem Lesbians below. This poem is copyright Amy Tollyfield 2021.
Thank you for reading. Hopefully we can find a way forward for women and girls in this country to make them feel and genuinely be safer, however at this point in time it is unclear what that journey will look like, and there will be need to be serious systemic changes to the way we run our society first.
All best to you and yours,
Amy Tollyfield xx
Sunday 14th March 2021
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