Stages of Women’s Mental Health
In the final poetry workshop run by Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola, the group discussed perinatal mental health, and looked at the painting Mother and Child at Breaking Point by Maureen Scott that features in The Four Ages of Woman exhibition. The group looked closely at the imagery, specifically the background, considering how it represents and emphasises the stress felt by the mother and child (read our blog post about perinatal mental health here).
to be loved is to be watched
how do you know you’re still here
if nobody tells you?
by night, you writhe and curl
into perfect boxes
hand your body over
in pieces through the screen
the evening slips away
like a cement bucket off scaffolding
maybe you’ll kill someone who
isn’t looking up (who isn’t looking for answers from above)
you count the man down
and he sputters it out
you become perfect, formless
and then all at once
when you regained consciousness
the woman offered you a bar of chocolate
your friend made a joke about how you always
stole her limelight.
the two of you sat giggling
nervously in the waiting room
where they had asked you to wait
in case it happened again
no more heart break diet.
when you explain you’ve lost your appetite
and they say silver linings
you do not laugh and agree
no more contortion,
no more negation
it did happen again
and as you fell to the floor
the ropes that had wrapped around
your waist this time
to keep your body in place
let us crash from our attics
to the lowest floor of ourselves
our every atom splits
as we touch the ground
let us show them what new means
who our limbs belong to
let us forget them carefully
let us let them know
who knows how to destroy
and what comes after.
The Castle of Adolescence to Womanhood
My castle stood strong, so long
towering over green pastures
off more than I could count or contain
damage gradually settled in,
leaks dripped from my eyes, unseenwitheffect.
I wish I’d made time to restore my inner walls and build a fort
thick and firm with a watchtower to combat future attacks
and defend against enemy insecurity that had sieged, then
Stormed in, firing cannons loaded with lack of confidence
flaming arrows lit with lack of self-belief
alongside an ally army that revelled in stealing hopes and dreams.
It took many years of rebuildingLet us rage against our inner enemies.
but my castle, newly restoredLet us vanquish our voice of negativity.
is more resilient and beautifulLet us hold our turrets high in radiance.
than it could have been before.Let us never forget that we are enough.
One day, I entered the millennial republic without noticing it, slipping in a second at a time. Feet first and then every inch of me, until I was stuffing avocado into my face each day of the week. In the park, I sit in the sun surrounded by Yoga with Adrienne and French bulldogs. I sit in the sun - protected by factor 50 to guard against fine lines - but its light does not show me the path to an affordable home