they seek to harm it, here
cover yourself, for you will be seen
do not go out, daughter, be still
you will not be sacrificed today
not in the darkness, never in the dark
for how will they see it?
daughter, your flesh has grown
how, so much of it, will we hide?
darkness’ shawl is not enough
daughter, your flesh is glowing in the dark
I will sing a very old song
thick like war, like grief
from our dead, this gift
a song to cover up the sun
birds will think it is always night
we will have the stars in cactus blooms
always safe your female flesh
which used to darkness, has begun to glow
‘Here, my love, listen.’
Here, my love, listen.
The sculpted dish of the human ear
still fills with cries
from a road where the blood
stayed for many days.
The people come slowly out
of their hiding places to collect
the scarves, the purses,
the hand-painted signs,
so many voices broken away
from frozen-open mouths.
Here where all the doors are closed
the woman turns herself
sideways to slide through the slit
of hope, the woman strips off
her shadow and stands perfectly
before the crowd.
Then she begins to sing.
Here where the spirit
becomes flesh and a million
dead sweat beside you,
the borders dissolve
with the bruised skin.
Here there is no separation.
Entering the new age
every weapon but the hand
thrashing a guitar.
And the voice, the unruly voice,
raising its riot
When all the passions are at last spent
They lead out the mother martyrs
Who honestly have the most to lose
Having regurgitated soul, heart and brains
At some earlier stage, having sent a pigeon-chested
Yellow parcel of skin forth into the dung.
They are more parts water than anyone else:
Tears rush to blur their eyes at the smells of
Jasmine, milk, meadowsweet, bread.
Every night they fight a constricting doubt
Winding itself about their neck, chewing, pawing
Severing important arteries and nervous structures:
Every night in their sleep they are closer to dying
Than the rest, because with one act they have become two
And they perceive their own death always from outside
As a halving, a terrible halving, with a sharpened sword.
Inside it are the most beautiful animals of all.
The most dangerous animals.
The most vulnerable animals.
The ones with the most coloured plumage.
The ones with stripes.
The ones with the loudest songs.
Outside it are the ones who might be hurt.
Our eyes are burned by colour.
Our flesh is torn by claws.
Our ears are troubled by the untrammelled
cacophony of nature.
Our cameras –
In the dust of the enclosure, in the pen,
the caged cat paces, darkly miraculous
inside her suit of cat skin.
The squid-woman swims oblivious in light and water.
Behind the wall, the rhino nurses her infant,
innocent even of her horn.
Avoid Using the Word ‘Pussy’
feminists it’s time to become angry
again! gingerbread women break your
fists when they say
the punk rock girl band / stop bitching
whose name we can’t say / i call them bitches
on morning television / because they are bitches
three strumpets who will / holy mary mother of god
be pardoned soon
the girls are sinners, they’ve made their
choice against christ & real madonna
what pussies, when riots?
but which of you weren’t always angry –
who listened / stop bitching
little heart elbow patches
are used only because
they’re hard to take seriously.
everyone can be pussy riot?
but why presume / stop bitching
but the struggle as its own apart
but the struggles together.
the trampled tents laughing
i hate i despise / the empty church
& do not respect
your festivals / what if we had two
hundred thousand years more of this
& if you are not angry from before
these times / what riots
will you have had enough / stop
will you stop? pussy like most slang terms
(see also: cunt) an endearing name
for a girl / do not endear
when riots are / which anger is this
Kiran Millwood Hargrave
for Lady Macbeth
I wish that children came
easy as a lie.
That blood came, dropped like
so many seeds
It’s as if someone has
sewn me up.
So I took the handle of a knife
and split a slit.
Finally blood, for all the
months I missed.
Imagined a pomegranate
Imagined a girl her flesh
was blue and sad
imagined a boy his hair
was black like mine
imagined myself stretched
scream-open and alive.
It took five hours to
stitch me up.
They left my hands red
so as not to forget.
All profits from both the Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot e-book and print on demand copies will go to the Pussy Riot Legal fund and the English PEN Writers at Risk Programme.
Visit English PEN’s Poems for Pussy Riot project page.
Read some of the Pussy Riot poems on English PEN’s website.
Visit EngPussyRiot’s live journal.