Bonfire Night by Debi Crow

Bonfire Night

Paper flies to the fire.
Hair stings. Fingers gather up
a posy, a coin, a string.

The star burns down
to unreadable ashes.
The harvest swings at my hip.

The estuary wind sucks my skirt.
Water meets earth
with a whooshing hymn.

They splinter my door,
brutal and wary,
clattering into my room.

I have no cunning.
I am barely wise,
and definitely not a devil.

Yet here I am;
no more than driftwood,
and much too damp to kindle.

Ā 

Inspiration for the Poem:

An extract from Gyn/Ecology by Mary Daly:

European Witchburnings: Purifying the Body of Christ

Just as social historian Baroja has recourse in the end to feeble psychologizing so also does moralist WEH Lecky in his two-volume History of European Morals. He writes revealingly (in the sense of unveiling and re-veiling at the same time) of the conditions that drove some witches to suicide:

In Europe the act was very common among the witches, who underwent all the sufferings with none of the consolations of martydom.

Without enthusiasm, without hope, without even the consciousness of innocence, decrepit in body and distracted in mind, compelled in this world to endure tortures, before which the most impassioned heroism might quail, and doomed, as they often believed, to eternal damnation in the next, they not unfrequently killed themselves in the agony of their despair.

This is a perfect description of the condition to which the lords of patriarchy desire to see defiant women reduced. It is an announcement of androcratic intent. How would Lecky know that the witches were “without even the consciousness of innocence”? The expressions “decrepit in body” and “distracted in mind” are deceptive because not accompanied by any description of the christian torturers’ methods.

On the following page, this “historian of morals,” having admitted the fact of unspeakable torture of witches, actually manages to write that “epidemics of purely insanesuicideā€¦not infrequently occurred.” Lecky here refers specifically to the women of Marseilles and of Lyons. He then goes on:

In that strange mania which raged in Neapolitan districts from the end of the fifteenth to the end of the seventeenth century, and which was attributed to the bite of the tarantula, the patients thronged in multitudes towards the sea, and often, as the blue waters opened to their view, they chanted a wild hymn of welcome, and rushed with passion into the waves.

By naming this phenomenon a “mania” and failing to note the significance of the dates, Lecky makes its meaning invisible to most readers. Hags, however, knowing something about the history of The Burning Times, can see that this was a completely sane decision. Multitudes of women rushed into the sea, precisely because they refused to be “patients” for the witch doctors/torturers and chose to be agents of the one Self-affirming act possible under the Reign of Infernal Justice.

The words of the hymn , according to Hecker’s Epidemics of the Middle Ages (London, 1844), are:

Take me to the sea
If you are willing that I be healed,
To the sea, to the way
Thus does my lady love me,
To the sea, to the sea,
While I live, I must love you.

End extract.

by Debi Crow

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Only She Remembers by Debi Crow

It’s inevitable
He’ll deny everything, of course he will
He wasn’t even there, he’s never seen her before
He only bought her a drink, and then
the silly bitch drank too much, didn’t she?

He wasn’t even there, though, so, you know, I don’t know
What are you going to do? Accuse
him of something? He’s never seen you!
What are you going to do? What are you going to do?

choke, stab, choke, stab, choke, stab, choke, stab…
There is a life in there, but where, but where, he
pulled it out and laid it in the air
Stretched it over the bonnet of his car
and rode her, bragging into her hair…

Telling of the affair, and pulling at her hair, until
she’s choked and stabbed and Only She Remembers.

by Debi Crow

Poem by Debi Crow

Youth is innocence
Age is beauty
If we can age in our
own bodies, in our own
skin
Unaltered, unadulterated, untouched
by the dogmas of patriarchy,

We can truly subvert.

That ageing in ourselves and as our Selves is an act of subversion
is perverse, but
subversion it is, and
subvert we must.

I subvert and we subvert.
We re-fuse, and re-
wire, re-connect and
re-define

beauty.

by Debi Crow