The Abortion Dress

With all the focus on the possible striking down of Roe vs Wade, I thought I would perform my poem The Abortion Dress from my collection, The Mouth Of Eulalie. The poem is in the voice of my character Juliette but speaks pretty strongly to my first abortion. I’ve been lucky enough to live in countries where abortion is legal when I needed one (twice). I also lived in a country where it wasn’t legal, which was pretty scary.

My first experience wasn’t smooth sailing however as the NHS doctor I saw first treated me pretty badly (called me a stupid girl) so rather than having it on the NHS I paid Marie Stopes. They were as awesome as a provider could be in the circumstances.

You can order my collection at the following link: https://www.bluediode.co.uk/product-page/the-mouth-of-eulalie-by-annie-brechin-isbn-9781915108012

First poem in a long time

On borrowing my mother’s swimsuit – Suffolk, 2021

O warbler, calling from the soft
and sodden marsh, tell me it’s not true
that even newly blubbered I cannot fit
neat as a cherry pit in this
blue and yellow flowered suit

Once thin as the reeds of the beds I was
but the lockdown put paid to that
and now I snap lycra on stretchily
over swelling boobs and even more secretly
that strip of cloth that once covered her vulva
covers mine now

the slit of my becoming
and the slit of my being
fused by this nest of cloth

The Bellringing Poet: What’s Keeping Me Busy In Lockdown

I’ve had a lot of trouble concentrating this last period of lockdown. Whereas I wrote almost a whole book in the first lockdown, and read a library of poetry and prose, I am struggling to do anything more than doomscroll in my spare time – and sleep, which without the exercise to tire me out leads more often than not to some crazy dreams.

But I have been somewhat productive in a couple of areas. Firstly, my aunt recently became President of a charity in France called Cancer Support France – Languedoc. They aim to help those anglophones suffering in the region by providing emotional and practical support. You can find out more about them here: https://csflanguedoc.com/

CSF-L are a growing organisation and as such have a lot of processes that require documenting. With my Ops background I volunteered to help them with this project, and have had a lovely time speaking with their volunteer staff to put together some hopefully useful documents. This has saved money they might otherwise have to spend on consultants, and also allowed me to keep my hand in with some customer journey analysis.

The second area is bellringing – for those who don’t know, I am indeed an enthusiastic campanologist. As well as running regular Monday night practices on the virtual platform Ringing Room, I’ve now agreed to come on board with a Scottish Association working group looking at recovery post-Covid. It’s a broad topic and we have some specific challenges here in Scotland, but I’m very excited to work on it. More information on the Scottish Association and on bellringing can be found here: https://www.sacr.org/

A Covid Poem

The year we watched the death tolls rise

I read some books, I stayed inside

I worked from home, I watched some films

I skyped my family from the realms

of my four walls – each week we said

Thank God none of us have had it yet

I wore a mask out to the shops

I panic-bought, but not a lot

On the news an old man couldn’t buy eggs

I cried the eyes out of my head

For him and all the others shielding

Later Bake Off and Noel Fielding

Soothed my anxious brain to numbness

But still the thought that I had done less

Than I could have to help others

Kept me restless between the covers

My drinking grew steadily out of hand

Some nights, well, I could barely stand

The mornings cracked on like a whip

As I tried to forget all of it

Poems no solace, nor was sex

Yet I couldn’t say I was depressed

The fugue was blanketing but hope

Remained there like an outflung rope

I called my friends, I hugged my partner

I tried to my hardest to remember

I was lucky – I survived

The year we watched the death tolls rise.

For Louis on his balcony, en ecoutant du jazz

This is one of several poems I wrote simultaneously in French and English. You can choose which version you prefer.

Monaco sun

over impossible blue bay

 

Soleil monégasque

sur une baie de bleu impossible

 

if those moored yachts

were my vertebrae

 

si ces yachts amarrées

étaient mes vertèbres

 

you could run your fingertip down them

 

tu pourrais glisser ton doigt là-dessous

No two seas own

the same colour

 

Aucunes mers possèdent

la même couleur

 

the mediterranean’s got

a golden glint

 

la méditerranée porte

un lueur d’or

 

like a pirate’s tooth

Flash me that smile

 

comme une dent de pirate

Jette-moi cette sourire

 

Even my bone’s marrow tenses

against your absence

 

Même ma moelle osseuse se tend

contre ton absence

 

restless tides pulled

to a distant moon

 

marées inquiètes attirées

par une lune distante

 

invisible in brilliant daylight

 

invisible dans un soleil brillant

What’s New, Pussycat?

So I thought I’d try and update this old site and make something shiny and sparkly new as I am trying to find a publisher for my next pamphlet. First order of business is the excellent news that I have four poems in the new Spring 2020 issues of Poetry Wales. Thanks a million to Jonathan Edwards for choosing them. You can pre-order your copy here: https://poetrywales.co.uk/product-category/current-issue/

What else is new? Well since, 2015 which is when I think my last post was, quite a lot!! I’ve moved to Edinburgh, done a Masters in Screenwriting and started a job at University of Edinburgh. It was sad to leave Dubai but it was the right time. I’ll never forget the great times I had in the sandpit.

In memory of Dubai, here is my poem We Live In Water, which was published in the now-defunct Hinterland magazine:

We Live In Water

 

Dubai is merpeople

in neon fringed bikinis

 

no tails required

slick-skinned revellers

 

flitting between pool and plage

to finish in chromy towers

 

where we swallow as much

as we swim in…

 

Don’t tell me you don’t want

our poolside passionfruit vodka

 

don’t tell me you don’t want

our beaches that turn to nightclubs

 

our limitless champagne brunch

I won’t believe you

 

I never believed you

that’s why I came

Gilead rising

Last night another excellent evening of poetry from the PUNCH collective, and this afternoon the horrendous news that the US House of Representatives has voted to pass a bill which would ban federal funding for abortions. Dubai is no liberal paradise, and it’s true here (more than ever after the Charlie Hebdo attacks) that one can’t speak one’s mind regarding religion or those things that religion deems sacred – which unfortunately seems to include ownership of women’s bodies by someone other than them. It’s equally true that in Dubai not only abortion but sex outside marriage is illegal. However, no one is holding Dubai up as an example of liberty and democracy. Land of the free and home of the brave it is not – and has never claimed to be.

The United States on the other hand does make this claim, frequently, loudly, and with increasingly little evidence to back it up. The erosion of women’s rights over the last year or so has been horrific. Can we blame this on Christian fundamentalism? Or can we consider it as a knock-on effect of the economic crisis? As unemployment continues to be an issue, is there the implicit idea that not only immigrants but women are taking jobs that should be the preserve of (white, straight) men? I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that women’s rights are once again in danger in the US just as racist anti-immigration policies rear their ugly heads all over Europe. They are the left and right hands of the same fear.

Going back to last night, one of the readers was the slam poet Sarah Saleh. I’m not always a big fan of slam-style poetry. When badly done it can rely too heavily on style over substance, and political pot-stirring merely for the shock factor, without any serious or novel engagement with the matter at hand. I’m happy to say Sarah’s well-constructed piece on violence against women avoided this hubris. One particular line really tore at my heart, and I’ll try and paraphrase it here (apologies but I can’t remember the exact wording): something like “when the War on Women is treated as seriously as the War on Terror”.

There is a war on women, on all women and it’s still going on, in developed countries as much as undeveloped. There are those who claim to wage war against terrorists in the name of freedom who are consistently eroding the freedoms of 50% of their population. Those in power want to stay in power – and whether the threats they perceive are internal or external, as today’s vote is just another example, they will act with the same ruthlessness against both.

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire

I just found this poem in some old emails. Enjoy.

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire

It rescues the photographs
crumpled, fading
washed with sunlight
til they are sea-green invisible
smaller unframed
like the kids who inhabit them.

It rescues the notebooks
not those elegant with poems
but the ones chiefly shopping lists
maps drawn by hand
telephone numbers
long ago doctors’ appointments.

It rescues receipts
for milk, butter, oranges
somebody’s train ticket
scoops them out carefully
from the battered old pedal bin
uncreases them.

Souvenir teatowels
at the back of the drawer.
A forgotten scarf
on the hallway cupboard floor.
Pudgy clay ornaments
shaped by playschool hands.

The dear routine. The detritus
of normalcy. It resuscitates the goldfish.
It reconstitutes a lifetime.