A State of Undress

by Saoirse Maxwell

I refuse to wear it.
That badge of shame,
you shackle me with.
The one that stifles
and kills slowly,
you cannot look
Unflinchingly into the light.

I do not welcome this yoke.
Cannot bear its weight.
It belongs to you.
You who must hold the secrets,
the shames.
See no evil.
Hear no evil.
Speak no evil.

You heard the anguished cries of
naked children late at night
in a suburban backyard.
You saw the trail of blood and bruise.
And you there?
Doctor. Lawyer. Priest. Garda. Neighbour.
You soothed battered man, broken woman
and patched them up again
To take it.
Again, and again, and again.

How dare you punish me.
Squash me for telling what I see.
What I hear.
The blows upon face,
backside, legs and ears.
Ears swollen and ringing,
Blood and tears mingling.
Bruises tingling.

I will not stay silent for the
boy who became killer.
For the siblings who turn in
embarrassment, shame.
Unable to
speak for fear.
Of what?

So, you know my terrors.
A father's hand upon budding breasts,
Knickers hidden beneath a 12-year-old's pillow.
The long nights.
The stumble in the doorway,
the creak of floorboard and stairs.
And my shames?
The baby lost.
The drinks drunk.
The reach for man, after man,
after man,
to soothe that crave for love.
For respect.
For equality.
To be heard.

And you can cite 'alleged' all you care.

Tell that to my husband who accompanies
me to my places of terror.
When I, his wife, his lover, his friend,
flinch at his touch, at his smile.
His sweet voice.
Thinking husband was father.
Sex was love.

My mother bore that same yoke.
And she bore it.
And wore it.
She swathed it 'round shoulder,
and in the tremble of her lips.
In doing so she allowed the monster free travel.
To prey upon the weak, the suffering.

I cannot cross the threshold to murder.
Unexplained life and death by her sole caregiver.

You can close your doors and bar your windows.
Even mute your phones.
But can you deny that cloak at night?
When darkness and silence hits.
And body and thoughts settle into slumber.

The walls, they weep, you see.

I have cried my demons out as child, as adult.
It is you wear the cloak.
And yoke.
Not I.

I carry the gold of soulmate, child and friends.
Its blinding light balm to my past.
My hope for the truth.
And the secret out.


World Elder Abuse Awareness Day UN Declaration of Human Rights European Year for Active Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity Towards a Society for All Ages