I wrote an article recently about the tragedy which occurred a few days ago in Martin Place, and the heartwarming trend it inspired, I’ll Ride With You. While waiting for a response, and wondering whether it would be published, I realised I had still more to say, and that I wanted to share it on my own terms. Here is the resulting poem.
An All-Admission Ride
Come ride with me. Come into the dark.
Outside, men with guns write the headlines.
Take away the guns. Men with bruised fists write
the headlines; come ride with me.
Men with rape between their legs,
men with comet-bright careers and a trail of bodies
behind their lives. Not all men, some say. Enough men,
say the rest. Violence is its own gender
and it keeps breeding; on our buses, in our streets
our pubs our schools our homes our headlines.
Come ride with me, take my hand and hold it
when they spit Arab cunt at my face,
and go back to where ya came from
no matter where I came from, even hell, even here;
when they try to tear the hijab off my head,
to free me with force and hate, come ride with me
like the ghosts of Christmas past, watch
in whitened silence. Can you hear the impacts?
The bus stops. ‘The next station is Central.’
This is you: you vanish into the crowd.
The ride has ended, and my hand is empty,
grasping. My next step is shaky
with remembered loneliness, with familiar isolation.
I am the year 1950 every day, I am colour TV
breaking into the monochrome, I am Dorothy
in a land of wicked witches and wizards
and there are only so many buckets
of tweets to douse them with.
I wish there weren’t so many to begin with
but I am not disparaging your offer,
I am not rejecting your hand, or your tweet,
in fact, I am going one step further
and inviting you to ride within me:
step into my blood, come make a home of my skin.
Look out of these eyes and see with the face of terrorism,
a face you had no choice but to grow into,
a face molded by events outside your control.
One day a beardless boy, the next, a suspect –
this is a face others shy away from, a face
splashed beneath screaming headlines.
And still, still I would rather this face
than the face of any woman,
would rather this hate-inspiring face
than dealing with what every woman must.
The headlines. The violence. The despair
born of biology; the joy, too.
It is beyond me, and it isn’t. Despite their fates
I hear them say, come ride with me,
take my hand. Hold it. We will give you strength,
and I cannot comprehend their courage
just to go out in the day, except that they must know,
as I know, as we all know, that the ride is just the beginning
and that soon, soon we will no longer need it
and walk together unaided in the light of day.