The Telling

The Telling

They had even bought the tar to tar the woman over and set fire to her but this was prevented’.

( male reaction to Shaker preacher Mary Ann Girling as

reported in ‘England’s Lost England’ by Philip Hoare.)

Better to assume the starry mantle of the woman

clothed with the sun, to sign your name

with an apocalyptic flourish. Better to leave behind

boxes filled with your visions, only to be opened

in a time of national crisis, even if, in the end,

your visions only amount to two pincushions

and a lottery-ticket . Better to speak in tongues,

to dance, to hug your neighbour. Better to go naked

in the woods, in the city, looking for a sign.

Better to know that the power of a goddess

is perfectly white and runs in her veins like milk.

Better to laugh with balsam breath.

Better to laugh when they come to find you

and burn you at the stake; better to laugh

when they drown you then call you innocent

better to howl with laughter when they drag you

from your house, your school, from your place

of work, gouge your made-up eyes

from your face, leave your bloody face,

your ripped up stoned then set alight face,

your charred face, your blackened beaten

set-upon body, in its simple dress,

its woven dress of butternut or pursley blue;

your bare arms, your strong brown bare legs,

better to laugh at that, to weep with righteous

bloody laughter, to let ectoplasm seep

from your cunt and be a compassionate host,

better to dance in your house,

in your street, love and kiss, even those

who’ll spit, stone, abuse. Better to do that than

stay at home, shut in behind the veil.

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