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.