Personal Grit

Personal Grit

NEED ANSWERS, understanding & more
MARK the path beyond research.
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Browse, Explore, Enjoy, ADVOCATE Live Better
YOU are a priority

Jenny Harvey 

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The morning comes into consciousness
And bathes the blue-throated hummingbird in light. 

They sit, they hold.
They listen. 

For what? 
For whom?

My mind is compounded 

From the sky 
This mother voice hollers
So sickly sour
Through some orifice of heaven

For all we do 
Is dance in the rusting leaves 
Waiting for her to 
Call us inside for sup’ 
As streetlamps buzz 
And the dew and the dust 

Am I to abide by the father’s voice? 

One that does not recognise
Why the hummingbird changes colours 
 If perhaps pink and white take their fancy 

One who is so flippant 
So potently 

At the ferocious ideas that unfold from under The beating wings 
Of patience personified 

Are they to give up on body, 
But not the world? 
I should not think so. 

For if we
Sit, hold, and listen  

The earth will call out, 
Or reach out a hand, 
                     Bathed in light. 

Alex MacPhail 

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3am, Listen

3am, Listen

Perhaps silence is best 
Ill-planned timing 
No words 
Crafted words fall on deaf ears 
Only human 
Like a breath 
Instant heat immediately cooled 
Here then gone 
Leaving emptier words 
Tune out the noise 
Clarity [Perhaps silence is best]
Like a Breath of fresh air 
Softly unnoticed 
Leaving as it came 

Fiyin Fakunle

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I wonder what it would be like to truly see 
Without the bias 
Without the misconceptions and force fed perceptions 

To breathe unfiltered 
To speak unfiltered 

Simply speaking 
To be Honest 
In our words 
Our Actions 
Our lives 

I wonder why we all clamour for the past 

Its dead and us with it 
I chose Life 
Terrifying but real 
Maybe I am just a dreamer 
A lost sheep 
Or maybe 
Some Fresh Air 
Real Fresh Air 
is what we all we need 

Fiyin Fakunle

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“weird girl with gross habits”

“weird girl with gross habits”

i pull, i bite, i stretch, i claw
at the insatiable itch 
knawing at me for 14 years

my cuticles bleed 
my swollen lips pulsate 
i weave a rug with the hair from my scalp
i’m weary from holding the burden of my self-inflicted disgust
yet still, i pull and i bite and i scratch. 

every pore on my face is an endlessly fascinating black hole
examining each follicle on my head makes me feel as if i were a scientist, quietly dissecting myself  
my body is infinite 
a whole universe exists underneath my skin 
an endless garden of eden

until the spell is broken 
and i’m left mourning 
wondering why i willingly drink my own poison    
i bathe my wounds, but i bathe them with salt.

if i make peace with the itch, 
if i write a poem for her,
if i tell her she’s beautiful while i gently stroke her back
then, perhaps she will dissolve into sweet rosewater.
i bathe my wounds, but i bathe them with salt.

if i make peace with the itch, 
if i write a poem for her,
if i tell her she’s beautiful while i gently stroke her back
then, perhaps she will dissolve into sweet rosewater.

Dara Minogue

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fire, burning

fire, burning

there’s a fire that makes up my very core; raging and thrumming, it constrains yet consumes, fueling my every reason and it is the life behind my every word. those words that can so easily be laid prettily onto paper. in speaking, it is that fire creates and nurtures the venom that drips from my teeth as my sharp tongue lets loose with a snarl. 

and when i do, i snarl with due respect to that heat: a big “fuck you” to the guy-boy-imbicile that looked (looked, looked? peekedexaminedgapedstaredscrutinized) my body up and down and asked how far my legs could spread. 

it is the same fire that warms my body, and creates the heat my cool fingers slip into as they coax galaxies from my most intimate space. when walls (the sacred-divine-safe inviolable-heat) clench, i am certain it is only my fingers of which they are unwilling to let go. 

and at the end of the day you can call my beautiful words ‘vulgar’ (and maybe they are (oh, they definitely are)), but i find no need to apologize for showing my power. i like the knowledge that when i move my hand between my thighs, it is i who has the ability to touch the universe; something you could never comprehend (nor will you ever learn to understand). the fire burning in my depths does not rage and rise with the purpose to scorn only for me to allow my voice to be meek. so in the inevitable turn of events where i cut you with my words, i will never not remind you that it is those very venom-laced words that are backed by sharp heat fueled by the fire that fuels the very wild- free, heat of my coveted divinity.

Caleb Sa

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Cancer in the time of Covid

Don’t dare to go outside, my sweet lady

Although we’re just a bubble, ever-ready to burst,

You’re safe with us, I promise

I remember catching a bus a day before we would meet again

Crying, because I thought I was going to kill you,

For I had stepped into a world

Which was trying to live with covid while you have cancer.

And it feels like I can’t breathe knowing you won’t,

Between the grief-stricken gasps, gritting teeth through glaring tears

One might be assuming symptoms of that thing, when they are effects of the other

And I hate how the two interchange,

How our fear is preyed upon by them both.

What is going through your sweet head?

While I usually wear my heart on my sleeve, I stiffen up

When I see that you are guarding yours behind secret chambers,

For you’re a headstrong rationalist, a chin-up kind of woman,

But when the night has been rough to you,

And you wake up vomiting, with words I’ve never heard come from your mouth before,

That proud chin drops in your hands

And what I see before me is a scorned child with a distasteful gaze

As I try to hand you your peeled grapes or spiceless daal.

I’m sorry sad one, I feel like a terrible parent,

When we say the world outside is too big and bad for you right now,

For best intentions look so opposite

When the blue-suited baboons control what comes next.

I felt like I couldn’t offer much at first,

Helplessness hurts the most.

But I’m trying, really hard, to be your doctor,

Your friend, your mother, anything you want and need,

Even if that means at moments I have to stop being your daughter

So that I can get you to keep on being my mother.

It’s selfish, I know. And I’m sorry. 


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Bloom serendipity in my hands

I’ll pretend it’s uncalled

My hands, worn out. 


I’ll try to sleep before midnight 

Bloom before I wake up

Strike me in the path

where rainbow is a decorum

Spit me to the dimension,

in it, I could see time

accused with duplicity.


into the night.

Into the night 

which fail to surge my moan into a gender spectrum

I shall not see trees

painted black again 

nor I wish to see my

breath lessen between my smokes 

Bore me

if in melancholy, into the new space 

before it’s too late.

Bloom serendipity 

before my morning wakes.

Abhishek Arukuti

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Pink Gouache

Pink Gouache

my orgasm is pink gouache,
dipped in water, bursting like a late sunset,
And it’s like fireworks,
the week I bleed,
earthy mud red.

this is a petition, for women,
to make the most of their ‘dirty’ blood days,
drink watermelon
and bleed,
and bleed,
coagulated pleasure,
pink, acidic,

fish, dipped in mustard.
sushi and rose water.

I can almost smell your disgust.
It turns me on.

this is a graph of pleasure,
a week long experiment,
a thesis, perhaps,
or a poem,
of fleeting sensations,
frantically bleeding unto paper,
blood, red,
pink pleasure,
oscillating this week,
between words and the clit.

a religious text for bodily dearth,
a pilgrimage site,
that smells like rust.

Bidisha Mahapatra

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I let go of her hand

I let go of her hand 

I let go of her hand when
the men stumble steaming out of the pub.
Her salt fresh, calloused hands
from some sports I don’t
from warm afternoons under the sea,
the hands that lovingly
rub away my cramps.
I say yes to a threesome
because he won’t leave us alone
and I am weak, bloodshot, drunk,
bleary eyes begging for a taxi.
When they walk over,
I break from her, stumble over words
and she frowns.
It’s all good baby baby
so why am I sick with fear?
Why do they look at us
like slavering wolves
with their slick wet lips?

Millicent Stott

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Quiet Love

Quiet Love

There is anger in
chairs propped against doors,
worries about thin walls,
turning round first to check,
and her dad being
‘not completely okay with it’.
The pit of guilt afterwards that
you keep to yourself,
the strawberry smell of her hair,
catching slow breaths
and then
secret tears over a bible,
resigning yourself to
agony and torture and flames
for the quietest of loves.

Millicent Stott

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girls don’t burn.

girls don’t burn.

this, is not an apology.
this is not an anthem.
this is cold metal rage.

girls don’t burn.
the bravest girl i know,
caught fire when she was six
and she refused to cry.
she wrapped her tiny body in steel
and learnt to dance along mridangams.

courage deserves accolades
as does endurance.
silence cannot be inheritance-
turn it away from your door.

so, what if-
you are reduced to a kitchen appliance, lowest at maslow’s hierarchy of needs -daal, chawal, roti.
the kitchen, a threat.
the butter knife capable of
puncturing pulmonary veins.
provoking you to,
dance, in pain.
scream, mid dance.
and then scream, in pain.

i want to bake my own bread,
simmer beef in garlic,
eat it by the sea,
with my head in a hole.
i want an ice boxed capri.
i want sweet white wine.
crystal, clear, sharp
on my tongue like an apology.

i want to dance amidst women,
i want topsy turvy mirth,
i want paraphernalia,
i want to move my body along the madness.
i want to be hemingway.
once betrayed in love,
alive amidst septet kittens worth nine lives.

i am a catlady,
i am feline devastating beauty.
i am pied piper drowning men in desire.
i am bertha, i am medusa, i am shikandhi.
i am twenty and delhi drunk in hauzkhas.

i am a house on fire
with its women inside,
i am ritualistic penance
at a dead husband’s pyre.
or, foglight at heaven’s gate,
as women burn and burn and burn.

isn’t there oppression in benevolence?

and i don’t want
front-page empowerment ads,
discounted beauty products,
discourses on power, gender, policymaking.

all i need,
are my girls,
a bar and a bender.
my friends dancing nakedfeet
on table tops on too much tequila,
pouring fire
straight down their throats, sliding across dance floors.

if there is a past,
if there is memory,
if there is grief and it’s recollection – let there be drunk table top dancing and most importantly, laughter.

Adrija Ghosh

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the newer, happier me

the newer, happier me

she dresses like a 1950s housewife,
with piercings and a denim jacket.

she rides a bike and drives a Camaro
(yes she’s an amateur mechanic).

she wears her afro high, proud, au naturel;
she smiles a lot, for no reason in particular.

she paints for fun, all the time, and she’s good at it too, 
it’s mostly Malcolm x and Angela Davis but it could really sell.

she buys her clothes at thrift stores for a fraction of the cost.
you could write an indie song/and or film,
where she’s a metaphor for feminism and self-love, or something equally pretentious;
she’s nice but she’s having none of your bullshit. 

she plays bass guitar at weekends, 
and ukelele on Sunday mornings.

she’s beautiful in the truest sense of the word.

she reads, the classics and likes Kerouac unironically.
she wears hipster glasses (ironically). 

she’s as woke as they come, unapologetically black,
      a wrecking ball to your complacency in the face of patriarchal white supremacy.

she bakes and cooks- vegan haute cuisine.

she’s funny, unbearably funny, side-splittingly funny, 
     because she really doesn’t care what you think.

she volunteers to feed the homeless and save the planet. she writes music, poetry, plays, short stories – a literary prodigy.

she goes out, she spends her week-ends gallery surfing then bar hopping, just to drink white wine and talk existential despair. 

centre of attention, but modest nonetheless. 

she’s thikkkkk, booty popping every which way! 
she has the type of body they write R&B songs about. 

she travels, practising ethical tourism, volunteering abroad,
     and leapfrogging from youth hostel to youth hostel.

she’s clever, fantastically clever,
cleverer than i can describe, MENSA smart but smarter.

she has friends, close friends, lots of friends 
   whom she has made a meaningful connection to, 
      who understand her in the truest sense of the word.

she’s successful, financially stable, even rich for her age.

but mostly, she’s complete in a way i am yet to understand. 
she’s not bored, she doesn’t lust for love, or for money, 
she doesn’t want for anything. 
she knows what is important.
she is important.
she has learnt the art of being, 
she just is, 
and that is simply enough for her.

Bella Smith

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i am a quitter

i am a quitter

i gave up on this poem before i even wrote it;
i gave up on my dreams before i even dreamt them
i heap goal upon goal, hoping one will stick

i am a madman, 
a revolutionist, 
a narcissist. 
i am everything i ever hoped i’d be 
but nothing like i’d imagined, 
my nightmare and my dream, 

i am learning,
taking a place in a society i never felt was mine, 
claiming a stake, 
teaching my lesson. 

i am worse than i ever feared, 
i am the best of me

Bella Smith

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Us Two

Us Two

I miss two sets of feet
That fall apart and meet like balloons rising in the air
Not particularly going anywhere
Just looking for a better view
Us two, goofy ass walking in the park
Talking about everything and nothing
The whole world is set aside
When wits collide and multiply
Laughter breeds more laughter until it surrounds us
Like toddlers or gremlins, you shouldn’t feed us after midnight
Lest we let free the fright within
But we fit in when it’s just us two
Like tired feet in a favourite shoe
And I don’t feel so alone anymore
Lately it all feels like locked doors
Like cold hands
And frayed shoelaces
Like there’s no saving graces
I wish we were out there
Chatting shit like we don’t care
Wearing shorts in the summer air
Remarking how like glass our legs look when bare
Then sitting quietly for a while
Faces at ease, no forced elastic smile
No barrel of the gun as life picks up some speed
And I haven’t been able to ask, but I think you’d agree
It’s easier to hit the ground running
with two sets of feet.

Hannah Hamilton 

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Sunlight hitting
your skin

Brings out the
honey within

Your eyes hit me
with their rays

And it stays

For hours after
you’ve gone

The time when we

Haunts me like a
stroke of luck

That will never return.

Hannah Hamilton 

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I Can Love You From Afar

I Can Love You From Afar

I can love you
from afar

The door ajar

And I can see
you through the sliver

Your ring finger
pale and lonely and strumming the strings

The things I
think when I see you

Seem to swim
around each other like leaves caught in the drain

I came to be
near you

But now I fear
to disturb the wonderful that surrounds you

That grounds you
where I can’t possibly get to

At least I get
to watch it from here

Outside the room but still near enough to love you from afar.

Hannah Hamilton 

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At The Wing Place

At The Wing Place

We sat at the wing place with the good Parmesan bones
me – egg wash chicken fried decided on a course
my sister – hard boiled buxom badass that I break against
She’s got this persona, right
a cultivated, professional disdain
no one sneers like my sis
sees so clear like my sis
in a wrestling match nobody’s feared like my sis, right?
You laugh but one time I had to put my forehead down on her nose
I cracked a molar, so I wasn’t all that intimidated

Once negotiated my sister
is dark and dorky and damaged
like her sister at the wing place
is moral and flawed and cynical and loving and flawed
and how could I tell her
how could I tell her
could I tell her

“I would have made a great sister” I ventured at the wing place
Parmesan bones, a lemony, tang sauce air floated
we have had secrets between us, unsuccessful
except for this one, this so large, so large

She canted her head and looked at me with one eye
the wise eye, given up by Odin at the root of a winding tree
I am a year older
I am much more educated
I am childless and guileless before her stare
I am naked at the wing place sitting for her judgement

you would have.”

I told them all on Fat Tuesday, 2020
She didn’t remember this story
won’t till I read this to her one night, drunk
on affection and love and sisterhood

Nonah Cagney Palmer

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Mother, Father, Sister

 Mother, Father, Sister

Mother, father, sister,
The ceiling is tearing.
The brown brick is cracking 
Underneath the contours of our feet,
The radio doesn’t work anymore.
It plays the same tune again 
And again,
Our ears know routine. 
Rainwater leaks into our home 
Through our eyes, down our cheeks,
But we reach for the cement
And start fixing.
We fix and we fix until-

Mother, father, sister,
The water is at our ankles now.
The cushions on the chairs at the dinner table
Are forgetting our figures
And when we eat, we do not remember who we are. 
But there is food, 
And Grandmother taught us how to swim. 

Mother, father, sister,
Gratitude feels wrong,
When instead I can carve our initials 
On the tiles in the empty kitchen
Just before the floor gives away. 

Mother, father, sister,
The sky is on the ground now
And we will never see the sun again.
All the stars,
All the stars are dead. 
The stove won’t light anymore
But it will never be cold in this home.

Aarti Mukhedkar

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Ata /ˈpɛpə/

Ata /ˈpɛpə/

For years I thought my blackness needed to be hidden
thinking that the music my dad put on at home was forbidden
I’d ask my dad to turn down his tape in the car as
we reached the school bars
because no one else’s Dad looked like mine and
No one else’s children looked like his.

I remember turning up my nose at the
patterns my Aunties and Uncles sent,
refusing to wear them, not knowing that they meant
So much,
whether they were black and gold
or green and white
my face showed disappointment instead of delight,
embarrassed instead of embraced,
meaning shoved so far into the back of
my wardrobe it left no trace
meaning so ignored and unwanted
almost hated, that it was sent to me
No more

For years I put my hair through torture
thinking that the straighter it fell the prettier I’d get,
that if it went through hell it might forget
how to bounce and to curl and hold its weight
for years I didn’t let it get wet or out of place.
The hours I’d spend burning away
what I got from my Dad
and ignoring the comments he made
about him being so sad
at the damage I was doing to myself and my heritage
I did this day after day, not caring
about my red scalp and scarred hands
because I thought that was what beauty demands

For years I tortured my mind and my body,
Being ashamed of my thighs
because my friends’ were so thin,
Being ashamed of my wide hips
Because my friends’ were so much more slim,
Being ashamed of my arse
thinking it was why I’d always been
out of place.
For so long I thought no boy could love me because
my nipples were too big and too dark and
my pussy wasn’t fully pink
I can’t believe I used to think
that my curves needed to whittled and reduced
like fruits needing to be juiced
the straighter my hair fell and the thinner I became
the less me I was, and I lost my flame

but as I got a bit older, boys
started to change their minds
instead of feeling strange I was
now used and fetishised,
I was good enough to be desired
but not to be adored
I was good enough to be fucked
but not anything more
I was good enough to be raped
and then be called a whore,
For years I thought that this
was all I’d get and all I deserved.
White men and white boys
touched and used and abused
my skin and my body and at
the same time told it me it was wrong
and for so long I thought that this
was the closest to love that my
thick thighs and dark nipples would allow.

but now I love a boy so much and he loves me
but I’m feeling like a traitor as I’m lying next to him,
For 2 years I’ve had the worry in my head
that in 10, I’ll be filled with nothing but regret
if I stay with the one I love
because my boy is white.
It’s alright boy,
I’m still your’s boy,
I know that you’re more boy
it just feels wrong,
That my lips have never kissed a black boy’s
and my fingers might never trail a chest
covered in dark skin, so rich in melanin,
Skin that will understand the way my
soul reacts to the sound of layers and layers
of hurt and culture in a harmony so smooth
that it tastes like honey,
Skin that will understand the way food
can heal a soul,
the way pepper soup and plantain
can heal all my pain –
even on the wrong day
Skin that would meet mine and then combine
to create a child that would look like my own
a child with my power and struggles and curls
a child with the right to reclaim our slurs

but my white boy is so real and so is his skin
I know that what should matter is the
Everything he has within,
he’s so much more than a skin or a colour
he might not get honey but it’s not too different from sugar
he’s the best friend,
and to think otherwise would make me no better than them
who made me think black was anything but mighty
and made me want to be plain instead of spicy
those who wanted my body but not my skin,
my white boy wants all of me and everything inside
he loves my skin, my heart, my scars and my thighs

And while my hair recovers, I’m
starting to discover the life I missed,
the culture I hid and the meaning I buried
and the food I’ve eaten so many times before
but have only just tasted.
I regret all the years spent wasted on a
life of conforming and performing,
I’ve learned to love my hair, my spice and my mind
I’ve left my shame, self-hate and timidity behind
And the next time my dad turns down
layers of honey and drums and beats
of life and soul and family and black,
I’ll tell him no, run that shit back

Cristina Samuel

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Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat

A heavy wooden door stands shut, 
An eye stares back through the glass
At strangers in disguise. 

I open my door for very few. 
Will you treat me well, or will you
Disappoint, as so many have before?
I remember distant lore,
Of a girl who gave herself away in baskets by the door,
All the sweet parts of me on offer for a smile.
It has been a long while 
Since I felt so sweet. 

What if I trust you, and we decide to meet, 
Only for you to change your mind, 
Or leave me in a grave for the dogs to find?
My hopes burnt to the quick, left in cinders. 
Just another horror story: a Tinder
Date gone terribly wrong. 
But one day someone will sing me a song, 
Or tell me a joke, and I’ll crack open that door.
I’ve done it before. 
My eyes will go wide, heart skip a beat. 
The door swings open. Trick or treat. 

Robyn Barclay

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Isobel Gowdie

Isobel Gowdie

What is a dream of the devil
in a world where he is real?

Semantic fingers are lacing a cage
to keep your eyes in.
So, you call the lighting 
of a match a work of science, 
can you explain to me the trick? 
What is the meaning of the flame?

For there was alchemy and chemistry between us. 
Electrickery – electricity – I know what I believe. 
I want to burn it all to feel some warmth for once.
There was a broom in bed at home
and no one noticing.

What then is fire, 
in a world where hell is real?

Iona Lee

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if independence be freedom
may my scars no longer be cuffs nor chains

each mark, each line, each crease
tell stories of a life lived;
The times good, and the times bad
each one a memory carved unto my skin.

Having once been a sight for shame,
hidden beyond the gaze of judging eyes
they now represent something greater:
growth. change. liberation.

Today the girl named I
is happy. She is at peace.
Scarred yet strong, her legs lead her to new adventures.
The freedom to love herself and recognise her freedom. Her grasp upon her life. Her independence.

Kirsty Thomson

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A gift to myself

too long i have spent
days in sadness,
denying myself the joys
which fill my heart.

my mind told me
my body was the problem,
and that i deserve to be
punished for its size.

it didn’t occur to me
that i only know and love
that which i know and love
because my body allows it.

i will no longer deny myself
the privilege,
the right,
that mother nature gave to me.

i will spend countless hours
drifting out to sea,
i will see my own contours
in each wave.

the space between each set
is space created for me.
my expanses don’t even touch the sides
and the ocean will always carry me.

its power is no match for me.
now i see that there was no battle.
its power is no match for me.
it is a source begging to be harnessed.

it will find its way into my pores.
each drop quenches
the parts of myself
i had starved.

it is a bottomless well,
and at the bottom she stands
and offers me
a drink.

a gift to myself.

Sophie Nankivell, Poetry Editor

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with them it was a time 
of no rules 
and at first glance,
what a thing of freedom. 

but the lack of rules meant
there was no umpire 
to mediate, the infringements,
the violations. 

with them it was a time 
of many moons
which, as i came to learn, 
were only visible in darkness. 

but the lack of light 
clouded my vision and 
gave you the false anonymity   
you needed to hurt me how you did. 

with you there are rules, 
ones we have agreed together, 
which means the field is levelled 
and we are here, together. 

my voice once again has value, 
and my yes means yes 
and my no means no
and you will still be there. 

with you there is the sun, 
and it casts its warmth over us 
and the waves go on, as they always did, 
but now i can see them. 

the golden glow 
allows me to admire the good, 
of which there is so much, 
in you.

Sophie Nankivell, Poetry Editor

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