Friday, 18 March 2011

Wow, by Holly McNish

The following is a poem featured on BBC Woman's Hour, written by the performance poet Holly McNish. It's her newly composed poem for the Women of the World conference, and it's about motherhood. I found it very moving, and thought I'd share it with you.

My body is amazing

I can almost hear her saying it

As she stands naked at the mirror

Hands clapping in applause to it

Naked, bold and proud

Her mouth open wide and round like


My body is amazing

She is one year’s old and loving it

Full belly sticking out, thighs like mini tyre towers

And when she looks at her reflection she always shouts aloud like

This body is so great!

Gazing down now

I try to do the same

Ignore the plastic advert spreads

That pass me on the way

I say ‘my body is amazing’

Despite what some might say

I say my body is amazing

Despite the claims you make.

The nip and tuck and cuts and sucks that fill my walk to work each day

Enhancement ads and happiness will only come with curves this way and

if I lay in front of you today

Clothes dropped to the floor

You’d prescribe me what I could have less and what I should want more of

A tick box what could be chopped off with red pen ready hand aside your eyes deciding what to slice from lips and cheeks to bum and thighs

The lines below my eyes you say

I ought to peel or pull away

My breasts will start to sag one day

My breastfed baby there to blame

She came into the world you say

That’s great

but now behold your face

your saggy stomach, baggy eyes

Stretch mark stripes you look and sigh:

My eyes, tighten

My legs, inject

My thighs, cut back

My head, perfect

My stomach, flatten

My breasts, enhance,

Don’t smile, too much

Oh God, don’t laugh.

As you mark me like a canvas page in circled bouts of red

I feel the need to tell you you might praise this skin instead

Cos as you chat about corrections, your plucking cuts and lasers

Briefcase stuffed with time relapses, scalpol led erasers

I take up your red pen to my cheeks and mark two stripes on either side

A naked painted warrior could be a sorer site for eyes cos

I am ready for your battles now

My body’s felt the worst

No scalpol cut intense as that last damn push of birth

And I have learnt with awed amazement what my body brave can do

And now I’m marked like tribal tattoos with the tales my flesh went through

But those stripes that line my saggy stomach mark me like gold

And the folds by my eyes tell a tale just as bold

My laughter lines are deeper now because I smile twice as much

so if you palm read these first ‘wrinkles’ my life would light up.

Your official position is that smoothness is queen

but without any lines there’s no reading between them

A storybook opening

My life’s just begun and

Once upon never plays

If you cling to line one

As you try to cover the living I’ve done

As a human, a woman, and now as a mum

But your red pen can’t rub out the night’s I’ve not slept, the parts that I’ve bled or the laughter I’ve wept, the baby I held in the stomach that stretched, the breasts that got heavy so baby was fed, the parties I’ve had out, the sleep I’ve missed out on, the dinners I’ve stuffed down my throat like a python,

As you pile on the pressure to cover my life

I wonder what on earth is so wrong with your sight.

If my mind and my memory can tell you my tales

Then why can my body not tell them as well?

As our babies lie naked,

Applauding their skin

I can’t wait for their lives and their lines to begin.

Hollie McNish

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