Wendy Lennon

Wendy Lennon is a poet and writer who is working toward the publication of her first collection. Her poetry is beautiful, visceral and muscular.

‘The first few are about my early life.  Maestro is about the targeted racist comments teachers could get away with in the 80s.  Erase Mother’s Tongue is about my mum’s Jamaican accent.  Ultimatumand Blitz are about my parents’ split and the aftermath of my father’s death that led to my mum’s slow painful descent which culminates in the poems Fourteen and Sixteen.  These poems are even more poignant this year as my daughter is now the age I was, and this year also marks twenty years since I was sixteen and homeless.
Single Mum was a three-page rant about all I must hold together, but after rereading and heavily editing, I realise it comes down to the few simple words I’ve kept in the poem.  After working my ass off to get into and through university and teacher training (with my children) the final two poems, Sunlight and Display Board are about my experiences of being a secondary school English teacher.
I find it extremely frustrating that I have felt the need to hide my life experiences behind my professional role and persona, when I could really help these girls and women.  That’s why I write; for the girls and women I have been, and still am.  I have managed to go part time to teach three days a week, slowly edging my way out of institutionalised teaching that restricts rather than helps children and teachers.  I’m no longer willing to hide myself and my life, especially knowing that I can help people.’
All poem are copyright of Wendy Lennon 2018, and contact with her can be made via info@joelletaylor.co.uk

 

Maestro

 

Bobbing in a blank sea, corked,

conductor waves baton frantically

flowing electrical current

bolts through

iced assembly hall; melts

deluge engulfs me

“The pigment in some

people’sskin,”

maestro gestures

to wood winded me,

“makes them heavier,

so that when theyswim,”

I, saturated by blank sea,

flap front crawl doggy

paddle drenched

“they will drown.”

Flooded by

scales

weighed up

impaled by

brass strings

submerged by rhythm

of blank sea, blank sea waves

I sink

 

I sink

 

I sink

 

 

I sink.

 

Ultimatum

by Wendy Lennon

 

He, traces brown veins

encased in mustard lino squares

draws boundary line edges.

 

She, sits, slots, solders

resistors into motherboard

smoke singe

globules of warmed silver

wobble, bubble, harden, hold.

 

I, nibble nails and dead skin

bleeding erupts, thread of skin still clings

lingering flap skin.

 

“So, who do you want to live with then?”

 

Sickle of her question mark

splices my head

decapitated

finger bled.

 

“Daddy!”  outburst

cling to parent blind eye saw first

not final decision

derision.

Eyes curse my betrayal

screeching plea left her black skin pale.

 

Crow’s feet creases

frame his eyes

funnel tears down cheek

land in lino pools beneath my feet.

 

Blitz

 

Square scrubland

wastes away near garage,

stiff sway dry grasses

dented cans gather in their masses,

held to ransom

by forgotten seeds,

stifling weeds,

suffocating sugary drunk insects can’t breathe.

 

Butterflies hang heavy on purple buds

flick lick gold yellow laden anthers.

 

She slinks, slithers white web weave

damaged spider’s home

crowns her head, striding beside dusty garaged throne.

 

Garage haemorrhaged

throne, toys, dingy, mix tapes, fridge –

 

phut phut phut

phosphorous flints –

 

 

murder blankie baby bits

flame licks photo frame

trike buckles melts

doll eye lolls back

eye blink shut

eyelashes singe

flames catch, burn fringe

letters curl twist

childhood trinkets life built blitzed

chasm of ash smoulders near garage

infertile ground of their marriage

 

Fourteen

 

Nails sink in skin

pluck, unfurl her grip; desolate, desperate, grim.

Wrench, uncoil

spring from grip, defiant little girl,

attempts to keep me, I’m determined to foil.

Needs me;

need me too.

vodka, ciggies, arcade crew –

escape

run.

Daren’t turn, hear her sink to knees in defeat

I (defiantly, selfishly, self-preservingly) race down the street.

 

Ciggy pinch pulls my chest

fire tip burns

release clamp grip.

 

Couple snogging

ciggy haggling

machine lights flashing

under current swirling

threatens my unfurling

sinking under vodka’s blind grip

grab nearest boy

tongue down throat sure to soothe it

doctored coke swapped between lips,

swig, see nail imprint on skin

remind

unsoothe

remove.

 

Stumble on slope

elbow nudges shrub

disturb moth

flaps, disperses dusting

scurries, cowers under purple bud.

 

Tongue sticks to roof of mouth

hand on hip to steady myself

cloying coke ciggy breath

congeal in cupped air above

smudged lips

wince

fling head back in self disgust

smack skull on house red rust

 

lumped bruise

nape of neck

concealed by coily curls

always knotted, never be plaited

or straightened or curled

unless risk skin singe.

 

Beyond open door                                          jumble of furniture

 

scattered across floor

 

tangled wood, splintered mirror, unrecognisable

(though within the same perimeter)

 

step into calmed mess

chaos flung flew during her distress

 

see chink of light                                               across scatter tip toe

 

Yellow boxes smashed open

 

crushed tablets filled grooves

on bread board, where knife once methodically moved

put herself in deep

end of life sleep

not even for me

not because of me

no me,

for six voices, not one of them me.

 

Candy striped sheets

covered in sick

breathe tick

breathe tock.

 

Cries, moan

police bash door, so she’s not alone

bathroom suite (avocado gold)

clings to basin stand, strong hold

straight jacket forces flaying limbs hug body

blankets wrapped hide jacketed body

discretion in village always been shoddy.

 

Faked being sane

fooled white doctors again and again

although she let me see her secret pain

between the split in her heart broken brain.

 

Erase Mother’s Tongue

 

Lilt of grandma’s voice, dance,

roll hips, reggae entrance.

Pop, pop, pop of shelling peas,

thrive with ease;

rooted in Jamaican soil,

despite fifty years of Midland toil.

Mother Tongue not soiled,

community voices simmer, boil.

 

My mother’s tongue forced to rot.

Speak English English or shut up.

 

Dad corrected,

Truth infected,

dead lips, stand corrected.

 

Wanted to fit in,

dead ears if Truth she spoke in.

Fear of her black skin,

country folk fiercely delicate kin,

won’t twist ears to listen in.

Erased lilt

no need to tilt

too much to ask

cover voice in standard English mask

cover in disgrace

voice displaced

home misplaced

watched it fly away

whipped up by hurricane

watched it on the news one day;

tears,

blinded for years.

Dismay;

their home dead

Truth dead

coffin in her head.

 

 

Sixteen i

 

Yellow boxes forces

oxidised enzymes

turns injured

flesh colourless

precursor brown,

shrivelled, kicked, clutching

plastic bag that contains

me,

saved

from fire, frantic

nights, death

wrecking.

 

Clung against metal,

even the lady in the

fruit and veg shop will

no longer devour

me, scours now at

what I’ve become

disgusted by bites

chomped, the

mmmmmmmmm

wwwwwwwwww

of teeth marks

clomped out, linger

I walk towards –

 

 

Single Mum

 

Hold;

never

held.

  

Sunlight 

 

Elbow refusal

to bow to rules

almost admire ability

to do whatever he may choose

until his desire

inverts

perverse

Elbow blocks blind

refuses to allow me to unwind

SLT peer in

‘Is Miss being unkind?

I’ll let you off your detention,

good boy pay attention’

I bow to him and them

schlepped through uni             alone          with babies at my hem

can’t give up just yet

Twists

wrists

just so

positioned carefully where the light will flow

from window to watch to my cheek

won’t admit defeat

scurry to my left a few feet

turn, twist, tilt

just so

where the sunlight flows

from my cheek to my neck to my breast

peals of laughter

at me being lightly undressed

by fifteen-year-old boy

who treats SLT like toys

Issue C3s

try to calm whipped up sea

‘Nah Miss, it weren’t me I didn’t do nuffin’

Tilt

direct hit

belly button

sunlight slices line

gut hook zipper

down to top of knicker

line, some kids snicker

unaware, I continue to deliver

spotlight on pubic area

causes class mass hysteria

victory

over me

dismiss class, admit defeat

working class white boy on data target sheet

boy like him free to roam corridors and street.

Display Board

by Wendy Lennon

 

Peeling borders

expose bloodied staple disorder

crack

mismatched

s  t  r e  t  c  h  e  d, can’t reach that

gap

between

need           and             education

(that’s expensively free)

cost of deadening soul

children’s need can’t console

controlled

by borders

limits cause disorders

nothing fits

wherever I stick it

used to be

consistently

for hard work and care

now, it’s for tick box

wage paid

hungry bills cling to board

balancing

(health and safety illegally)

stretch roll of backing

that’ll have to do –

really, it’s a job for two –

cover with quotes, images, held by wordy glue

all complete, functional, paid, defeat

displayed deceit

captive borders stop

womb children seeing me

staple plucked from family

time cost

of teaching within corrugated perimeters

exams insufficient barometers

exams mean fuck all, soul’s downfall

forced to pin grade boundaries to wall

ambiguous measure can’t measure how tall

how high reach beyond sky.

 

Day three:  Little Jimmy peeled border

slaughtered quotes

leaving me frustratingly provoked

until I see that little Jimmy

wasn’t trying to annoy me

he was showing me

escape route of the free, unchained, uncorrugated me.

DD

slightly imperfect

 

I hear the panic

phone line cuts

I see her name

my daughter and I know

 

Denial

Don’t come around, I rang by mistake  she whispers;

another way she hides, not moving,

like a stiff corpse, voice clamped but I find her.

No matter how well she covers, holding her breath, her feet are always dangling in clear view.

 

Truth

I see her nose bruised and bleeding, wiping his spit from her brow,

blood runs through the kitchen like a flowing red satin ribbon,

ripped splatter of crimson on her cream jumper hurriedly hid under dirty tea towels.

My granddaughter’s small innocent frame mopping up the spill with toilet roll dabbing at the puddles that seep,

already in training to hide the abuse.

Lies

Her mouth tells me lies,

untruths and excuses,

I know this song -I know this dance

I see her I know her, I was her.

I still believe in my throat this blood is my fault,

my granddaughter’s shadow next to me, little fingers cling to mine -watching.

 

Stand-back

She has her own life

and although I want to rip his head off,

baptise him in a ring of fire,

I know I must observe and not disturb,

Arms length.

 

Helpless.

I want to scoop her back into my womb, away from male hands that hurt

Her story is my story and my granddaughter at four is learning love equals blood and the truth we mute.

Once upon a time

When I look at my grandchildren what do I see,

A world of possibility but will that ever be?

A daddy that takes heroin for his tea

A mammy that austerity cuts have left on her knees

My two Cinderella’s crushed by poverty giggles given freely crushed by poverty

Police don’t protect them -puts the blame on mam

Social workers don’t protect them insist that they see dad

The drug test promised to keep them safe isn’t done

They find themselves in danger hid in an unfamiliar room

Agencies blame funding like that makes a good excuse!

Mams benefits are sanctioned because mam didn’t get the letter

The letter the postman couldn’t deliver because dad had threatened to light the house whilst Cinderella s sleep

Result fireproof letterbox that failed to open

So, mums got no cash, no sleep but plenty of fear! crushed

Legal system don’t get me started let dad out within a few hours after every yes, every arrest

The wasted bravery it took from mam to go to court

He pleads guilty and a fine to pay at a penny a day

Solution by agencies move mam and Cinderella’s away

Her family scramble to get deposit for their rented escape

Dad roams safe streets whilst like hostages Cinderella s flee

Here one minute gone the next clock strikes midnight

There happily ever after is in a different county

Mams no choice but to re-apply and fight for every penny Cinderella’s need, crushed

Freezing cold, bright house loans no family to rely on,

Mams heart aches with love for the girl’s hush hush hush

 

Thanks to the cuts all in one bedroom they slumber Cinderella’s in a single bed and mam festering on the blow-up mattress on the floor

But at least they are safe

not our problem anymore

30% of Britons children are classed as poor in 2017

2/3 from working families

Half of all children in poverty are from single-parent families

Wake up. Children need you now.

Fragile

Shiny hair, high heels and lip-gloss

Back on the market looking for love

He presses against me, gets as close as he can

promises me, he is my ideal man

Rescuing me from feeling alone

I advance to him panting

I’ve found a safe home

He is my fragile man made of glass and I will softly hold him and not smash him

I’m a pup yapping “please love me please love me “

He disapproves with an eye squint

I’m just too much

Then he strokes my ego

With a wink from his green eyes

quickly I react to his commands

Sit -I will remain silent, shut my mouth, smile

Come- I will go directly to him no distractions

Good girl -Relief

He is my angry man made of steel and I deserve the beating

Down -clothes off, open legs he devours my naked flesh

Stay -remain still, numb you are a vessel for him to come -endure the pain

Release -my favourite words I now can move to bathroom and wash away his bodily fluids

Good girl -I Bork internally and pulse revulsion

 

He is my mistake man, but he makes me feel I can’t leave

 

One off

Stripped bare bent

His reflection behind me in the kitchen window

He only gets hard when I’m clenched shut

dry blistering in his erection

women’s design so easily to thread

Resistance from my head puts tension between my legs

forced into submission

 

“One off “‘my mind says he loves me

 

The weight on my body startles me awake

Dreamlike I pat his naked flesh

I’m paralysed in shock this is real

I play dead whilst he slams

Still I remain whilst he plays

Till it trickles into a patch underneath me

My body swerves to escape the wet

 

“One off “my mind says he loves me

 

Good Hiding

Always be nice, smiling immunises,

learn to engage not giving self away

pan stick apply -maximum coverage minimum effort

drape scarfs to hide bites and hand marks.

 

Long sleeve tops to hide the dents

flat shoes for running

cigarettes and alcohol to sedate

medicate often, sleep a welcome break.

 

Phone is a tag

curfews and monitors

given on conditions

that will not be broken.

 

Loyal bestie number on recall

safe word agreed she knows the score

£10 hid under the bed

driving licence, keepsakes, creep to front door.

 

Stay low,

Dodge,

Weave,

Smile

 

Leave

 

Getting Served

The ice cream van of friendship hits my street,

blasting out  I’m a survivor and I’m on my feet;

she offers me 2 scoops of      it’s time to move on     with an extra sprinkle of

                        you are enough and a flake of                                                        you rock

She delights in throwing the nuts on the

melting

mess

hands on hips                            we got this                         sauce

All aboard.

Introduction

The Night Alphabet is the debut collection of short stories from award-winning poet and author Joelle Taylor.

The Night Alphabet are the secret messages scratched into the backs of men by sex trafficked women, a clandestine code of resistance and uprising.

The Night Alphabet tells the magic realist stories of marginalised women around the globe, from ghost mothers to women’s motorcycle gangs.

Joelle will be posting updating these  pages regularly as she researches the collection, and travels across the world to meet women in the strangest of places.

Joelle will also be mentoring three uncompromising women poets and helping them to write their life stories, explore new forms and genres, and provide wider access to platforms for performing and publishing. These are

Lady Unchained (Brenda Birungi) 

Fatema S Hawydi

Sarah Crutwell

You can keep track of EVENTS here.