let no man steal your thyme
What we seemed to be talking about was always consent
No one stole from me
I always gave under duress
I see in systems of punishment, reward
The institutionalization of our love, our labour
All morning I thought about the women who had walled themselves in
‘From the twelfth to the sixteenth century, female anchorites consistently outnumbered their male equivalents, sometimes by as many as four to one (in the thirteenth century), dropping eventually to two to one (in the fifteenth century).’
A man can be contemplative in the world girls
we get distracted
The withdrawal into only one’s self allows a certain autonomy not otherwise accessible to women or most men. Anchorites did not answer to any ecclesiastical authority lower than a bishop.
Once you had made this decision your walling in was accompanied by a funereal consecration rite. You were from then on of the living dead.
In 1329, Christine asked to be perpetually enclosed in a cell attached to the wall of the village church. The opening through which she received her food still exists.
In 1333 there is another document. A request for the re-enclosure of Christine. These letters were written for her. She could not write.
‘she has left her cell inconstantly and returned to the world. Now with God's help changed in heart, wishing to return to her former abode and calling, she has humbly petitioned us that she may be treated mercifully by the Apostolic See. That she might be permitted to return to her cell lest by wandering any longer about the world she be exposed to the bites of the rapacious wolf and, which heaven forbid, her blood be required at your hands. She asks she be granted a penance in proportion to her sin; if, however, she neglects to come to you, henceforward she shall lapse into the sentence of excommunication. So the said Christine shall be thrust back into the said re-enclosure, there to contemplate her nefarious sin.’
The power of one act of consent to override all subsequent refusals
it seemed to me that this was a true marriage to god.
Sometimes I wanted to claw my way out. Her fingers felt like bloody stumps.
I had wanted mine to be wings.
Oh mother, mother, make my bed
go make it long & narrow.
I had wanted not to have a body
to take up space
I wondered about
the power of invisibility
the fern seeds. they
were all I ate for years
no particular power
I had thought I didn’t know this
the knife I had
used to kill her in
another poem but lately
I have been thinking of her as kin
When they came to free us from the other men, who had mastered us, & who sometimes we might have loved, despite or because of this, they dragged us into the street & shaved our heads. Tar & feather. One of us was shot. It was hard to tell who the enemy was then
I told him I
have learned a name for you now. It’s
taken years it’s
& he closed his ears & said no
I will not hear you.
But I said it anyway.
I will sew your pretty little mouth shut
that’s what the man said
in the story & the instructions
said if you were a clever girl
you could work
your way out
if not you
disappear try not to eat
the fern seeds tho
they tempt you
First you kiss him, then you kill him
you’ve done the training
this is more like the videos than
you might at first think
they made us
I mean we made them.
& when finally you’ve won you find
there was another man
I know a man he says it is impossible for me to
steal they have stolen so much
already the darkness sur-rounds us & why don’t we buy Run he says
Copyright © Katharine Peddie 2016
Kat Peddie teaches at the University of Kent. She has published poetry and photographs in various publications, including Shearsman, Tears in the Fence, Litmus, Snow & Datableed magazines. Her pamphlet of Sappho translations and variations came out with Oystercatcher in early 2016. She has written on translation for Junction Box and for The Writing Occurs as Song: A Kelvin Corcoran Reader. She can be heard here performing with Sam Bailey and the Canterbury Scratch Orchestra at Piano in the Woods, an event associated with Free Range. Some of her work appeared in Molly Bloom 6.