International Women’s Day seems like a good time to record and share this poem. I’ve been dismayed by all the people putting comments on news articles attempting to downplay the oppression of women in my home country (example).

I wrote this last year after a particularly bad incident of sexist-homophobic street harassment in London. People tell us to ‘ignore it’ and get on with our day, but I never could. It made me angry. I believe in channeling our anger towards creating things. I believe that beneath the anger we can even make bids for connection with those who harm us.

Letter to My Latest Street Abuser
Dear friend
You seem to forget
You’re the same as me
Survivors of reality
Hearts beating rapidly
Lost in the sea
Of our venom
As you spit yours at me
Did you actually
Just unzip your jeans?
Do you understand
What it means
When you dribble out
Your obscenities?
Your humanity
On its knees
Begging you to freeze
The hate
Just for a moment’s relief?
Do you understand the depth of your disgrace?
Exposing the underside of the human race
Claiming ownership of public space
Flapping your fragility in my face?
My tears
Are not spawned by your jeers
Not drawn by the blunt edge of your fears
You are merely a symptom
Of the years
Still to fight
My tears are
Of sorrow
For all the lives taken
And blighted
By a short-sighted world
My anger a flag unfurled
A standard of hope, and
In the march
Toward dignity
I believe we will see
The day when the functions of my body
Do not determine the degree
Of respect accorded me
When love is not a reason for hate
That day will be too late
For too many
My tears
Are for young men committing suicide
After learning that pride
Is conserved when you hide
Your feelings from sight
Loved ones
Silenced in their plight
Or lost to the night
You and I, my friend
Have both soaked up a sunrise
Choked up in surprise
Cloaked up in disguise
So many times
In our parallel lives
Both been red with shame
Bled on the sidelines of our own game:
We both have a name
Both know it’s hard enough
To get through the days
It works both ways
Even in this rage
I see clearly through my pain:
Remember to abstain
From blame
Would we observe such rabid heaving
If you knew to look for meaning
How to pick apart a feeling
Feel the steady breeze
At the helm of reason
How to look inside yourself and see
What you’re believing?
But we’re all in charge of the barbs on our own wire
Choose exactly when and where to build our fire
If you find it hard to contain your aggression:
Then sweetheart, you’re preaching to the choir
Here we stand
On broken pavement
Your feet but inches from mine
Our coats done up tight for protection
But there’s no time
Every moment of disconnection
Is a death
On our dime
So learn quickly
To comprehend and channel your hate
To dismantle instead of fixate
To be angry, and let your anger create
A better world, in which people
Like you and me
Communicate

196 thoughts on “Letter to my Latest Street Abuser

  1. Hi Siobhan, this popped up on my newsfeed and, liking poetry, I decided to have a look. I am not much of a social media person so don’t often look at things, but feel compelled to share back with you what a powerful message I feel you are sharing. The truth of what you are writing positively rings out. Thank you.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. Hello Charlotte, thank you. If someone is moved by the poem that means a lot to me! The incident hit me hard and I felt I had no choice but to try and get to the truth of what I was feeling. So if you were able to connect with it then I’m delighted about that.

      Liked by 7 people

  2. This was beautiful!
    At first I thought it was someone who was catcalling, like hey sexy or something like that. Inappropriate, but complimentary (although unasked for; I do NOT applaud catcalling btw). As I read, it turned shape into someone who was saying more harsh, mean words, that sting even more so. What kind of street abuse were you referring to? Just curious🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hello japonicanyc! I don’t think knowing more about the incident would help you understand anything new about what I want to say. This poem is about me taking back power from that man, and retelling the story in my own words – not his. Everything I want to say about what occurred is said in the poem, and told according to my feelings, without any desire on my part to record or clarify the exact details of the exchange. It’s about so much more than that one event anyway. Hope you see what I mean. Shiv🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Siobhan, while I listened and read this, I was deeply moved by how strong it was and the feeling I got while I was reading this. I have always wanted to write like this but I’m not that good. Your work is amazing and incredible.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. This is beautiful and powerful. Too often people are compartmentalized and boxed into arbitrary identities and forget that we are all human, we all bleed and suffer. Whatever these monsters said to you, please remember they are the ugly sick ones and their intolerance is the symptom. Positive thoughts to you and yours. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Well, firstly I am not a good writer myself but I loved to read what people express. As I was discovering the posts relating to poetry, this post came up and I decided to give it a try because the header of your blog itself speaks a lot. And then as I went through your poem, the more I read, the deeper I went. And every now and then lines like,
    ‘ I believe we will see
    The day when the functions of my body
    Do not determine the degree
    Of respect accorded me’

    You and I, my friend
    Have both soaked up a sunrise
    Choked up in surprise
    Cloaked up in disguise

    and the final lines
    ‘To comprehend and channel your hate
    To dismantle instead of fixate
    To be angry, and let your anger create
    A better world, in which people
    Like you and me
    Communicateare’ are an absolute bliss to read.
    And I don’t know if this doesn’t elicit some emotions on abuser then what will.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I just read the whole thing. I can’t help, but to think of the exposed darkness, and vulnerability in this world. My heart very much goes out to its victims, also. Thank you for exposing this. I will continue prayers.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Hello!

    This was a truly wonderful post – I loved that the poem was both written and read aloud as it made reading it a near synaesthetic experience and helped me feel all the feelings and emotions that you shared through poetry.

    The poem itself meant a lot to me, as it certainly means to you as well, but what struck me the most about it is how instead of sending out a message of anger you chose to focus on mutual respect and understanding. In spite of how deeply you disapprove of the behaviour and how deeply you feel for people who have been led to extremes of sorrow by such abuse, you can still show a form of kindness to the abuser, which is, in my humble opinion, the greatest of strength, as you are not letting anger and hate control you.

    Thanks a lot for sharing! I hope you have a lovely day,

    Sacha

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Hello Starch! I don’t think knowing more about the incident would help you understand anything new about what I want to say. This poem is about me taking back power from that man, and retelling the story in my own words – not his. Everything I want to say about what occurred is said in the poem, and told according to my feelings, without any desire on my part to record or clarify the exact details of the exchange. It’s about so much more than that one event anyway. Hope you see what I mean. Shiv🙂

      Like

  7. You are on a swan song🙂 And I must say great way to get rid of your anger but please, don’t let it go for nothing,instead make it worthy. Like you are doing now. By the way tour poem is really good.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. A beautiful poem one of authenticity. New perspective and orginal minds always intriguing,that way in which you address the enemy is hauntingly beautiful, a way in which would never have occurred to me. Just wow!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. This is a wonderfully constructed and very important poem. Continuing to speak out, refusing to be silenced — these are very important aspects of fixing such ills in our society. Like you said: communication. And poetry is such a beautiful venue for doing just that.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Sometimes I get angry as well. I wish there was a fee, because sadly money is more important than pride today for many men. Sometimes I wonder if things would change, if all men would be forced to listen to conversations between a psychologist and a victim of a rape, but that’s the anger speaking. There must also be humanity. Even if there is no humanity in a man who commits such violence. I really liked this post, thank you for sharing such poetry.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. WOW. VERY POWERFUL. You are a tremendous writer and I love your passion. Thank you for sharing this and together we will create a world where our body does not determine he level of respect we deserve.❤

    In solidarity and with love!!!
    Malgosia

    Liked by 4 people

  12. You may appear to share a common language, yet you are not the same. Whether compassion is lost through life hardships or born with an inability to care, you are not the same. Your sorrow is lost to those who cause suffering and no matter how hurt and upset you now feel, you, are still you, holding compassion and love among those creatures who souls lie empty and dormant knowing only misery and pain. You, will heal. They, never will.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It is a really moving. Its one of the best posts i have read since i joined wordpress. The pain and the anger is written in very strong and powerful words. And the narration just adds to the effect. For just a beginner in writing, this post has actually made me truly realise the power of words. Thank you very much for that.🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Your poem was damn powerful and meaningful! I wish I could also write something like that, but im not so good with poetry. The way you depicted your feelings in words was absolutely magical! 😊. That made your poem gripping!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. OMG! Powerful! So deep, so dark yet so raw with truth. You have such a unique style and I love it! You had my attention the entire time. I closed my eyes and listened to you speak and every word made me see and feel. You stated truth and gave hope at the same time. Well done and thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Lovely poem. As a lesbian I found this very moving. It would be an honor to have you take a look at my blog. ladybuglifeblog.wordpress.com any suggestions or comments are greatly appreciated and please continue the writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. People can be horrible.
    But the cure for everyone, predators and victims, is life in the Lord Jesus Christ.
    He alone, is the sole source of refuge.
    By simply believing on Him, (not religion)
    You get His life and righteousness.
    What else compares?

    Liked by 1 person

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