Poem: ‘Eaux errantes’

Here’s another poem from my French ‘Slam dit bien’ poetry group. I’ve done a rough translation to English, which is below!

Eaux errantes

Eaux errantes

De goutte à goutte
Vous picotez
La surface
Sur laquelle vous atterrissez

Vous prenez le chemin
de la moindre résistance
Avec le plus de gravité

Par sagesse
Ou par simple paresse ?
On ne saura jamais

Mais dans le procédé
Vous nous rendez
Mouillés, trempés

Et puis, ça y est !
Vous vous en allez
En vous évaporant

Quand l’humeur vous prend,
Vous recommencez.

English version:

Wandering Waters

Wandering waters,
where do you
come from?

Drop by drop, you
peck the surface
you land on

Taking the path of
least resistance
with the most

Wisdom, or
We’ll never know.

But – in the process –
you dampen and
soak us

And that’s it!
You depart by

Eventually, when the
mood takes you,
you start again.


de Siobhan Tebbs

Eaux errantes

De goutte à goutte
Vous picotez
La surface
Sur laquelle vous atterrissez

Vous prenez le chemin
de la moindre résistance
Avec le plus de gravité

Par sagesse
Ou par simple paresse ?
On ne saura jamais

Mais dans le procédé
Vous nous rendez
Mouillés, trempés

Et puis, ça y est !
Vous vous en allez
En vous évaporant

Quand l’humeur vous prend,
Vous recommencez.


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Poem: ‘Bracelets seem as though we had been making them’

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Bracelets seem as though we had been making them:
Smothering wire and tiny stones, altering outcomes,
Batting away flies. Safety lies in such focus. Twisting
Transience into silent braids; naming every child;
Blackmailing beaded misfits into shape. We’ll die
Surburbanites, tied to inborn courtship of our trades.

La poésie

‘Francophone’: the state of being a French-speaker without necessarily being French.

Writing in your second language is harder because the expressions make the journey from heart to mind (and from feelings to words) less organically. You have to push a bit and rummage about. It can also be more fun, because you’re less limited by painful awareness of the social and linguistic nuances of what you’re saying. You put less pressure on yourself to get it right because it’s a bit of a shot in the dark anyway. Result? More freedom.

At the recent International Day for Francophonie, there was an open mic in Barcelona. We did some poems.

Image may contain: text

Here is me.


Image may contain: 1 person, standing

Here is a poem of mine, with translation below.


Une chanson sourde
Pour les syriens,
dont le monde
ne se souvient
que lorsqu’ils sont
a la une.
Écoutez les larmes qui coulent dans nos ventres
On les digère si doucement
par peur que ça s’entende
Par peur que tout s’effondre
Mais nos cœurs ne chantent qu’une chanson sourde
Ne croit-on plus aux mélodies:
Ne sait-on plus qu’elles dissolvent les armes?
Moi, j’en ai marre de ce silence fatale
Qui consume mon énergie et mon être
Et nos enfants? Si on se tait,
On va les noyer la-dedans!
Vaut mieux qu’ils les entendent,
Nos cris et nos gémissements
Ils trouveront la fraîcheur dans la douche
De nos lamentations
Si cette cage possède encore sa batterie
Dans la nuit, la meme que celle de ceux qui souffrent,
On accueillera l’aria de la lune
Et les clochettes des étoiles, et la sonnerie du ciel
Ne cessons-pas de battre le tempo du chagrin
Pour que ceux qui viennent de nos ventres
Aient le coeur fait de musique
Et salés par nos larmes
Unheard Song
For Syrians,
Whom the world
Only remembers
When they are
To the tears that flow through our bellies!
We digest them so gently
For fear of hearing.
For fear that everything might collapse.
Our hearts sing an unheard song.
Do we no longer believe in melodies
Or know that they dissolve weapons?

I’m sick of this fatal silence
That consumes my energy and my wellbeing.
What of our children? Our silence
Will drown them!
Better they hear
Our cries and groans:
They’ll find freshness in the shower
Of our lamentations.

If this cage still has its drums,
Then, in this night that we share with those suffering,
We shall welcome the aria of the moon
The bells of the stars, and the ringing of the sky.
Never cease to beat the rhythm of our sorrow
So that those who come from our bellies
Have hearts made of music
Salted with our tears.

Letter to my Latest Street Abuser

Letter to my Latest Street Abuser

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

Apple Blossom House – Snippet 2

The second snippet of my novella. I am posting snippets, not the full novella. The snippets are pulled out of the book, and they are in order, but they don’t follow directly from one to another.

The day had, as far as my perceptions guided me, been a success. I was relieved, in spite of a slight ache in my left thigh, that the only remaining task was to walk home; and I momentarily relished the thought of the evening sun closing in on my back as I strolled up the hill deep in thought. Lowering itself in the west, it made lengthy shadows across the car park, making playthings of Zelda’s motorcycle, the ailing birch in the corner, and my own unflatteringly overalled figure with a bump for my satchel.

There appeared, at the entrance to the car park, one new shadow. Two thin legs were clearly discernible, but further along there was a large quivering forest-like entity.

‘Happy birthday!’ came Oliver’s voice. I looked up to see the largest bunch of red roses I had ever seen, his pale hands wrapped around the stalks at his waist, a tuft of hair and his eyes and forehead only just managing to peek out to the side. He was wearing his skinny light brown Chinos and black brogues, from which I inferred that my resting time was to be postponed.

‘Oh, how lovely!’ I exclaimed. ‘You shouldn’t have done that!’ I gave this assurance with a little too much authenticity, which went undetected. His beaming pink face was all pride and nerves; it reminded me of when he had first asked me to walk to Bellumby with him for a picnic nine months ago. Somehow it was a little more goofy this time.

I took the heaving assemblage from him and stood to the side to enable him to plant a kiss on my lips. Just as I made to turn back, I caught sight of Mrs Johnson in the office window upstairs; she winked and smiled at me, and disappeared.

Oliver, relieved of his burden, smoothed down his pale blue cotton shirt and put his arm around my waist.

‘I’ve booked us in at Giordano’s,’ he announced. ‘I haven’t had the chance to treat you for ages.’ I must have betrayed a lack of enthusiasm, for he went on imploringly: ‘I’ve brought you the thing you left in my wardrobe. I thought you could just change in the restaurant?’

The ache in my left thigh seemed to intensify as I plodded down the hill after him in my soiled pumps, the bundle of scratchy stalks chafing my hip through the material of the dress. With the setting sun now directly in front of me, a squint was required to make out Oliver’s face.

‘I thought you might be held up, you know, with the party and everything.’

‘The girls ran it like clockwork.’ Activities had been managed perfectly to orchestrate a timely departure for all. I pictured Zelda advising Mrs Johnson that it would be unwise to expect to keep anyone beyond her twelve hours by asking her to complete tasks outside of the call of duty. The summer party was a known entity, a regular aberration from the norm, such that each member of staff slotted herself into a temporarily altered role for the day, and ensured for everyone’s sake that there was no overspill of immediately actionable work.

Three paper towels remained in the bathroom at Giordano’s. Having derobed, I removed my sheath dress from the rope-handled designer carrier bag and replaced it with my scrunched nurse’s uniform. With a soapy paper towel, I washed my body. Water ran down on to my underwear. Feeling, as one does, not quite as refreshed as intended by this effort, I used the other two towels to dab my skin dry, and pulled the garment over my head and shoulders. It occurred to me that this was barely any less than the cleanse we gave to the residents each morning.

When I returned to our booked table, Oliver was sitting smiling to himself, reading the menu; and the roses were carefully arranged in a vase on a chair next to our table for two. The bald, pot-bellied Giordano crossed in front of me carrying two towels; he caught my eye and winked, casting his eyes towards the whole display.

‘Everything OK, babe?’ asked Oliver.