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By: Sarah Arnold

About The Poem

I moved to London during the pandemic to start my MA in Modern Literature. I research female corporeality and spatial politics, which influences most of my writing. ‘Anonymous Blood’ was inspired by research I did into references to the Scottish ‘Mary Hamilton’ / ‘Four Maries’ Ballad in Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’ — at the same time triggered by the shared experience of being a woman in the streets of London today. I wrote it while walking through the different parts of the city during lockdown, so reference is also made to the Mary Wollstonecraft statue in Newington Green, for instance, upon which I stumbled during one of my walks.

The Poem

Can you hear four Maries?
No? Beaton, Seaton, Hamilton?
(call me anything you please,
It is not a matter of any importance).
We have only been called
To the streets of London for
High tea, afternoon, girls, my treat?

But, look outside:
Women walk along the grass not the gravel,
Bowing to the beadle,
When stung by the needle, they bleed anonymity;
When crooning to their children, working, stitching,
Singing ballads in the shade and shadows,
Writing poems without signing them
Alas — Anon!

Fumbling for words
Or name or tradition
All has vanished.
Shall I wear the black dress,
or the brown?
Or shall I go on shining
In a white dress in the streets of London?
Had only she bowed to the beadle . . .
Conventions — or How Not To Die As A Woman. A Practical Guide.
It’s simple:
Had only she
Not got chopped off her head
For she had shared her bed.
For all the dinners are cooked, women’s heads
On your plates.
No word to say about it
We struggle for language —

A toast, girls, a toast!
To whom? The wretched history?
The wrecks in the street?
The wallowing and wily –?
The sailors upon the sea!

Outside, in the park,
The first Mary sat down,
Her apron spread like seagrass
In a sea of grass
Past the gravel with the beadle
“Had only she . . .”
Then she cut her finger on the grass,
How it bled!
It cut off her voice, itchy throat, cannot get it out.
The battle is lost — get the cattle! — before it started — get the kettle!
For all the dinners need to be cooked and the plates and the —

No one has a word to say about it.
“Had only she . . .”
the second Mary chimes in,
Half-wit, smiling, trusting the times;
How she did love her husband, and oh, he does not mean that!
For he makes his jokes, don’t we all? for life is a struggle,
And struggle she did, and so she
Died, too.

Rest in the grass, not the gravel!
The beadle is not a gravedigger,
He only clears the path.
He never cuts his finger on the grass.
What is all this fuss about?

No one has a word to say about it.
Just another one, gone down the drain.
No name, nor tradition, nor history,
Mysterious matter,
Her death, no one cares, for there’s high tea
In the afternoon, and dinner is served and
London’s streets shine so brightly!
(In that light, we do not
Want to discuss that matter further.)

“Had only she . . .” sighed the third Mary.
But then
she was cut off

In the gaps,
We rewrite history’s gaping silence.
Anonymous blood pulsates in our veins,
Thick liquid, pushing our bodies to reclaim Our voice.
In the cuts of our fingers, the Four Maries’ beating hearts
Echo through the streets of London, and
We won’t take
Any more fishing rods to our alterations, cutting off circulation.
We won’t take anymore tiny, naked everywomen
In a Stokey Park,
Without a fight, or an upheaval. Without a name or tradition or history.
Because we’re here,
Our bodies among the shadows
Of the Maries,
To heed their call,
To reframe them, reclaim them,
and take no more.

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