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Regular news and insight from our many poets, writers, educators and facilitators

10 May 2023

Posted by Joanna Barnard

All that is precious

By Tara, from our last WFW workshop, in response to The Language Issue by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill

*Content warning: references to childhood neglect/abuse*

All that is precious 

is in the basket

But will she be understood?

Growing amongst the reeds

and the rushes

The wild is a threat to your ‘should’

Escaping the oceans

into a stream now

The tide pulls her soul up to fight 

When they try to drag her underneath

She becomes a person that was

so hurt by uncertainty 

That her mouth can only speak 

in willing tongue,

with a terrified child inside 

Her small body remembers the motions

The choppy skies in the basket 

within a disappearing boat

Growing their dismissive


and guarded life’s structures 

with a moat

The inconsistencies in

painted skies 

Denying the barrier was there

She knew it was

and there was hope

Looking up at Aztec ceilings

The elements of beautiful seas

The elements that made her cope

You see, creating the motte and Bailey 


and then expressing disgust at

those that fornicate

was built to reassure themselves

and the river bed came far too late

Nodding along with the ocean

and suppressing their anger 

fighting invisible demands

Voicing your way out of conflict

and feeling that the open ocean

could never harm

Knowing that one day

you’d be taken in

and one day there'd be a

unifying language understood 

- and we speak

Reaching inside

jumbled intestines 

and longing for a semblance of peace 

What happens to the baby, so small,

when it was put in the basket

at months?

Who would answer the questions 

in truth

narratives that can’t be felt or spoken 

Where hope within the child 

led to dregs of misplaced love 

Oh the joy of being waterlogged 

and used 

(Never enough) 

Sea weed and jellyfish that sting

on wasteland beaches

a relative of a mother’s shame

But hundreds of years ago 

they didn’t feel it

and the rushes now hold 

too much pain

When, eventually, she reaches 

the land again

After relying on tigers and sharks

Grasping at flesh 

and filling insecurities

She learnt that she is the ocean

and that is her spark

Picked up by those with greedy hands

I only trust the grown up version of me

Because the only person who should be 

meeting the basket

are the baby whose eyes looked 

a little like me 

Image credit: Photo by Jacqueline O'Gara on Unsplash


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