My friend suggested that I write a poem addressing the
subject of the women in El Salvador who have been imprisoned
after being accused of self-terminations- sometimes when they
allegedly have just had stillbirths. I was unaware of this until I
researched the topic and discovered material on the group Las 17.
The prison terms are in the region of decades.
In El Salvador, there’s an assumption,
in many cases, that a miscarriage
is the consequence of an abortion.
Girls who have been raped can lose their freedom.
A premature, or unviable birth
can result in a forty year sentence.
How can a country of that name sentence
women when it reveres the Assumption
of a Virgin? Supernatural birth
protected Mary from a miscarriage
when she experienced threats to her freedom:
state infanticide, worse than abortion?
Las 17, accused of abortion –
each subjected to a lengthy sentence,
in a land whose motto includes ‘Freedom.’
Youngsters, trafficked, can face an assumption
which might lead to judicial miscarriage,
as ‘Mata Ninos.’ They’re victims from birth.
After civil war there should be re-birth,
with an enlightened view of abortion
and understanding that a miscarriage
is, for women, a kind of life sentence.
And why should the state make an assumption
that stillbirth expresses woman’s freedom?
Accused of homicide, denied freedom,
because of complications to a birth –
to disregard is to make assumption
and logic itself suffers abortion.
The powerful deliver the sentence
and fear itself can induce miscarriage.
There’s no calculation in miscarriage.
It’s spontaneous – there is no freedom
expressed. Those women uttered no sentence:
I now intend to sabotage this birth,
nor ‘Drinking this will promote abortion.’
Blame’s an ignorant assumption.
Restricting freedom; pronouncing sentence
on those who endure miscarriage, stillbirth:
abortion of innocence assumption.
Pangolin – nothing to do with penguin,
porcupine, furniture polish, mandolin.
It’s got no fur, feather, wingspan, or fin.
So, you’ve never heard of a pangolin?
It’s a mammal, covered in keratin.
Keratin? – a protection for its skin.
When it sniffs food, it gives a little sneeze
and it walks just as if it’s got knock knees,
looking like a dinosaur, if you please.
You’ve never seen one? Well, that is because
they scrabble at night with very sharp claws
and their tongues flick termites into their jaws.
You’ve never smelled a pangolin, have you?
You wouldn’t want to, ’cause they pong like poo,
but – hey! – they might not like the smell of you!
They come from Africa, The Philippines,
Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka… it seems
bad men turn them into medicines.
Pangolins don’t like to be touched: not much!
They’ll try to avoid a predator’s clutch
and will hide in a hollow tree, or such.
If they are scared, they’ll roll into a ball.
They like their own company – that is all.
Big cats will just paw them and let them fall.
Curled up, they can look like an artichoke;
they won’t even move, if given a poke.
Fast asleep, they don’t take it as a joke.
Arboreal ones will hang from their tails.
Pangopups ride on the backs of females.
They’re covered in all these cute little scales.
You used to see pangolins in a zoo,
but nowadays there are only a few.
They value their freedom, the same as you!
They’re fussy feeders – their stenophagy*
means that they will only eat two, or three
types of termites, so it isn’t easy
to please a pangolin. Yes, some have tried,
with worms and crickets and larvae, deep-fried,
but the pangolins turned up their toes and died.
So, if you’re offered one, do not buy it.
They only feed on their special diet.
They are not pets – so, don’t even try it!
I don’t want you to taste a pangolin.
You know, it would be a terrible sin
to eat animals who face extinction.
A pangolin has no teeth to bite you.
Its long, sticky tongue is coated with glue.
It swallows stones, which you should never do!
Apparently, it aids their digestion.
‘Quite how?’ would be a very good question.
Look up ‘the gizzard’ is my suggestion.
They’ve been around for 80 million years,
but now conservationists have raised fears
that, if we don’t help them, they’ll disappear.
Join Prince William, His Royal Highness –
try to look on all wildlife with kindness,
whether pangolin, leopard, or lioness.
Pangolin, we have caused you much offence.
Your armour was given you for defence;
now we pledge to protect your existence.
drawings and text copyright- Candia Dixon- Stuart, 2018.
* a narrow range of diet
The lawyer asked Him: Who is my neighbour?
He said, I’ll offer moral assistance.
Nowadays you’re out at work and ignore
those who live opposite, or alongside.
One day you spot someone in a bad state,
lying in their drive, but you’re in a rush.
I’m late to pick the kids up, so must rush.
It’s bound to be dealt with by a neighbour,
so I’ll spring into my Audi estate.
That nosy woman will give assistance –
the one who draws her curtains to one side.
A chance for do-gooding, she won’t ignore.
I should ring up the police, but just ignore
those dodgy callers, who seemed in a rush
and annoyed me by parking on my side:
too many visitors for one neighbour!
They doubtless gave him hefty assistance
with his mortgage. (He comes from a rogue state.)
You’ve claimed you’re public-spirited, but state
your character through your actions; ignore
the twitching corpse in his drive. Assistance!
Who helped to dig you out when in a rush?
It was the man from the AA. Neighbour?
Getting involved can just be suicide.
And, if I go over and kneel beside
this loser; feel his pulse, what kind of state
will my Chinos end up in? This ‘neighbour’
could contaminate me; I should ignore
his plight. A family man’s in no rush
to inhale nerve agents. Police assistance –
or, perhaps paramedic assistance…
they’ll have Hazmats and antidotes beside.
Where angels fear to tread they’re known to rush.
Samaritans don’t live on this estate!
So, walk on by is what you’ll do; ignore
the parlous condition of your neighbour?
Rush to his side? No, not for one’s neighbour.
To ignore the perils of assistance
is for citizens of another state.
Trusting there’s justice
causes disappointment, when
was not honoured in his day.
Gangkwai was moral,
yet his life was not easy.
Servants desert you
and friends are often fickle.
Today men don’t keep their word.
means sometimes you’ll be surprised –
pleasantly, one hopes.
If you are open-minded,
you’ll navigate through Life well.
A basic paraphrase of a 14th century Japanese monk’s
observations in prose. I just arranged them into a
Depressingly harsh, but true??
Hmmm, as my Anglican priest friend responds
when he wants to be non – committal and to appear
Your face is ugly;
your heart probably foolish.
You’re not accomplished;
you are getting on in age;
have various health problems.
Death is approaching.
You have been less than righteous.
Can you criticise others?
What of your failings?
Gain self-knowledge, if you can:
the vital life skill.
It would be commendable
if you took stock and retired!
Beauty is fleeting-
traded for brief affairs.
Women’s hair attracts men,
less so their inveterate chat.
A powerful man
can become a girl’s plaything,
manipulated by tears.
Like fierce rutting stags,
men pick up the scent and fight,
to out-do others.
One year they’ll be old –
antlers broken – and banished.