I have always liked this dialogue from ‘Jane Eyre’
but I have put it into metre and expanded it a little.
Where do the wicked go when their death knell
has been tolled, you insignificant child?
Good sir, I believe that they go to Hell.
Describe this place reserved for those not mild,
Sir, it is a pit full of fire.
Should you like to fall into such a place?
(Then you would not join the Heavenly choir.)
I hope to reach Paradise, by God’s grace.
So, how might you avoid a dark decree?
I must try to keep in the best of health;
I must not listen to a Pharisee,
nor to those who slavishly amass wealth.
In short, I must take care never to die.
My God is Truth and yours, Sir, is a Lie.
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