The 8th Colour
choreo poem for 3 voices
based on the myth of Erinyes
From the rage of castrated Gods born pale corner boys scrying tins of Super Strength
Tennants tenants of the old ways the back alley broken bottle ballet ways the ashtray
grins of youth unfound
. out of the white static of silence they rise brides of knives
their dusk hair hurricane there they come vaulting waves hurdling tower blocks
burrowing beneath the skin of the city
they furious ones they 8th colour they ugly sister reviled stepmother mannish bride
frigid housewife ungrateful whores they ill-dressed mistresses ancient infants butch
bitches all that is unfuckable hashtag hags grey daughters of chaos wise children
they unshaven women.
Call them Erinyes, the Furies, Eumenides curse made flesh the risen ghosts of murdered
women unravelling into three infernal deities:
One a dyke. An aberration. Uncorrected proof. Call her Tisiphone
One a mother lost in migration. Once a sex trafficked girl, now the Mother of Loss. Call her
Another, an actress, an ordinary woman, a nothing much. Fear her the most. Call her Alecto.
Strippers sex workers single mothers disposable opposable girls male order brides
butches and studs the femmes and the furies
gathered behind us in a swarm chorus. Curse made shape and weight Bastard flesh &
breath We keep the night in our mouths Our veins alleyways
We hounds of mother’s hate
Holding cock like crucifix will not save you the fine furies gift you
guilt my son a death of a thousand uncertainties your back slashed into hashtag we
are black ink on black paper blood for blood we give birth on battlefields we give
birth to battlefields
Justice is for men whose skin is pinstriped for homeowners and business barons
Vengeance is for women. It is all we have.
our night dance riding typhoons on tabloid wings imprinted with red top front pages you
have whispered about us for years and now we are here dog head panting the womb and
the grave are one crack the night in half with my snake whips burning blood traces maps
on to the dry earth that lead us to you.
(ii) Tisiphone (“Avenger of Murder”), Dudizile Zozo
(I – Tisiphone/ the first of three)
There are those men who would steal the rainbow them jackrolling boys
I was one of those bi lingual girls who hard learn the language of the street
translating kisses in to curses fear into prophecy running from a clutter of jackrolling
boys machine guns nursed to chest their pornographic grins a woman splayed a
violate girl laid out dissected their jackrolling smiles connected are a red lit
lane leading to a flick of blue light somewhere south of here that no one speaks about.
Catching a running woman is easy. Just open your mouth. Dudizile netted.
evicted from her skin orbiting her bones left there below now compass now
when they were done they thanked my empty (skin) zipping up mouths smoothing
hairlines and stories a gaggle of giggling police blue bottled over quiet body as it
curled in the knuckle of night raped into the shape of girl the silencing of two mouths.
cured like ham all studs all wrong-walking women strung up in the back room of his
bedsit heart that he might invade girl body and hoist his flags that he may rename her skin
in his tongue you colonist you Sunday paper columnist every 26 seconds I am born
Did you mean to kill me or were you trying to climb back into the womb? Did you
want to be born again too?
The wild rising of danced dry earth at girl funeral found face and now I am here dust
daughter just behind you a dry monsoon stalker I am the filthy quiet the moment
before he does it.
Now risen with my crown of severed cocks my snake pit my slit throat grin
my song a police siren an ambulance careering off the coastal road the wail of a
graveside mother the shriek of justice and girl lower smile: apartheid
(iii) Alecto (“Unceasing in Anger”)
(I Alecto- unceasing anger)
You would not expect it of me. A girl stitched from quiet my skin floral wallpaper in
middle age my mannequin children gathered at my feet at the photoshoot in Tesco’s I
lived an ordinary life in an ordinary town but as is ordinary for women I married a prison
my teeth in that photograph are a high fence and you cannot see me behind it but let me
remind you of the sound of hand against cheek face ribs my skin remembers the
night. I was measured against his mother. I was his mother.
Mine warned me of small men. How they take up space in other ways.
How his heart is a fist How his kiss is a fist How his baby is a fist How his job is a fist
How his song is a fist How his fist is a bird beating against a window at rage with his own
reflection how he just wants to be let in.
When you beat a mother you beat infinity the child in the child in the child in the into a
better shade of nothing much your punches will be inherited passed down on the mothers’
side I wear wreathes of ovaries around her neck his hand delivered selection box of
bruises sits tight lipped on the dressing table only the hard centres remain.
And now you can call me the Queen of Argos my flat pack heart my occasional
table of a body call me late and I will come call me not and I will come carrion boy
Bastards queue at my counter.
(iv) Megaera (“Jealous/ Grudging”)
(I – Megara, a mother lost at sea)
I died years before I circled my last breath somewhere out there on the road from Aleppo a
mother crawling between the broken teeth of the city a seed a hand stretched out my dust
palm topography my child echoed dreams of water until I reached the sea. Here it is, I
said here it is. I understand the language of the sea and why it keeps returning.
but the boat was a country without a flag detached from this world floating in circles
too heavy with nothing much to make the crossing the captain abandoned ship then the
crew then the world and we prayed to a god of lost things a small emperor of nothing
umbilical cords feed worlds stretch back centuries our umbilical are puppet strings are
threads in a vast tapestry of breathing and though mine was thrown as a life line no one
caught it just watched it silently as it slipped deeper into the open mouth of the ocean.
the bubbles that rose above us were crystal balls. In it we could see rows of white men, arms
we sank dead mothers with ghost children swaddled as boats circled but did not help my
last breath is in a museum somewhere I am dying on repeat on digital cenotaphs my
scream photographed for study my last words pinned down dissected. The oceans are
formed from the tears of the drowning.
know this. Women are made of water and like water will always find a way the hairline
fracture of his smile the weakened dam of a woman and when we die we rise into rain
thick rain those blackening contusion clouds above us are our ancestors seeking
vengeance. And now she: tidal wave.
You might have seen them working the gumbo stall in Fergusson serving sedition
among the po’ boys and okra or maybe your eyes met on the red carpet as she snapped bit
off a picture of you in your black dress or was it her you glimpsed tracing circles around
a burning tower block mistaking wings for ash the night that Grenfell fell.
I am Oloko I am Margerita Neri I am Gulabi Gang, Henny Scherman, Dudizule Zozo,
Khatoon Kider, I am Daughters of the Sun, Bibi Ayisha, K.J Morris, Leshia Evans, Mary
Magdalene, Arkan’s daughter, I am Emmeline, I am Valerie, I am Aileen, I am your mother.
Joelle Taylor is an award winning spoken word artist, poet, playwright and author. Her first collection Ska Tissue was released in 2011 and The Woman Who Was Not There in 2014. Her most recent collection Songs My Enemy Taught Me (Out-Spoken Press, 2017) was inspired by workshops engaging groups of vulnerable women across the UK. Speaking to refugees, prisoners, young mothers, survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, the collection powerfully evokes the struggles women still face globally in the 21st Century. She was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Society Arts in 2015.