This week, Mona shares with you a poem that explores the expression of female sexuality. The poet, who writes under the pen name of Helen Agate, writes about her evolving intimate experience with a past lover, and the ways in which the physical can provide a window into the emotional life of a relationship.
On the night of our first ritual,
your eyes wide with hunger
you kept my breast
in your mouth like a sacred well whose veins ran to my ribs
and all around my hands.
your breath grew tired and fell asleep
I lay awake in awe of our bodies.
The next time
a million lights bear witness to a monster which lay panting, sticky
where its four legs met.
You ‘miracle’ I ‘treasure’ we lived
inside the corners of our sanctuary
leaving only once to collect baby pink roses.
Your eighteenth birthday
you removed my clothes like galahs stripping bark
Our witness; a chocolate river and melting sky, powering through our ritual
a tear left both our eyes and we were running late.
Finding new ways of performing,
my soft nipple bouncing from your lips when you lifted me by the legs
plum coloured marks began to stain my milky skin.
Sinful, devouring each other.
By summer time, we dissolved like one of the sad candles
that would watch us undress, my eyes being taught each day to behave.
The ritual became something foreign like
driving in the city.
you cast your eye to the corners of the room when it was over.
I dressed myself quickly and welling with betrayal
back quietly into the cold air.
You came to me like a glutton to a food stand minutes before closing.
Ready to order everything
eyes scanning menu, fervour lips,
I snatched everything you offered.
The ritual now was misplaced.
Within the brim of that bed,
time and muscle-memory ran in parallel channels below the current of your scent
lapping from behind your ears.
The last time stood alone, there was more at stake.
Your eyes darted I talked with my hands and
filled the air that was thick.
You taste the same
But you cry differently.
Like magnets only together within the hem of the cheap,
We cannot get closer, our hearts beating years apart.
Silence is exchanged.
The apologies make our faces hot and sticky.
You let the pelting water beat over your hair line.
He kisses your neck from behind
and you say goodbye
over and over again.
A Note on Poetry
Poetry is medicine, one of the essential ways humankind have been able to capture the truth beauty of this existence, to try and make sense of it as best we can. Capturing what it means to be human, the childlike joy, the severing pain, the existential dread and the goldenness that can be found in the everyday. Poetry can be broad and luscious, simple and clipped. Poetry gives us a limitless choice of colours to paint with. Words are living, they are things, Maya Angelou teaches us they get into our walls and upholstery, our clothes and finally into us. They matter; their meaning, the way they sound comes from human voice. It can be easiest to write about the hardest feelings, the ones that overwhelm us and feel familiar all at the same time. Maybe because they’re so strong it’s easier to distill the feeling. Maybe because that thing needs a voice, needs to be heard.
A Note on the Writing Process
Don’t labour over the poem too much, have the words come to you, jot them down, let them sit there for a while and if they still feel right, it’s done.
Begin by visualising what feeling you want to capture, using memories and creative licence, then start with some small phrases that come to you. Sometimes we need to mine for truth, and sometimes it comes through us, already complete.
From there, it is more of a disciplined process of redrafting and refining. Hear your words read aloud by someone. You want a future version of you to re-read your poem from the past and not even remember writing it, but feeling like it sees you, that you got it right, you feel it, it rings true.
Helen Agate writes under her pen name whenever she feels the urge and enjoys sharing her work with others. She is a creative heart and lives with her animals on a small hobby farm.
Lauren Forner is the Fiction, Poetry and Experimental Forms Editor at Mona Magazine. She has been awarded various prizes for her short stories and published a collection of poetry, Parts of a Whole, in 2021. Lauren has years of experience teaching English literature and creative writing to teenagers, adults and children and reads like her life depends on it. She is perpetually completing her Masters in Creative Writing and, like all good writers, working on the elusive novel. Lauren currently lives on Wiradjuri land in the Riverina, New South Wales, and dedicates most of her waking hours to her work in public mental health.