Self Defence

She turned off the cartoons,
the ones I was glued to,
until the colours blipped into nothing.
Redness, yellow, a black hue –
An imploding pinhole, then, gone.

Eyes up, on me
Now is the time she decides –
Budding breasts are the sign
so, now is the moment,
pressing, important, imminent:

I’ll teach you how to defend yourself.

Now, as if no moment could be better,
when I am absorbed by a screen,
barely twelve, barely woman
in a cartoon dream, of justice and morals
and good-guy-beats-bad.

I’m up, facing her, head at her chest, her
arms atop my shoulders, her gaze –
She teaches me to unfurl my force.
Up and sideways, up and sideways –
Stamp on foot and run.

He teaches me much later.
There in the garden, a meaningless visit –
He looks caught by my stories,
stuck on the words – words grim and explicit,
that ‘they’ say, to me.

The words of harassment:
Yes, in my uniform. Yes, at the bus stop.
Yes, they whistled at me in my school stuff.
Dad, really, how could you be shocked.

He placed his hands where she had before.
They were heavier, obviously, so the weight felt…
Up and sideways, unthinking, as taught.
He smiles at the knowledge I’m not easily caught

as if it was bred from my being, now, woman –
Not learned from a mother, who
suddenly compelled, turned off the TV,
taught her daughter to fight, push through, defend
with punches and

elbows are the sharpest point of your body.