Home > Imprisonment > To Save the Body and the Soul From Death, Damnation

To Save the Body and the Soul From Death, Damnation

August 26, 2011

by Louisa Howerow

justification for force feeding suffragettes, Holloway Gaol

I can’t lean far enough away
to escape the wardens,
their eager footsteps,
outstretched hands.
These women press me
to the bed, bruise down
my flailing limbs and head.
I clench my eyes against
the doctor who steals in,
against his fingers pulling
at my lips, the metal rod
he forces through
to find the childhood gaps
between my teeth. A twist
cuts gums, cleaves mouth,
ensures a tube’s relentless
push toward my breast.

Nothing here is of me:
not the medicinal gruel,
not the vomit, not the sobbing…

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Louisa Howerow’s most recent poetry appeared in FreeFall, The Nashwaak Review and Room. This poem is part of a manuscript that gives voice to the rank and file members of the British suffragette movement. Two of the poems in this collection appeared in The New Quarterly, guest edited by Diane Schoemperlen. Another poem in a slightly altered version was published in Room.

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  1. August 27, 2011 at 1:33 am

    Very powerful poem, Louisa! The “images” are vivid, the terror palpable. Great job!

  2. Christina Pacosz
    August 28, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Powerful! We need reminders of what terrible sacrifices were made by suffragettes.

  3. Christina Pacosz
    August 29, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    It was good to hear you read the poem.

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