Your Stories: Anna Ghislena

Anna shares her poem with us.

I live in Hertfordshire where I work, write and look after my husband and two teenage children.  

My career background is special event management and PR support, but I have been working as a part-time administrator in a primary school for the past few years which accommodates family life better and gives me a few extra precious hours to write creatively.  My inspiration comes from many aspects of life, love, people and observations and from live music and the culture that surrounds it (I am lucky enough to enjoy the close proximity of the London live music scene).

I heard mysterious whisperings as a child about “the change” and it is almost like that still today.  It shouldn’t be a secret.

I wrote ’51’ quite recently when I decided to write a travel themed poem.  This decision coincided with some of my work colleagues mentioning menopause now and then.  A friend of mine had also declared over coffee that she was “definitely menopausal.”  Despite the subject being raised however, the discussion was more a mutterance than an open, frank conversation and in it I did sense shame or embarrassment, despair and the feeling that it brought uninvited burdens on everyday life and well-being such as depression and physical changes with subsequent repercussions on relationships.  “Don’t get your coil removed, it’ll just bring it all on.” was a serious warning from one colleague who suffers terrible night sweats and headaches due to menopause. Whether or not removing the coil would ‘bring it on’ is another thing, but I know that menopause is inevitable and the surprises it will have in store for me only fills me with dread.

It seems to me that menopause needs to be less taboo. I heard mysterious whisperings as a child about “the change” and it is almost like that still today.  It shouldn’t be a secret.  Women, girls and transgender people, should feel able to talk freely about it to share experiences, learn more and gain support from each other, their partners at home, in the workplace and be free from what currently appears to be dealt with as an isolating condition and a desperate one in some cases. Although the title of the poem, ’51’ reflects the age at which most of us will be experiencing menopause, I am aware that much younger people suffer the symptoms sooner in their lives, and more support within society is needed to remove the silence that surrounds it.

 So, in the case of writing a poem with a travelling theme, I decided that menopause is a journey in itself, and sadly, a solitary one too. Positively, I wanted the poem to suggest that we are strong and that we can come through difficult journeys like this and that some of our best years could, should, be ahead of us.

“51”

Don’t look down for too long

Keep to the path and away from the edge

Avoid the cracks

And basking adders

By then it will all be over

Won’t it?

Everything will have come to a halt

I’m sure

By the time I’ve covered the mile

Confided in larks

And headland winds

The change stalking me

Will confirm

She’s only a temporary guest

Tendering dizzy spells

Peppery skin

A wretched spirit

Minor modifications

 

When I’ve covered the mile

Hitched my leg over the stile

And read the note that says

She’s eloped with the old me

I’ll be a new woman

Wiser again

More beautiful than

The fat flourish of girlhood

The most pregnant state of motherhood

I’ll not be a walking shell

But fine

In command

Of perfect mind.

Don’t look down for too long

Keep to the path and away from the edge

Avoid the cracks

And basking adders

Keep your feet on the path, moving on


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