Body Politics (a poem by Sionainn Byrnes)

james connolly

Mural in Belfast, photo taken by Sionainn Byrnes.

Poem by Sionainn Byrnes (UC Femsoc, Fightback).

Trigger warning: references to incest

What am I? On A3 sheets of recycled pulp mashed new
Furry ended felts and snapped crayons strewn across the room
I am opportunity, I am hope, I am green ribbons in auburn pigtails

I am marital glue – pasty, gelatinous, salty
I am a human born of expectations failed and fresh
I am what hurting people produce in the temporary solace of their shared dysfunction
I am the love child of belts on skin, welts on skin, wounds melting when skins are shared

Unbeknownst to me I am ‘working class’
I am of terrorist descent
A portent of my danger in years to come
My shrapnel bombs now stained by menses
I am the red scare

And yet if I were a man, I would be more Irish than I am
Because strong men in Belfast – who share my blood – don’t mix real politics with feminism
Don’t take notes from insular girls who live a world away from reality
Green ribbons don’t make you one of us
And what’s this whakapapa you mention?
I hope you know that’s illegal here – cue laughs –
Plus we only speak Gaelic

And somehow I’m the hick?
Because I tried to speak in the language of your own politics
Lesson learnt: don’t try to make struggles and troubles equal

But I am still S – I – O – N – A – I – N – N, Sionainn to you
I am Gaelic on recycled pulp mashed new
True, that in New Zealand I have settled felt-like upon that paper with privilege
Even though spelling errors on official documents erase a part of me I am nonetheless lucky that my face matches the papery palette of power

White craft materials affirm me while sing-song lilts denounce my green ribbons, my lack of sexual inhibitions, my stories that stain the blanket men in ways they never experienced in Long Kesh

I dive into murals, into barbed wire, into taxi drivers who seem only to know the directions to Shankill Road, into the bed of my cousin’s friend Cormac
In order to make whakapapa relevant to me, to them
In order to retrieve something that was lost in emigration
In order to settle the fuck a niece that ensured my mother would never return to Ireland, and which is apparently not illegal

My green ribbons, tied to my lack of sexual inhibitions, tied to my ideological positions

Fuck a niece informed my femininity
To my uncles I say: that’s what I mean by intersectionality
That’s what the return line from Christchurch to Singapore to Frankfurt to Dublin to Belfast means

As a side note I am constantly referred to as Siobhan because it is more recognizable than Sionainn
My mother is Siobhan
I am my mother, and all of her baggage
I am lost in transit
I am running out of room for presents

It occurs to me that I was a child when this began
I was opportunity, I was hope, I was green ribbons in auburn pigtails

What am I? On a pixelated screen some twenty years later
I am a well-read Frankenstina
I am a work in progress, regress, progress, regress
Future, past, Sionainn, Siobhan
Brick by brick by bricolage
Still pasty, glutinous, and salty, though, my glue, my mashed potato mortar, has not yet dried
I am a body politic, and a voice worth hearing in the right context, but one that is trying to learn its place and its limitations

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