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On Marching…


Please note: There is coarse language in this blog. 

I am one flavour in a

Sandstorm of taste

Spices sparkle on the

Orange lips of dawn and

Drip down the chin of dusk

I’ve been thinking a lot about marching. About being a woman. About being a mother. About being a human. I’m always thinking about these facts. Every day it happens that I read something or watch something or pay attention to someone and I get a surge of heat in my chest – a surge of human connection. I cry. Honestly, I cry every day because I’m moved by something or someone I see or hear. A song. A scene in a television show. A news story. A Facebook post.

I’m moved to tears often in my kitchen and in my car. In odd places or in places that I’m in every day.

I didn’t go to Washington with the others to march for women’s rights or human rights. I didn’t go to our local march to walk in solidarity with protesters and social activists. I spent time with my kids. I did groceries in a Wal-mart. I held in tears most of the day because all I was thinking about was why my feet were marching…but not in a crowd. Not for a larger purpose. Not for the feminist poet in me. Not for my pussy. Or his asshole. Not for all the words we use to label and describe. Not for all the pain and suffering. Not for a leader who my skin folds away from…

My passion is thick

My bravery is imperfect

My soul is scarred and mended

My heart is shattered and sewn

I am not alone

I cried in the magazine aisle because I was alone…but I didn’t feel alone. I felt the power of the people marching. I felt their courage. I felt their choice to use hard-earned money and tumbling Time to hit a road to a pavement their feet would march because they believed in their cause. In their motivation. To travel. To move for what they believe in. To use their voices and creative power to make signs to communicate what they believe.

And still…I felt held down. The weight of fear in my Blundstones tethering me to the normalcy, the peaceful, grateful existence I’ve created in my life. I ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ one photo of three women dressed in suffragette clothing, holding signs I agreed with. Immediately, someone posted a comment – a negative comment. Immediately, I shrunk. Immediately, I was grateful for being in a Wal-Mart aisle…away from real confrontation. Away from real…

No stage can judge me

No fool will be punished

No monster will be unmet

No death will be unblessed

What stops me from sharing my opinions in ways that are loud? That are off-the-page? In the deepness of my centre chest, there’s a voice that gives me an answer. There’s a voice that explains it all. And it makes sense why I stay – here – in the protected, peaceful, safe space of this life I’ve created with my love and my children.

Maybe I’m not ready to say these words out loud…or write them out of me. Maybe I’m not ready to learn how to live fully without this fear. Fear makes a home too, you know. Right inside where it counts. With all the other good stuff.

Delight in my ancient mystery

Play in my shadows

Curse my myths

Steal my colours

I want to march. I want to make signs with my children, my husband. I want us all to stand together and march for what we believe in. Yet, the days come and go when we could be marching. I am quiet. I am scared…all these miles away.

I have opinions and I am afraid to hold them up. I have beliefs and I am afraid to post them on Facebook. I am afraid of nasty comments. I am afraid of their power. I felt guilty for not marching.


We march

Cunt upon cunt

A flesh skirt over the universe




Then I opened up ‘I Am That Woman’. A book I wrote…that makes me blush to remember it’s mine. At the back, quietly, patiently, my poem A Woman’s Love, nestles on pages 41 to 46. I realize the truth: I do march. I do it with my feet planted on the floor while my finger tips flail at clacky keys and the voice of my soul dumps onto pages in the form of poetry.

No, it’s not the same. But I can’t let that matter. Bravery exists for me right here, right now, on this blog, in the pages of my books, in the words I use to teach my children, and everyone, that love is the most important thing in the world.

And though my history is filled with fear, I’m blowing out the bricks of its house in my centre one damn brick at a time.

We know who we are

We know where we stand

We walk with the weight of

Your world on our shoulders

And we still choose naked

As our gown

The last time I did a reading, a person in the crowd sat arms and legs crossed, face scrunched as I opened my heart. After the show, another person gave me suggestions to change some words and a line in a poem.

It is hard for me to be a poet some days. On some stages. There are always opinions scrunched in faces or wide open in remarks…I know it’s because the sound of my marching affects people in ways that maybe they don’t like. Or maybe they love it but they just can’t say it out loud – a crying face and a laughing face look startling alike, if you’ve ever noticed.

My truth is that I have to march on my own streets – real and literal. I have to trust my own voice – loud or quiet. I have to share my opinions on paper or in conversation, and it.all.matters.

So while I’m terrified to march beside you in Washington, I’m honoured to march beside you on the page. And if we never connect in the flesh or you never see my face or watch me cry or hear me cheer you on – know that I am.

I’m working on challenging and changing how Fear resides in my body and mind…it’s all a kind of march. The best way I know to stomp is this way…with these words.



This is only

Fear laughing

This is only

Joy dancing

This is only

Growth spreading

This is only


I am free

I am Love

*excerpts from ‘A Woman’s Love’, by Vanessa Shields, I Am That Woman, 2014

5 thoughts on “On Marching…

  1. Dearest Vanessa,

    I love how you march, fear and courage all in a bundle, across the open page with your open heart, mind, hand & skin.

    With respect, admiration & ❤️, Karen


  2. As long as you, me, Annie, Danah, Nona, all your “girls”, especially Meeps can share our worlds how, with and who we choose then you have done something right. In your case you are one of the lucky ones to have a son who is sooooooooo compassionate and a husband who was raised by one of the strongest women we will ever know. Thanks and continue marching for those who can’t.


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