Wrestling The Angel

A little over a month ago, I met an old friend for coffee, and she showed me a book of poems by Sophia Blackwell (@sophiablackwell), apologising that she couldn’t bear to lend it out. I instantly rushed out to get myself a copy of ‘Into Temptation,’ because my friend was right – they’re the kind of poems you want to keep on you at all times to make you feel brave. Then I realised with a shock that this was the same Sophia Blackwell who works at Bloomsbury, who had been doing the publicity for my own upcoming book, and who I’d met several times without realising she was a stone genius poet. Blackwell’s writing is hugely important to me right now, and I frankly can’t believe she’s not already world-famous, so I thought I’d share it with you. This is one of my favourites.

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Wrestling the Angel

In every woman’s house there lives an angel.
They hear her white robes whisper on their stairs.
She smothers life and lust in clouds of household dust
and chokes impassioned songs with rationed prayers.
In every woman’s throat her wings are beating.
There’s really just one thing a girl can do.
Take your heart and shield it.
Grab a sword and wield it.
Get her before she gets you.

Please hold my handbag, I’m wrestling the angel
that’s nesting like a hen in the corner of my life.
She bends to me and simpers – will you never change, girl?
You can’t change this strange world. Why not be a wife?
She holds my arms and says they’re never made to wrestle,
I should curl and nestle, quiet as a mouse,
be a vestal virgin, be an empty vessel,
be the heart and hearth of every daddy’s house.

She gets between my pen and hungry pages.
She tells me, leave the big themes to the men –
that birds who learn to sing in sugar cages
should never need to spread their wings again.
In every woman’s mouth her words are bitter,
they ache and blister like a new tattoo.
I hear her say, stay pure,
the others matter more.
Get her before she gets you.

Please hold my hair back, I’m wrestling the angel
who’d rather settle this without a speck of blood,
but yet she’d have our hearts out, pluck our juicy parts out,
damn us in our flesh like damming up a flood.
Some of us are born girls, some of us remain girls,
I’ll never learn to grow if she doesn’t let me go.
She lectures me on cleanness, shows me how to dream less,
says no when I mean yes, and yes when I mean no.

And every baby girl’s born with an angel.
Her shadow trails through all a child might do.
She’ll find you, she’ll blind you,
She’ll gag you and she’ll bind you –
but others won before you, others run behind you,
And they’ll hold you up while you wrestle with your angel.
Do it, whatever you do.
Once you watch her going,
your wings might start growing.
Get her before she gets you.

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4 thoughts on “Wrestling The Angel”

  1. Thanks for this, reminds me of why I try so hard to not give a damn what that angel/crow has to say …

  2. Love your writing, just ordered your book, and thank you for the fabulous, Wrestling the Angel poem by Sophia Blackwell, will be getting that too.

    So glad a favorite of mine, Rebecca Solnit mentioned you in a great piece on TomDispatch that I just read.

    Wish you great success, a fun and memorably bodacious time at Harvard.

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