In Defence of Life and Love

IN DEFENCE OF LIFE

AND LOVE. A CONTEMPLATION

WRITTEN IN HAIKU

Morning I leave and

wildflower meadow grounds me:

cornflower, sainfoin.

This is why I go.

I will march for this beauty;

this wildness roots me.

The London-bound train,

my curly-headed daughter

writes in her journal.

She challenged me and

it’s because of her I’m here:

‘We have to do more.’

Tube to NR5:

two kind strangers and their cats

our hosts for the week.

A blue dawn greets us,

slipping groggily, quietly

through London streets till

this is it, we’re here

and birds flutter nervous wings

deep in my belly.

I take a deep breath

and when the lights go green we

walk into the road.

We are an island

 of unity, of orange

high-vis vests, banners.

The blast of car horns.

‘Get a job! Fucking tossers!’

I can hear these words

but I also hear

the ‘Thank you for doing this!’

the raised fists, the cheers.

This isn’t easy.

The disruption. The anger.

I’m conflict averse,

a person who will

 flinch at the ricochet of

harsh, crossed words. Even

London is too much

for my sensibilities;

the noise, the clamour.

But still, I am here.

I have chosen to be here.

And I’ll keep marching.

A car pushes through

aggressively, engine revved

while another man

tears banners from us

again and again until

he loses steam and

dumps them on the side.

But a man on the pavement

gathers them all up,

steps into the road

and hands them all back to us.

Such a simple act

yet I am so moved

that it takes my breath away;

makes me want to weep.

Day two.  Slow marching

I’m handed a megaphone

and words start to pour

out of my mouth like

water tumbling over stones.

My heart hammers hard

but these words, they know

what they want to say, for they’ve

been waiting in me.

The heat is rising,

both temperature and fury

as sun glints off the

yellow police coats.

They stand in a line, arms crossed:

intimidation.

Then they swarm like wasps

among us, threatening arrest,

telling us to move,

that we can’t be here,

that we’re causing disruption.

Who wants to disrupt?

We all have lives. Jobs.

Families. People we love.

But that’s why we’re here,

to protect all this:

to protect all we hold dear

while our government

is betraying us

and future generations

and keeps increasing

Met Police powers

so we can be hoovered up

like dirt, arrested.

But what they don’t know

is that the more we’re repressed,

the more we will grow,

spreading beautiful,

strong mycorrhizal networks

rooted underground

that cannot be stopped,

that cannot just be ignored:

People have power.

Day three. My daughter

turns seventeen and my pride

in her scales mountains

as her courage grows.

She offers people leaflets,

asks ‘Want to know more?’

Today is scary.

We spread across a 3-lane

exhaust-filled A road.

The shouting, swearing,

snatching, hand-on-the-horn rage

seeps into my bones.

It may not seem so

but my heart goes out to them.

They are trapped, like us.

All of them duped by

corporate greed, wealth-lust.

But on a dead planet

there will be no wealth.

No hospital appointments,

No jobs to get to.

And my soul cracks like

drought-parched land when I think of

all that we will lose.

If my own children

one day have kids of their own

(which I sometimes hope

they will opt out of)

and they ask ‘What did you do?

How did you act, Nan,

when you were aware

of how bad it really was?’

I will put my hand

on my heart and say,

I tried. I did what I could.

I stepped into a

busy road and stopped

as I sent out silent prayers

that those in their cars,

once their anger dulled,

thought Why are these people here?

Will this affect me?

After we have marched,

the police trail us on the

tube, in parks, down streets.

That night, I lie down,

think Can I keep doing this?

I am tired, so tired.

Day four. We block the

Hangar Lane Gyratory,

at one stage spanning

eight lanes, hands clasped,

arms stretched as taut as iron.

It’s terrifying.

We walk for some time,

far longer than I had thought

possible given

that we are bringing

a main London thoroughfare

to such a standstill.

Constable Farooq

asks me to leave the road now;

asks me three times more

then tells me I am

under arrest for causing

wilful disruption,

breaching Section 12.

It’s the first time that I’ve felt

cold steel that closes

firm around my wrists.

Farooq says he’s sorry, that

he understands our

motives and I find

I’m surprised how kind he is.

I tell him about

my three kids and my

dreams and fears I have for them.

And he talks about

his five-month-old son

and he smiles, thinking of him.

There are eight of us

in two police vans.

I am wedged beside a girl

of just nineteen years,

all big eyes and grins,

her third arrest in a year.

All of these people

were unknown to me

just a few short days ago,

but this is a strange

and intimate time,

and the love I feel for them

catches in my throat.

While we are waiting,

the Chief Inspector tells us

that he knows Norfolk;

that he’s recently

 cycled around its flat lands

and he also says –

word for word, I swear –

‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’

Not what I expect.

For people realise

that we have a huge problem

that will not vanish

but they do not know

what can be done about it.

And I understand,

it’s painful even

to travel to these places,

let alone stay there.

And yes, it’s true that

we must consume less, think more

about our lifestyles.

But at the same time,

the main problem isn’t us,

ordinary folk.

No. It’s Big Oil

and corrupt politicians

in bed together.

We must call them out.

We must not keep sleepwalking

and staying silent.

Once we have arrived,

I’m searched and fingerprinted,

questioned and then I’m

put into a cell

with a striplight, no window

and a small toilet.

I am given a

trashy thriller which I read

and I eat baked beans

with a paper fork

(no metal ones for safety)

and make my one call.

I keep asking if

I can have paper and pen

but I’m told the Sarge

says no (pens are not

allowed, also for safety).

But I don’t give up.

Metal hatch opens

and I feel like kissing this

simple memo pad.

In between star jumps,

eating beans and my thriller,

I count syllables,

think of my daughter

 and my seven friends, all in

identical cells.

Eleven hours pass

and outside we’re greeted with

food, hugs, compassion.

It’s late. I am tired.

This definitely is not

my average Thursday.

Day five. We’re spat at,

told to get a job, losers,

tossers, wankers, cunts.

But the thing is that

this barely registers now,

but the support does.

I focus on that

as we all want the same thing:

food, safety, healthcare,

a chance for our kids

to thrive. Frankly? To survive.

We’re more similar

than you think, you who

spits at me out of the bus

and screams in my face.

It’s hard, this last march

and I am so exhausted

and pretty much walk

asleep on my feet,

my nervous system rattling

like a box of nails.

But we’re united.

We’ve all come with our stories

and we all feel it:

this old, deep wisdom

that courage is contagious

and what we do now

matters. It matters,

each fraction of a degree

and every life saved.

In the park after,

we share tales and tears and hopes

as the sun beats down.

Yes, I still have hope,

for hope is not a feeling,

hope is an action.

Hope is stepping in

to a road, stopping traffic

and walking proudly.

Hope is linking arms,

clasping hands, holding banners

and fixing our eyes

on the horizon

as we grow roots in the road,

scattering seeds of

courage as we go.

I will not apologise

for my defence of

life, for we must choose

to allow love to save us.

As we keep walking,

I look up at the

 London rooftops, the June sky.

And I release a

flock of birds from my

soul and watch as they soar high

up above the city

and the slow marchers

as their wings beat in time to

my bruised, hopeful heart.

I am at the far end in blue trousers and cap. This was the morning of my arrest.

Thank you for reading this blog post. Please click here to find out more about Just Stop Oil and how you can get involved. You don’t have to slow march, there are so many ways you can help.

23 replies
    • Rebecca Stonehill
      Rebecca Stonehill says:

      Hi Barbara, thank you so much for reading my poem and for taking the time to comment, it is so appreciated. Best wishes to you, Rebecca

      Reply
    • Rebecca Stonehill
      Rebecca Stonehill says:

      Hey Bex, thanks so much for reading this 💚 It means a lot. Would love to speak soon, it’s been a long old time. Much love Xxxx

      Reply
  1. Bernadette Barclay
    Bernadette Barclay says:

    Hey Bex, Bernie here from day one of last week (dark brown hair). I will be using your poem as the basis for a workshop here in Turkey today. I’m running climate action workshops and I know you won’t mind. I’ll feed back to you. Huge love to you xxxx

    Reply
    • Rebecca Stonehill
      Rebecca Stonehill says:

      Hi Bernie, yes I remember you and actually was thinking about you today funnily enough as was reading one of Audre Lorde’s quotes 🙂 I am so honoured to hear that. Thank you. Would love to know how it goes and see you in Norwich I hope Xx

      Reply
      • Bernadette Barclay
        Bernadette Barclay says:

        It went very well. The theme for this workshop was Poems for Courage, Love and Action. They all wrote Haikus and my colleague is collating them and I’ll send them to you. Much love xxx

        Reply
        • Rebecca Stonehill
          Rebecca Stonehill says:

          Ooooh yes PLEASE do, I would love to see them 💚 You can use the contact form on my website to send them over X

          Reply
  2. stephanie northen
    stephanie northen says:

    I take my hat off to you for your courage, honesty and poetry. Thank you and may many more follow in your slow footsteps until Big Oil is vanquished by the small people.

    Reply
  3. Fireseed
    Fireseed says:

    A beautiful and moving poem. What you and your daughter did was courageous and humbling. Thank you for sharing your experience in such a touching way.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Stonehill
      Rebecca Stonehill says:

      Thanks so much David for reading this poem and for taking the time to comment on it, that means a lot. It was an intense week for both of us! But so worth it. Best wishes

      Reply
  4. Ludi from Bradford
    Ludi from Bradford says:

    This expresses so well my feelings and hopes and fears and commitment, and I am sure of many others. I will be on the roads taking your place next week with others from the North. Your words give me extra determination and calm. Thank you. And thank you to your daughter too.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Stonehill
      Rebecca Stonehill says:

      Thank you so much for reading my poem and for reaching out Ludi. We are all in this together, and all power to you on the roads next week 💚

      Reply
  5. Mark Latimer
    Mark Latimer says:

    Childminding a toddler sleepyhead in his pram
    Reading this propells me into awareness of our
    All permeating tragedy
    Remembering cheerful Catherine
    Chatting in the hallowed halls of the Royal Courts
    “I can’t be bothered to get gloomy”

    Reply
  6. amelia
    amelia says:

    i don’t know why i am only reading this now…
    from your newsletter i have just stumbled across,
    to your defence statement
    to this poem now..
    i wish i had read it before..
    its moved me.. sooo much…
    even though you have recounted this experience to me, a number of times
    beautifully written (of course)
    eloquently explained (claro que si)
    and moving – profoundly moving…
    i’m sorry i didn’t give you the right attention at the time… because you deserved it.. you deserve it… its wonderful what you and Maya did…
    i’m grateful and proud

    Reply

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