I never used to iron.

Ironing. For years I refused to be a slave to the mould of hot steaming iron. I refused to smooth away the crinkles, press creases and stand in the ultimate housewife position. Legs spread, board out, piles upon piles of  stylistic statements before me, all of them requiring attention, all of them requiring me to become the atypical label. A housewife, a wife a mother, a female, a girl a lady. We iron.

We stand for hours, up the board, down the board, bored, bored, bored.  You were in or you out. I was out. I was the black death of womanhood my views contagious, my opinion death like. So I ironed less and welcomed my self induced plague. 

I iron. I became the label that society imposed on me. Sickened by my acceptance I remove my bra in protest.

Karen Hayward ©2015.

The wee mountains forever as I cook.


The whole flat smelt
of aged tannin and
a low whistle could
be heard at all times.
There was always time for tea, sarnies too.
You might call her a feeder, she wasn’t but some might call her that.
Food was a sign of respect, you went anywhere they offered you sweet tea
and food. I used a cooker
for the first time there
in that kitchen with
windows that looked
down the hill past the subways and out toward mountains, my Gran always laughed and said ‘Just a coupla wee hills.’ They were mountains to my young
eyes. She spoke constantly
in her rich Irish roots peppered with her Scottish life, if I concentrated hard enough my English mind understood
some of what she said.
Her voice was soft,
a whisper a beautiful
melody, she spoke as I grated potatoes, carrots and onion, her smile told me I was doing good. ‘Eggs, Gran and flour and water too.’ I was reading thr recipe from my mind and hoping I had remembered everything, we had cooked them a few weeks before in school.
She wears a house coat,
she has many, a blue one,
a pink one a brown one,
every morning she slips it over her clothes, I have never seen her clothes, I can only presume she wears them. She told me once, ‘wash your smalls in the sink every
night. That way you’ve always got clean.’ I asked what if you needed them…’she laughed ‘Go with out.’
A frying pan black as death and thick with grease
sizzles at my side.
‘Listen child.’
My Mum also says this phrase.
‘When you cook, you cook. Stay sharp keep thoughts out’
I didn’t listen, I burn most of what I cook because my thoughts make me
wander.  We sat at
the table, the small
window behind me
and the radiator to
my left, I feel warm
and safe. I don’t
recall what the
food tasted like,
just her smile as she devoured the plate.

Karen Hayward ©2015.

What the World Taught me About being a woman.

When I was four, the world taught me what it was too be a woman.

I needed long hair that flowed and curled and shined radiant in the light.

I needed dresses and skirts and floral shirts,

of yellow or pink or red or peach,

these are the things the world did teach.

When I was seven, the world taught me what it was to be a woman,

Cross my legs be quite and calm smile always and say yes mam,

Always be clean, no mud, no worms, no running no sunning

no speck no hair no tales to share, for I should always

look radiant and fair,

this is what the world, chose to share.

When I was ten, way back then, the world taught me what it was,

to be a woman,

Wear high heel shoes, and fish net tights,

stay up doing my hair till at least midnight,

Lipstick and mascara and a rosie blush

the world used to whisper, this is what to do…

cover your beauty with products so lush.

When I was twelve,

when I was sixteen,

when I was twenty

the world taught me what it thought, it was too be a woman,

I had to follow not lead, sleep but not dream

smile but not scream,

It taught me to hide behind a costume of sorts,

to never reveal my inner thoughts, to smile and laugh,

because that was my place, I had no ticket for the real race.

being a woman, means not being free,

this is what the world, taught me.

When I was four, my Dad said, it’s just bloody

hair that grows on a head.

curly or straight short or long,

it’s just bloody hair,

there is no right or wrong.

When I was seven, my Dad said,

as I built pies in the mud that covered

my legs,

smile and be happy, shout and scream

do as you please,

just never be mean.

My Dad said, back when I was ten,

dress to please you, but never the men,

You don’t need lippy, mascara or blush,

you’ll get there, there’s no need to rush.

A real man loves what hides in the heart,

don’t be an actress playing a part.

When I was twelve, my Dad said,

jesus christ what ya done to ya head,

No soft curling rolls, or radiant hair,

jet black, he said,

they’ll surely all stare. He smiled, but you

do not care.

When I was sixteen, My Dad said,

be careful out there the world is mean

listen to me, i’m old i’m wise and all this I have seen.

Wear what you like, but wear it with pride,

this is your life, you’ve a ticket to ride.

When I was twenty, my Dad said,

I always knew, you’d get ahead,

not scared to be you, there are but a few,

the power was coming the women were new.

This he said, he always knew.

Karen Hayward (C) 2015