© Brenda-Joy Pritchard

Winner, 2022, 20th Annual Nandewar Poetry Competition, Narrabri, NSW.

The bell is tolling, death looms near, my agony’s intense.
My mind cascades from peace to fear. I’m in and out of sense.
How easy just to end it all and let my life abate,
but deep inside I feel the call that challenges that fate.

In mainstream terms, I’m not the same, I lead a hidden life.
My love goes by another name without the title ‘wife’.
I’ve never had a ‘coming out’ (there was no scope to hide).
Appearances left little doubt; belonging was denied.

Equality was thin disguise extolled to ease the guilt
of those who turned unseeing eyes when victims’ blood was spilt.
The bullying in word and deed became the basic rule.
Avoidance was a covert creed throughout my years at school.

Career would bring a hidden gain – I found I could immerse
myself in other-people’s pain when I became a nurse.
So outer happiness was feigned upon a service hinge,
but underneath I still remained a dweller on the fringe.

You saw the sorrowing that lay behind my bright façade.
Your care then helped me put away the image hate had scarred.
You taught that being different did not decrease my worth
and that the right to love was meant for everyone on earth.

You showed me that community is every person’s need
and through our bond of unity, my spirit could be freed.
At last I did not feel ashamed of who I was inside.
My ‘preference’ could be proclaimed without the need to hide.

And yet... this vicious, urban stray attacked without a cause
beyond the fact that I was gay and followed other mores.
My body’s gutted, slashed apart, but I’m not giving in.
I’ll struggle through with all my heart. I will not let him win!

I’ve sung my brothers’ eulogies, I’m not afraid of death,
but why should social bigotries decide my final breath?
I cannot let that monster’s knife, his brutal, fierce attack,
be cause that takes my earthly life. Go Death! I’m fighting back!

If God should grant I stay alive, I’ll play an active role
to help those being spurned survive traumatic trials of soul,
and I will pray that He may bless the coming of the dawn
where seeds of higher consciousness lie waiting to be born.

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