BAWP Image 19 12 (1)

©E. Galisson, 2019

I wrote my way to Liberation.

Emancipation from the deprivation, 

isolation & separation of living in a one-roomed flat

listening to my baby wheezing 

in the middle of the night 

and the feeling that for me 

it just wasn’t right

to mop other peoples’ floors 

while I dreamed of

more than the drudgery – knowing

there was so much more – to me.


I filled out the form for the CAO

and went for an interview – where they asked me questions

to see would I have the persistence?

Would I go the distance? 

Could I study anthropology, sociology,

the poetry of Tennyson, Yeats and Heaney?


When the letter came

saying ‘we’d like to offer you a place,’

I wiped the tears from my face

and wrote each sentence of my letter of acceptance

with an air of ascendance, ‘cause,

I knew – I knew I was writing 

my own Declaration of Independence.

Making sure that my dependants would never be told

to use – the back entrance.


I wrote late into the night,

as I listened to my baby wheezing

giving me inspiration – 

helping to keep on motivating me when

sometimes early in the morning – 

when I’d had to write all through the night

and I wondered, were they right?

Those who said I couldn’t write

the essays and the theses that would

earn me my degree,

without a room of my own, and

‘with no arm to cling to’ in 

‘poverty and obscurity’,

Virginia Woolf’s words did empower me

to write on through adversity.

When I read Bell Hooks,

I knew I simply had to look

deeper inside my soul,

in order to control

the voices who continued to taunt

and to tell me that I can’t.


But then that brain tumour came without warning.

My step-mother went to bed one night,

and she didn’t wake up the next morning.

I watched my daddy broken-hearted, and

I almost stopped then – 

stopped what I had started.


As I listened to my baby wheezing

in the middle of the night,

I knew this was not the time – 

to give up the fight.

I simply had to Write.


I wrote my way through that year, 

through her death, 

through each tear.


On a July evening in 2004,

my brother tripped, fell down the stairs of his home,

cracked his skull on the concrete floor.

After his death, I said that’s me done – done with education,

I can’t take it – 

I can’t write anything anymore. 


But his voice in my head made me stop. 

I had to listen when he said,

‘Sis – I didn’t want to die, didn’t want to leave you alone,

but you, you have to keep going. 

Prove what you’ve always known,

get your education, free your babe from deprivation, 

from that life of isolation – 

Write your way to Liberation.


I went back to college in September.

On nights when I could not write,

when not one word would come out right,

it was my brother’s words; I had to remember.

As I lay there listening to my baby wheezing 

in the middle of the night,

I knew this was not the time – 

not the time to give up the fight.

I simply had to Write.


I wrote my way through that year, 

through his death,

through each tear.


On the day of my graduation

when my photograph was taken,

Daddy put his arm around me, 

and we held my daughter’s tiny hands.

I felt my brother’s presence strong behind me,

And in my head, I heard – 

in my head, I heard these words – these words – he said.

He said, ‘sis, you smile into the camera and hold your head up high.

I had to leave – so sorry for dying 

for leaving you alone – 

But you – you’ve done it – you kept going.

You proved what you’ve always known,  

you got your education,

freed your babe from deprivation,

from that life of isolation

Sis, You did it.

You Wrote Your Way to Liberation.



©Pauline Mc Namee

        Pauline Mc Namee lives near the village of Rhode, County Offaly. She is a writer, Spoken Word performance poet, post-primary English and history teacher and writing workshop facilitator. She holds an MA in Writing from the National University of Ireland, Galway. In 2019, she was awarded the John and Pat Hume Doctoral Scholarship and has commenced her Doctorate in Education in Maynooth University. Using a combination of narrative and arts-based research methodologies, her doctoral research will examine how post-primary teachers’ relationship to writing shapes their teaching of writing. 



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