word by Keah Hansen
colour by Garry Tugwell Smith
content warning: violence
Her steel flanks glisten under a sordid sun. Scream white when sparring with that heady fire which scalds and percolates. Steam abates and disappears under the softer consciousness of the moon. In a world of duality we see seek healing our gendered symbols. We trail our fingers with alacrity over constellations of great queens. Bury our toes in the soil of wildflowers. In a world of gender, the male deftly danced us to the mantelpiece and left us there to sweep and decorate and gaze about winsomely. Coddling the hearth with a dainty steel prong. Another wary night- the room is aflame as steel and her fire twirl and jest.
At the present moment we find our battleship sinking into black waters. She heeded caution and wore her armour willingly, heaving bells of alarm when the first missile singed her pristine sides. In that vast ocean of a house, the cries besides the mantelpiece dissolved at the mudroom, unheard by the neighbours outside. Dashed twice on the rocks; a champagne flute smote under his gaze; the fire burned the scented candle wax and the moon waned to hide the rosy cheeks of the slipping ship.
Watch her picking ash off her skirt. Laundering out the lingering smoke of last night. Watch him watching her as they resume position- his fire rising out of that chimney and filling the world with another declaration of maleness. The delicate steel prong with flower etchings rests mutely by morning, like the battleship that poises leaden on the ocean floor. Salty water urges rust to spread up her shoulders and into the newly formed cavities.
This water mutes and oppresses. It won’t offer rebirth to she who has so many others to birth and support. Her body is a symbol of victory for patriarchy- the self-effacing female imprinted onto the minds of millions like a postcard of a battleship at rest. A war song rolls over the banks, prettying words of chauvinism.
For now, we pour our healing and ourselves into smaller symbols of identity. The ocean will someday offer its support– after countless battleships have chipped away and yielded to the currents- then women too will claim this territory as reverential. The mythic female will nest in these digressive and mysterious tides and the battleship will morph into a chanting pacifist baring flowers and peasant skirts. Identity is formed by such symbols- the kind that animates and roars and threatens to enflame a house with words.*
From the author:
“As I started writing this piece, I was inspired by the symbolism of the sunken warship resting on a seabed, and reflected on the processes of healing for different types of people, honing in on women in particular. However, these musings inspired a digression on the symbolic as a catalyst for growth and as a figurative location for anchoring, which unleashed a self-reflexive essay on the transience of the meanings behind symbols and the potency in claiming symbols for tangible social change.”