courage Poetry

Do Not Call it Courage

'Do not call it courage when I leave the house without make-up.' Hayley Sleigh questions what today's version of bravery looks like in this powerfully contemporary poem.

by Hayley Sleigh

Do not call it courage when I leave
the house without make-up. I have felt the heat
of your imagined judgments. I have not
felt the tyre tread
of a racist’s speeding Mustang.

I have forced myself to postpone burning
tears and keep going. I have not
forced a sunflower’s brittle stalk down
the barrel of a shotgun.

When Sophie Scholl shoved those
anti-Nazi pamphlets down a staircase and let them
flutter freely like white doves, that was courage.

And when my grandchildren ask me what I did
during the new wave of Fascism
the difficult second album
the gritty big-budget reboot

Did I use my voice, my vote, my privilege?
Did I raise myself upon the cracking backs of strangers?

We will build tent forts with
patchwork blankets while I explain that
sometimes grown-ups create crazy
stories and pretend to believe them, that
men in ill-fitting suits sold us
magic beans, and explain

that I wasn’t trapped in an annexe
that I had freedom of movement
and adequate intentions, and yet felt
paralysed by fear of being called
a fat slut on Twitter, but I did feel
brave for posting a make-up free selfie once

and describe the nightmare of infighting on all
sides, the epidemic feeling of hopelessness
and helplessness and explain

that I didn’t even hold a placard with
a hilarious Trump pun, but I tutted
and re-tweeted pre-ruffled hair
and weak tea in working-class cups served
to middle-class mugs, and wonder whether

these kids feel lucky to eat bendy bananas
and chlorinated chicken on this
short-sighted island, and know

that we all look up at the same
dark sky descending in on us.  


Hayley Sleigh | @haysleigh
Hayley is currently studying for a master’s degree in Creative Writing at University of Nottingham in England. She also works as a freelance marketing and communications consultant. You can find out more about her by visiting her website www.hayleysleigh.com and by following @haysleighcreative on Instagram and @haysleigh on Twitter.

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