The Security Guard at Shopmore Says I Am A Thief
by Jenny Mitchell
Grabs me from behind, rams against my back,
eyes brimming from his lids, saliva next to drool,
except I stop, throw down my bags, tell him to search.
He plunges elbows deep; nothing has been stolen.
Still, he shouts, You’re a thief. I saw you yesterday.
My voice lies under his: How dare you put your hands on me?
He prowls to show his uniform has a cock inside.
There is rape, hard body says. You’re up against a wall.
I tell him to move back. He bawls: This woman is a thief.
My voice is a loud hailer: Liar. Don’t tell lies.
His voice is war: Call the police. We’ll have her sectioned.
Did I forget to say I’m black, four times as likely to be held?
Women trapped behind the tills, sleepwalking down the aisles
look up to watch my madness led away in chains.
Defy or Die my motto, I stand firm, demand that he apologises.
War looks down, offers me a cigarette – no word of a lie.
A pack of ten appears like a pipe of peace. He slurs, Sorry if…
I know it’s time to leave, fake smile a medal on my face:
Sorry is surrender in abuse. I swagger even though it’s false
to set off an alarm in war. He tries to show me rape again.
I dodge his growl, leave the battlefield. Cry on my way home.
Shortlisted for the Roger McGough Poetry Prize 2020 and first published in A Question of Identity, Arts Richmond.
Jenny Mitchell is winner of the Ware Poetry Prize, the Folklore Prize, the Segora Prize, the Aryamati Prize, the Fosseway Prize, a Bread and Roses Award and joint winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize 2019. A best-selling debut collection, Her Lost Language, is one of 44 Poetry Books for 2019 (Poetry Wales). A second collection, Map of a Plantation, published by Indigo Dreams, has been shortlisted for the Poetry Book Awards.