Alex Shaw

 

Westminster

‘Emily Wilding Davison. Found hiding in crypt of Westminster Hall’ – Census of England and Wales, 1911

Note the Enumerator’s slip of the wrist
in his legalese. Yes, she is sole occupant

of this space between gold-lacquered
sainthood and ‘School Teacher – Head

of Household – Single.’ They check
St Mary’s Undercroft more for thoroughness

than in expectancy of finding the broom
cupboard occupied. She’s schoolmistress

polite, reasonable: if women don’t count
in the State, why should I be counted?

Logical – like her choice of residence
in an undercroft. Rebellion against tyrants

is obedience to God. She glances up
for royal saints to second her. Like Edward

and his housecarls, she’s set for martyrdom.
Like Edmund, she’d take arrows all over

in tests of faith. Like Margaret, hand outstretched
with a gospel that no brook could smudge,

tonight she testifies to burning conviction
in an illuminated book, a record –––––––

‘This space to be filled up by the Enumerator.’

 

 

 

 

Alex Shaw is a student at Jesus College, Oxford and former President of Oxford University Poetry Society. He won the Martin Starkie Prize in 2015, and his poems have appeared in The Literateur, The Cadaverine and Ash.

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