January 8, 2020

How do we live good lives in a system that dismantles equality?

Sarah Stewart, 40

This poem came out of a visit to New York when I was working as an unpaid intern in Manhattan. I loved the city, but was on a minimal budget with poor health insurance, so when I kept getting nosebleeds, I had to travel to a clinic where I could pay to see a doctor. I started to think about being poor in the USA – or indeed anywhere – about agency, about control. My love of living in Scotland is partly due to our liberal politics and health service. Writing this poem, which came from an incident on the subway, made me think about my values, about equality and safety for all, and about how we might carve out good lives in dark political times. It also let me to think about free speech; should we shut folk down for believing things we find appalling? Do we just stop paying attention? Should we do more listening, are we in danger of being too polarised? It’s strange to think all this arose from sitting on the Q train, in a strange city, with a bleeding nose…

Epistaxis, 2019Poetry