Ruth Barker

Thenew Awake

Glasgow Women's Library / Gi Festival
Thenew Awake Thenew Awake

Thenew Awake


Performance, 10 minutes approx. The script was memorised, and recited as a spoken word performance by the artist. Garment design and production by Lesley Hepburn.





The First Quarter


In the dark early morning,

Before the sunrise,

Before the day slips

Across the ceiling

And down the bedroom wall,

Before the city wakes,

Before the sound comes in,

I lie, awake.


Soon I will rise

Soon I will dress and put the kettle on

Make toast, and feed you, Mungo, at the morning breast.

Soon the radio will sing, and I will hear next-door’s shower rush,

And you will turn and look and breathe

And your tiny hands will be as buds,

Opening, petals reaching for the day.


But now,

Now in the dark, before the dawn,

All is silent and invisible.

I lie in the vacancy

Before the building of a city from my mind’s eye.

When there is nothing beyond the window,

But only mud flats

And the ancient unformed banks of the Clyde.



The Second Quarter: Half

So. I am a saint, then?


Stretch out one leg, and take an inventory.

The knee, muddy.

Bruise on thigh.

Shaving rash, stray hairs.

Hard skin on heel.

Five toenails: overlong.

Stretch out the other, and complete the list.

Small scar on shin

And a mark where shoes have rubbed.


Evaluation: these are my flags.

And my armour, which may weigh me down.

Ruefully I celebrate their strength,

And toast the way they join me to the ground.



The Third Quarter


When I hitch up my skirt to stamp,

I tuck the fabric up

Between my thick saint’s thighs.


When I hitch up my skirt to stamp

I show the scars of my fall

In marks that do not heal.


When I hitch up my skirt to stamp

I am sure,

And I am breathing.


When I hitch up my skirt to stamp

I am beating the heart

Of the street,

Of the city,

Of the world,

Into a new and age old shape.


When I hitch up my skirt to stamp,

I know.

This is the way to parade.

My feet are bare.

My legs are marching strong.

My soles meet the pavement in joy,

And the traffic lights change,

And all the world stops turning for a sigh now just to watch.

When I hitch up my skirt to stamp, I am remembered.

And the ground may shake.



The Fourth Quarter: Whole


In the almost evening,

I will go home.

And when I do,

The lights will be: on.

And the curtains will be: closed,

And you will be: there waiting, Mungo.

Outside will be: dark,

A fading world, real only as its image.


I’ll leave my oar outside,

Propped up against your buggy

In the stairwell.

I’ll put my feet up,

Watch some nothing on tv,

And later, sleep.


The world will turn: off.

Until tomorrow.