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Showcase: Loss Of Limb + Becoming A Reality + Sanctum + Remove The Taboo

Edited by ‘What If YOU Spoke’ competition finalists from Libraries Unlimited.

We are four writers who submitted entries to the What If YOU Spoke? competition led by Libraries Unlimited in Devon in partnership with Pen to Print, the University of Exeter, Africa Writes and Literature Works as part of Exeter UNESCO City of Literature.

What If YOU Spoke? is all about giving people the chance to tell their story and have their voice heard – which, in these unsettling times, feels a significant thing! After taking part in a series of online masterclasses led by authors, poets, journalists and illustrators, we submitted pieces that were judged by a panel of experts in their field. The masterclasses are still available to access online for free and we’d encourage everyone to try them out.

Our showcases will present various winning and runner-up entries from the competition alongside contributions submitted to Write On! directly. In our second showcase for the month of May, I, Charlotte Zisimides, am interested in how different writers use pace and tone to tell their story, and how they use the first person to great impact.

I was drawn to the What If YOU Spoke? competition, as it gave me the freedom to express my imagination without limits. There were a variety of themes that drew me in; however, I am most connected to nature, which is a strong theme within my poem Loss Of Limb. I am also passionate about Zakiya McKenzie’s work, and therefore gravitated towards entering her category in the competition.

The blank page is a massive worry for any writer; however, being able to learn through different authors’ processes within the short online workshops allowed for inspiration before that pivotal starting point. I found this to be an opportunity not usually given in other competitions. We were also given the opportunity to attend an online workshop with the editor of Write On! Magazine, Madeleine White, during which we explored the page layout for magazine print. These opportunities have allowed me to understand what it would be like to work within the publishing industry. I am very grateful and appreciate all the time and thought that went into this competition.

Here’s the poem I submitted:

Loss Of Limb

Rabid bear tearing your brain out. Making the wolf inside of you howl and growl. Blood dripping in slow motion down your face. Going cold by each trace. Can’t remember being in so much pain.
Why the fuck did you come here?
It’s made one thing clear.
By assuming you’ve reached Anastasia, you have actually developed a brain haemorrhage.
If you survive this, the doctors will pronounce a diagnosis of PTSD at the scene.
A luminous light streams through a block in your head. Please take me away.
I smashed my head on a rock and got struck by a fox. I thought I was fine, but clearly there was a darkness well within my mind. Like a ticking bomb exploding within my time.
I can hear the bells chime near the church where I used to lay upon the grass getting a wet ass, but I didn’t mind, because an array of water lilies which I placed near the tree soothed my mind. Take me back in time. There, crumpled, impaled by killer snails.
Before this wreckage they were breathing on their own. Serenity seeping through every pore. Bees politely asking for more.
Bells cry out.
Icicles crashing at your feet. I feel the cold within my bones.
Calling me home.

© Charlotte May Zisimides, 2021

I wrote this poem during the worst moment of my mental health battle. By sharing, I hope I can reach other people who are struggling and allow them to feel less alone. The church comes at a later point in my poem to signify that things can get better. I only came to realise how much my disorder was affecting my life as I was slowly starting to recover.

I wrote the last line, Calling me home, to highlight how you can recover with help from wherever you may call home. For me, this was through the support of my mum, dad, sister, and friends – and it was nature that guided me towards this.

This poem is set near a church; a consistent, happy memory for me. When I was a young child, I used to go to church with my family. Firstly, I show mother nature and her beautiful animals in a negative light –highlighting how they can be harsh – and then in contrast I show how they can also be the source of healing. In doing this, I was able to highlight the dangers of going only by first appearances and how beneficial it is to try and see things from different perspectives. Related to this, I also wanted to point out that you may only see that someone is struggling by going beyond what you might see at first glance; by looking beneath the surface.


Next, Diane Managal’s poem. To me, this embodies a slower pace and a gentler tone.

Becoming A Reality

Let us talk for a while And take this time to define This unique moment

I will honestly listen to all
Of what you have to say
Without any hurry
Hands up in the air

You know I was used to
Seeing things for what they really are
Would not take anything
Just based on the visual

But when your smile
Waited longer than it should
It filled me with light
Just when I thought I
Could no longer shine

How can you explain it
In one moment?
Maybe appearances are deceptive
But where this was landing me
Was becoming a reality

Oh yes there was something funny
About how it happened
It was totally unequivocal
How you were there when
I did not think you would be

Suddenly everything becomes immaterial
Just gets pushed to one side
Once I knew what
I could become

So lately people say how
I look so happy
It is because of your gentle guidance
That has really shaped me
You are just that extra quality

How can you explain it
In one moment
Maybe appearances are deceptive
But where this was landing me
Was becoming a reality

© Diane Mangal, 2012

Diane’s Collection Of Lyrical Poems & Intuition is available on Amazon.

Though Diane starts the poem using a light and patient tone, the pace slowly starts to quicken and become more desperate. The protagonist is speaking directly to the readers, which I like because we get to have a much more personal one-to-one discussion with her character. I also like the repetition, as it shows the passing of time.


Danny Baxter, on the other hand, begins his poem with a dark and frightening tone. It has a much faster and more abrupt pace. He also speaks directly to the reader, making it an arresting piece.


There was safety in our inner sanctum
Hidden away from that hell on earth outside constantly raging
They talk of new ways for us to divide and to hurt
I sacrifice my freedom and autonomy to run with you
Building together a secluded fortress of anti-hate
Our preservation of this personal connection between us
Is the boundary of this co-created place of new beginnings

© Danny Baxter, 2019

I particularly like the unsettling feelings I have when I read this piece, as it demonstrates the harsh society we are living in. It also shows us how we are slowly destroying our planet and society by showing hatred towards others. I was immediately drawn in by the title of the poem, suggesting we’re being granted access to a very private space. We’re left with a sense of enigma, as we are unsure who the protagonist is talking to throughout, and yet the fact that the poem is written to the person to whom he has been close, and with whom he has found respite from the harshness of the world, allows us – the reader – a privileged place. We are given a glimpse into the author’s private and personal space, his inner sanctum.


Remove The Taboo is a beautiful illustration by Ella Greed that I’ve chosen to include, as it holds a similar message to my poem. By painting feminine products and blood, which some people view as embarrassing, I feel Ella is encouraging us to embrace all aspects of who we are. In doing so, she’s trying to instigate change within society. By using a soft colour palette – light pinks and whites — colours stereotypically associated with the feminine and the female body, Ella is trying to reinforce the message to look beneath the surface. I really like this empowering illustration. It’s smart and calls on us to embrace our strength.

That’s it for this week!

To read the entries in full, visit Evolve at Libraries Unlimited:

Connect with Libraries Unlimited on Instagram: @librariesunlimited, on Twitter: @LibrariesUnLtd and on Facebook: @librariesunlimited.


If you’d like to see your writing appear in the Write On! Showcase, please submit your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to:

Read the latest issue (12) of Write On! here.

You can hear extracts from Showcase in our podcast. Write On! Audio. Find us on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Google Podcasts and Spotify. Type Pen to Print into your browser and look for our logo or find us on Anchor FM.