Her Light Burns Brightly

In honour of International Women’s Day, This poem pays tribute to all the women in history who paved the way for women today to enjoy the freedoms and rights that we do.

Image of Millicent Fawcett by dimitrisvetsikas1969 on Pixabay

Her Light Burns Brightly

Strong, resilient, like no other
Fighter, defender, lover, mother,
Teacher, leader, inspiration,
Backbone of a generation.
Of a kind, yet individual,
Shrugging off the chains residual
That remain from eons past,
Smashing ceilings made of glass.
She honours mothers, sisters, aunts,
Who fought to give her every chance
To vote, to lead, to work, to win,
To overcome history’s sins.
Her light burns brightly: in her wake
Are those she has inspired to take
The future into their own hands,
On their own terms, not those of man.

ⓒ2016 Joanne Van Leerdam

In celebration of all women on International Women’s Day: Her Light Burns Brightly by @jvlpoet
#poetry #poetrylovers #InternationalWomensDay #WomensHistory

This poem appears in the collection titled ‘Stained Glass’, dedicated to the strength and resilience of women.


I wrote this poem two years ago. It’s still far too relevant,

Too bright, too individual, too funky, 
Too wild, too unafraid, too chunky, 
Too short, too loud, too bold, too dyed—
When will you ever look inside? 
It’s so easy to label something as sin
Ignoring the gems concealed within—
Love, passion, talent, loyalty, art.
Yet you say God looks at each person’s heart
For faith, service, and integrity:
Why can’t you look that way at me?

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

I saw you looking at my ears
And all my pretty piercings there; 
Your distaste was almost palpable
And I still don’t eally care


Crowned with a garland of heavenly flowers
My muse appears at times of solitude;
Cherished companion of secluded hours,
Bestower of verses in plenitude. 
In precious moments of visitation
Her ephemeral presence comforts me; 
Her gifts of lyrical inspiration
Give birth to a wellspring of poetry,
Where thoughts and emotions cascade into 
A broad pool of thoughtful reflection
Where the seeker can find perspectives new      
Amid moments of deep introspection. 
Hers are the lines that purge my troubled soul:
Let these songs heal my heart and make me whole. 


‘Muse’ is one of the poems in the collection titled ‘The Passing Of The Night’.

©2016 Joanne Van Leerdam

Tappety Tap

Tappety tappety tap. 

Something about the low light amplified the tiny sound that seemed to grow louder as it continued. 

Tappety tappety tap. 

She leaned forward to try to peer into the darkness beyond, but the leather cuffs that secured her hands behind her back restrained her movement. 

Tappety tappety tappety tap.

The sound began to slow as it drew nearer, yet whatever was making the noise remained out of sight.

Tappety tappety.

An involuntary gasp escaped her lips as a spider, like none she had ever seen before, tappety-tapped its way slowly toward her.  Even as anticipation unleashed a caterpillar of fear that crept up her spine and over her scalp, she watched, transfixed, as its skeletal form crossed the floor. 

The meagre light reflected dully off its bony thorax, from which extended eight legs that consisted of the clean, white phalanges of long, dextrous fingers. The tap-pet-ty tapping of its bony legs echoed down the dark hallway, then halted.  The arachnid raised its front legs in the air as though surveying her as an unexpected intruder in its lair.  

She held her breath and sat as still as she possibly could, not wanting to attract it or arouse its suspicion. Her pulse pounded in her ears and throbbed in her temples as she willed it to hush, but that was to no avail. 

Tap tap tap. Tap tap. 

It slowed, then raised one of its bony legs in the air and pointed it directly at her. 

She froze, but was unable to take her eyes off the creature. It had no eyes that she could see, nor antennae, yet somehow it sensed her and knew exactly where she was. 

Tap-pet-y tap-pet-y tap. The creature advanced toward her slowly, deliberately, and without any regard for stealth.  

It crept onto her shoe, one fingery leg at a time, and sat there  quite motionless for a moment, although it seemed much longer to her. Shuddering, she shook and kicked her foot, but it clung tenaciously to her shoe, entirely undeterred by her movement. 

When her foot was back on the floor, the bony legs began to step carefully over her bootlaces and buttons, stark against the soft leather. As it stepped onto the skin of her calf, she winced at the icy coldness of its touch. The creature proceeded up her leg, each tiny footfall sending tiny chills racing across her skin and up her spine.

She tensed as it approached the hem of her skirt which rested just below her knee due to her writhing and squirming in her efforts to free herself, the creature’s pace both mercifully and agonisingly slow at the same time. ‘Oh dear God, don’t let it go underneath’ she thought, although the words were borne more of repulsion than a prayer. Her muscles clenched everything under her clothing as tightly shut as she could make it, relaxing only when the fingery legs stepped onto the fabric of her skirt.

A tear escaped down her cheek as she released her breath slowly, yet her body remained rigid as she watched the ghastly spider advancing over her skirt toward her abdomen.

Further and further it crept, over her stomach and onto the bodice of her dress, crawling slowly but definitely upward. As it crossed her collarbone, she gave thanks for the high neckline and collar of her dress so that it wasn’t actually touching her skin.  

She watched it intently, trying to keep her head still and only move her eyes as she tracked its movements.

She moaned as the first cold, bony foot stepped onto her throat. One by one, the others followed in succession, slow and purposeful. She twitched involuntarily with surprise as one of the forelegs reached up and stroked her cheek gently, creating an icy trail tracing her teardrop’s journey softly from her cheekbone to her jaw.

Then the creature’s bony legs wrapped around her throat, crushing her trachea in its grip. Pressure built behind her eyes, in her ears, in her skull, pounding the beat of her panic and fear with its crushing weight. The fireworks behind her eyes imprinted themselves in starbursts of purple around her eyes. Tears flowing freely, she struggled against her restraints, aching for breath and for release. 

Her vision began to dim as her heart fluttered wildly in her chest, but her eyes sprang wide open when she felt a profound sting in the flesh beneath her jaw, and remained fixed and wide as she felt its mouthparts mashing her carotid artery before its venom stilled her resistance and slowed her heart until each beat was almost imperceptible. The agony of asphyxiation gave way to coldness as the bony spider drew deeply, its abdomen swelling as it gorged itself on her lifeblood.

Time slowed as darkness overpowered her senses and pulled her into its final, eternal lair.

Only when she was completely still, her lifeless eyes still staring into the darkness, did the creature end its gory feast. 

It fell to the floor, flexed its bony legs, and headed back into the dark hallway. 

Tap-pet-y  tap-pet-y tap.

The Burning Question

The teacher placed the stack of papers on the table and addressed the class. 
“Thank you for your essays. Are there any final burning questions?”

Most deliberately avoided her gaze, but one girl raised her hand, initiating a chorus of groans.


“Why do you always wear black?”

Insolent laughter erupted around the classroom.

The teacher nodded. “Fair question. It’s camouflage for my sense of humour— or my soul. You choose.”

She shrugged, and the collected papers behind her burst into flames then powdered into ashes.

She smiled at their silence. “Perhaps you’ll all be more respectful from now on!”

The Final Blow

Image by Geanette Saad 2019. Used with permission.

“How many times do I have to tell you not to pick your nose?”

Sam sighed. All he wanted to do was dislodge those crusty bits that stabbed the inside of his nostrils every time she made him blow into a tissue, and remained there stubbornly regardless of his efforts with the tissue. Those things hurt, and they didn’t let go on their own.The best way to remove them was gently, with his favourite finger, and then flick them into the bin.

She should just be thankful he never wanted to eat it. He didn’t understand how other kids could. Just the other day when they had gone out for lunch he had watched another boy in the restaurant eating his booger off his finger before picking up a chicken nugget and eating that. He shuddered at the thought.

“You don’t know what damage you might do in there, Sam. Please, just use a tissue and blow your nose, and let me get this last jack o’ lantern done for tonight.”

As his mother turned away to finish carving the pumpkin, Sam defiantly slid his finger back up his right nostril, where he found a great big pointy one, shaped just like the witch’s hat that already sat on a carved pumpkin on the porch by the front door. This was possibly the biggest and pointiest one yet, like a miniature mountain that had grown to dominate the inner landscape of his nose. Just as his fingertip reached for its peak, his mother looked over at him. 

“Sam! Get your finger out of your nose! Now!”

She ripped a couple of tissues from the box on the sideboard on her way past and almost slapped them over the lower half of his face. 

“Blow!” she demanded. 

As he exhaled, she pinched the tissue around his nostrils. Sam began to protest as he felt a sharp stab deep inside his nose and the powerful jolt of a momentary headache, followed by a strange sensation of being lighter and freer than he had been only a moment before. Sam fell silent and limp  as his head imploded, collapsing in on itself like a punctured ballon, leaving his mother with an unsoiled tissue in her hand and a grimace of shocked surprise on her face.

His sweet face lay shrivelled and flattened on his shoulder on a bed of dark brown hair, eyes still clenched shut as they had been when he felt the pain in his head.

She gathered Sam into her arms and cradled him there, his face flat against her skin and a thin trail of bone dust and ash falling from his left ear. She rocked him, keening and weeping as dusk began to fall outside and late into the night that followed. 

When the moon rose high in the sky, a small, ghostly hand touched her shoulder, then took her hand and led her outside into the silvery light. She watched as the small boyish figure walked up a bright moonbeam, then turned to wave goodbye. 

She waved languidly with one hand, the other still clutching his lifeless body to her chest. 

When he was so far up the moonbeam that she could no longer see him, she laid his body on the ground and fetched a shovel. The shovel crunched into the ground beneath the willow tree time after time, until she had dug a small trench in the earth.

She leaned the shovel against the trunk of the tree, and then gently gathered Sam’s body into her arms. Silent and sombre, she carried him across the yard, whispered a few words, and lay down in the grave with him in the waning moonlight to await her fate. 

©2019 Joanne Van Leerdam

Classy Humour.

The teacher stood at the front of the room, textbook in hand, as the students settled down to business. 

“Please open your text book to page four hundred and four, and… yes, James?”

The teacher looked with anticipation at the young man sitting in the second row, hand raised and an awkward smile on his face. 

“That page cannot he found.” 

His classmates looked confusedly at James, and then at the specified page in their own books.

The teacher frowned. “Are you sure? There must be some kind of mistake.”

James’ smile became a triumphant grin. “It’s an error 404.”


Credit for this story must be given to my student, James, who actually did this in one of his classes, and gave me permission to write it as a drabble.

A Unicorn or Nothing.

“I want you to come in to work tomorrow.”  

“But it’s my day off!” Cassie pouted. 

“I realise that, but tomorrow’s meeting is important.” 

She remained silent.

“Look, I’ll give you a day in lieu a little further down the track.” 

Cassie almost snorted. “A day in lieu? Might as well be a unicorn.”

He frowned. “How so?”

“People like to talk about them, but everyone knows they don’t actually exist.”


“No. I must be owed ten days in lieu by now.  It’s a unicorn or nothing.”  She resumed typing, but the silence lingered until he walked away, defeated.

What’s Cooking?

A powerful new aroma rose drew demons from near and far to the enormous kitchen. 

“I smell sea salt,” moaned Festus as he wiped his drool on his sleeve.

“Do you really? I smell Vegemite!” exclaimed Provokus.

“You’re both wrong. It’s meat pies! That smell of melting, bubbling flesh is unmistakeable.” Cocky and confident, Argumentus sneered at the obvious errors of the others.

“Damn, I wanted some January 26 lamingtons, or a pavlova.” Minimus, the smallest of them all, who also had the sweetest tooth, looked very disappointed.

“Hey boss, what’s cooking?”  Festus asked.

Satan snickered as he answered: “Australia.”

Copyright 2019 by Joanne Van Leerdam

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