I wrote this poem five years ago. I have tried to edit it, to improve the language, to make it better but I can’t. I don’t know how else to say this in a more ‘good poetry’ way – so I have left it because at the moment it says what I want it to say. My mental health problems have been severe over my life and I have made some very poor behaviour and relationship choices. Like many other women, I think about what my life would have been like if I had not had a violent abusive father. If I had grown up with few problems and had fulfilled whatever potential I had. If I hadn’t been such a damaged teenager and had been able to stay on at school and go to University like my brothers eventually did. If I hadn’t been so desperate to get married and have children but had been able to wait till I was really ready. If I had been a mother who was not driven by anger and despair and fear but one who was able to give her children a more stable childhood without screaming rages that made them fearful of me and my responses and reactions. I have said before that the guilt I feel about the way I was as a young mother will stay with me forever – no matter how much insight into and understanding of the reasons why I was the way I was. I cannot do any more to fix this although I still try. I no longer have rages, they ended many years ago when I realised why I was so angry. Now I have fear and this immobilises me and creates feelings of despair and pointlessness. But I am still here and I have a good life and I do enjoy many parts of it – friends family lots of interests. There’s bits of me I quite like and many bits I do not like and actively scrutinise and judge far more harshly than anyone else could!

I am a girl
I am eleven years old
soon I will sit my Eleven Plus examination
and I will go to Grammar School
to not go to Grammar School
would be ‘unthinkable’ says my Father
My Mother is beautiful
I have a handsome Father
so he says.
I have two brothers
they are both younger than me
and I love them both

I am a woman
I am sixty three years old
I have three children and nine grandchildren
now I have only one brother and I love him
I have good friends
I have a job a house and a car
I enjoy most of my life
sometimes I go a bit crazy
then I take pills
this has been happening on and off
most of my life
I have friends who understand me
I have children who don’t
This is not their fault
This is my fault
But it is His fault in the first place
If I try to imagine a different girl who is eleven
If I try to imagine a different life
then I can’t imagine a different sixty three year old woman
I have no idea what she would be like
at least I know who I am
this sixty three year old woman
I know her crazy as she is
I am glad I have the children I have
I am glad I have the friends I have
But the life I have is difficult to live

February 2009

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First he touched me
then he touched me
more and
more and
more
Then he raped me
and he raped me
more and
more and
more
Then he hit me
and he hit me
more and
more and
more
What had I done
What had I done
Nothing
I was his child
It was my life
from two to fifteen

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We all stood at the station shouting Goodbye Goodbye
And the banners and the flags
were like rainbows in the sky
I held my husband to me and felt a cold wind blowing
Yet I cheered with pride and gladness
never guessing to what madness
they were going

We lived our lives without him getting
letters now and then
And between the lines of jokes and half-truths
I learned what war did to men
I held my young son to me and the wind was getting colder
There was no more pride and gladness
I recognised the madness
I was older

But he never did come back again twenty thousand died that day
and he was just another name on paper
on a list that grew each day
I watched my young son growing and I tried to teach him well
That there was no pride in dying
Politicians practised lying
Damn their souls to hell

Before the dust had really settled the call came out once more
And the politicians cracked the whip and the men danced as before
I watched my son’s own battle as he fought to find his truth
Then he turned to me in silence
And he turned away from violence
There’s wisdom still in youth

It seems so long ago now so many years have passed
And we live within a fragile peace that we are told will last
And I’ve watched my family growing
but I feel such fear and pain
For the way that things are going
I can feel the cold wind blowing
As it happens again and again and again and again and ………….
1983

485

William and The Scary Monster

I’m a Scary Monster
With yukky teeth and hair
I’m a Scary Monster
hiding behind the chair
Sometimes I hide behind the door
And I jump out and give a ROAR
Then I jump on the table
and bounce on the floor
I’m a VERY scary monster

I’m a Scary Monster
I bet you’re scared of me
I’m a Scary Monster
And I WANT a cup of tea
And then I WANT some jam on toast
It’s monster jam I love the most
And monster chocolate
And monster cake
I’m a HUNGRY scary monster

I’m a Scary Monster
I make a Scary Monster sound
I’m a Scary Monster
And my head can spin right round
I love scary clothes
and scary hats
and scary boots
and scary bats
and scary hoots
and scary teeth and scary eyes
and great big scary spider pies
I’m a REALLY SCARY monster

For William
from Nana 2012

My granddaughter Ellie has a soft toy that she loves so much. He’s called Giraffy and he is very loved. I put a picture of him with the poem in a frame for her bedroom.

This is Giraffy he’s my friend
With his smiley face and his legs that bend
He comes to bed with me at night
And I stroke his ears and hold him tight
And tell him what I’ve done today
“I’ve been to school AND out to play.
“I’ve seen my friends and been on my bike,”
“I’ve done lots and lots of things I like.”
And now the day’s come to an end
And I’m with Giraffy – my bestest friend.
He’s just as soft as soft can be
I love Giraffy and he loves me.

For Ellie with love from Nana
June 2008

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I wrote this little poem to try and help my little grandchildren understand that bees are more interested in collecting pollen and making honey than they are in setting out to sting them! It’s just a wee fun poem but the children like it!

Honey the Bee flew out one day
to see what she could see.
Honey the Bee flew out one day
to find something nice for tea.
First she found a marigold,
then she found a rose
and she flew into a garden
where her favourite flower grows.
She dipped in and out the daisies, gathering pollen in her sack.
Buzzing round the gardens
before she headed back.

Honey the Bee she flew back home
and danced for the other bees,
so they would know just where to go
to follow the scented breeze.
They also found the marigolds
then they found the rose
and they saw the lovely daisies
near the woods where the violet grows.
With their pollen sacks all bursting
they flew back to the hive
and they danced and hummed
and buzzed and sang
Oh it’s good to be alive!

I wrote this many many years ago for my children. I had to say it almost every night as well as singing the same song ‘go to sleep my babies …. etc’. Now I say it to my grandchildren – I can hardly believe so much time has
passed. I’d like to share this with anyone who has little children they love in their lives – has to be said with enthusiasm and some actions (opening the door, buttering bread, walking and climbing stairs!). I hope your little children enjoy it

Someone knocked at my door
I wondered who?
I opened the door and it was you.
‘Come in’ I said ‘and have some tea
and I’ll butter some bread for you and me’.
‘Would you like some honey to put on your bread?
Or some jam that’s raspberry red?
After tea shall we go for a walk?
Or would you like to sit by the fire and talk?’
‘Let’s go for a walk’ you said to me
‘and we’ll walk on the sand beside the sea’.
After our walk it was time for bed.
We climbed the stairs
‘night night’ we said.

Fat Red Juicy Ones

See the fat red juicy ones

hanging around at the front

of the green leaf-lined stage

Look at me look at me pick me first

But when I look again and closer

there are shy ones hiding

behind leaves and stems

and they blush nearly-red

Some are not ripe yet and I sigh

Perhaps in a few days they will be red and fat and waving

Pick me pick me

I am ready now

These fat raspberries hold memories

Nana’s garden Aunt Betty’s pride and joy

In June the raspberries hang heavy

ready for picking

and the house smells warm

sticky fruit-scented kitchen hot jars waiting

waxed discs and cellophane circles

held in place by rubber bands – my earnest task

Bowls of raspberries for Louise and me – with sugar

and evaporated milk

But the raspberries here now are my raspberries

to make jam with in my sticky fruit-scented kitchen

I close my eyes and breathe

and I am young when I smell and taste these precious

red memory-laden fruits of my childhood

Barbara 2013

I’ve put my shoulder to the wheel
I’ve put my back into it
shoved my best foot forward
I’ve thrown my chest out
and snapped my shoulders back
– hoping one of them wouldn’t clash with the wheel –
kept on my toes
and put my ear to the ground
– difficult with chest out shoulders back etcetera but I persevered –
my nose was always to the grindstone
I’ve kept an eye out
and stayed alert
my fingers are in many pies
and I’m always ready to lend a hand
my lip is zipped because Mum’s the word
I’ve joined in ganged up
stood my ground dug my heels in
put money in the tin and a cheque in the post
my eye was always on the ball
and I grasped it with both hands
I’ve embraced challenged
never conceded defeat
never turned my back
always elbowed my way in
been on my knees
ground my teeth
put a smile on my face
cheered up because I always believed it would never happen
always had time for a cup of tea
my heart has always been in it
and has sometimes forgiven
but I have also blamed and lashed out
and at the end of the day
what does life have in store
well The Patriarchy is still there
and white people still don’t get it
so what do I do
I pick myself up dust myself down and
start all over again
because I’m a woman and a survivor
I’ll sing you a song
it’s the song of a woman who’s trying to be strong

I wish you two would stop fighting
Ma head’s been thumpin’ all day.
If you’d just give me peace for a minute or two
go and watch tele or find something to do
but just get out of ma way.

He’s no come in from the pub yet
an’ ma clubman’s due the night
I could take it oot the electric tin
I could go and see what pub he’s in
but that would just start a fight.

I canny see how we’re tae manage
he got paid off the end o’ last week
since then he’s been comin’ in drunk every night
he’s spent a’ the money it just isnae right
but it’s more than ma life’s worth tae speak.

He’s one that can’t cope wi’ his problems
well he’s no had much o’ a life
his maw died at thirty his dad used tae drink
he canny feel love, well that’s what I think
but it’s a hard job bein’ his wife.

An’ I listen tae some of these women
shouting out about what we should do
An’ I know in my heart that they’re right and I’m wrong
for I canny believe this is where I belong
for I’ve got my life tae live too.

But this is my bed and I’ll lie here
I took him for better or worse
anyway wi’ four weans I’ve nowhere to go
I’m no from round here, so there’s no-one I know
an’ I just couldn’t bear a’ the fuss.

So I wish you two would stop fightin’
It just seems to go on and on
and he’ll come through that door full o’ sorries an’ beer
and sad explanations I don’t want to hear
an’ that’s another day gone.

But maybe one day I will leave him
And I’ll pack up the weans and we’ll run
An’ I’ll never look back and I’ll never regret
There’ll be no more fear nor pain nor debt
An’ I’ll lift up my face to the sun.