365 Poems – 144 Iron Town

Iron Town

 

 

i)

 

On the front step I scrubbed

until my hands screamed red,

I sit, and watch the twins skip,

listen to them chant

 

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
Turn around,
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
Touch the ground,
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
Tie your shoe,
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
How old are you?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5…

 

The nets are pristine

wax white.

 

Through the back window,

I see my freshly boiled sheets,

billowing like steam, filling the yard.

 

It could be any day.

 

ii)

 

I’m not afraid.

I have my skin tight

memories, of times

before the confirmation

of war over the radio.

 

I have memories of before

the Luftwaffe raged above

our heads, aiming bombs

for the heart of our Iron Town.

 

I’m out of the house hours  

before street lamps are put out.

Before my youngest has rubbed

away sleep, and made eye contact

with the hollow sockets of his gas mask.  

 

 

I pull my hair up, and tuck it

under a headscarf. Tug on

protective coveralls and boots.

No heels above two inches allowed.  

 

Birthdays come and go in our house.

It becomes routine to share one tin

of smooth peaches, in slick, sweet syrup.

I serve them up with evaporated milk.

 

My hair always stays under my scarf,

in a victory roll, until well past midnight.

 

iii)

 

It’s the ironstone in the hills

that’s made us what we are today.

We’re as strong as iron itself,

and we will not be defeated.

 

Dirty, noisy, hot conditions,

sweat and twelve hours shifts

become the norm.  

 

The machines in our factory

are built to last, and will be here

long after I’m gone.

 

I never get used to the tannoy.  

It still makes me heart crack,

and I always, always pray

for my husband and kids.

 

vi)

 

Peacetime comes eventually

to England and Iron Town,

and I’m back in my calf length

frock, buttoned at the front,

with a fitted waist.

 

When the sun soaks our little two up,

two down, I’ll  be cleaning the top

windows, jamming the sash down

on my thighs, taught and muscular,

a physical reminder of dark days past.

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