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Janet: A Life In Verse - sample

Journey’s Bright Morning

People mind her as youthful
even long past her youth
a testimony to her lightness
of heart and childish optimism,
but she had plenty of that stuff
long in the forging
that had earned her nation
fame over the wide world.

When she was five years old
someone jokingly asked, Cigarette?
and held out the pack
Oh, I don’t smoke, she answered, but
to the astonishment of the audience
took one. For my dad, and
tucked it behind her ear.
Just one word needed; Gallus.

1943, three dozen serried ranks army fashion
with their toerag outfits and defiant faces
they looked more like a ragged rebel militia
than a class of 7 year olds but
one stands out like a fresh shiny apple;
ironed blouse, neatly knotted ribbon, frighteningly
clean. But something else too, in the eyes,
tough, but not hard, complemented the freckles

There used to be kids like that once.

What is that stuff that glints in the eye?
Now, there’s a story of blood and soil.
the long tested braveness of her race
distilled to something sweeter and then
bred decent by a respectable family
in Kinning Park a district built for working
and drinking. Rough? It’s Glasgow, hence
the need to keep a keen edge on your character.

She had too much native intelligence
for school. So became a rebel.
COULD DO BETTER, reports read
Oh, I will. As soon as I leave here!
She’d had enough of jotters by 1950.
So age 14 she cut loose for a bakery job
the family needed the money.
She would be a secretary some day.

Photos show her as happy and laughing
unusually unselfconscious
in that time of stiff collars
she had reason to be happy.
Shapely in tight jumpers
light-hearted, impish, irreverent
A combination that knocked out
boy after boy,

Anybody ever tell ye that you're beautiful?
Aye, ma boyfriend tells me every night.
Mibbe ye know him, he’s the bouncer here?

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