Born in a hovel while Britannia ruled the waves
She played on cobblestones, dreamed of rocking horses
but loved her rag dolls as if they were made
from the finest china. Grew like a weed between
the crowded walls of poor streets, snatching all
the love or learning that ever came her way
flowered into womanhood pretty, brave and proud
Her menses began just as war guns fell silent
and a million graves laid the foundation for a
land fit for heroes of the war to end all wars
Clouds of poverty rained on her youth, she
worked her fingers raw when there was work, and
wages to be earned. She stood between fading
father, childworn mother and humiliation, tried
to find carefree hours in a time heavy with care,
Bleached her hair with lemons, reddened cheeks
with bourgeois rouge, fell in love at the end of spring
when hunger marched. Danced to the beat of a
different drummer but was never quite in step
Legs raised in slings she cursed and pushed her first
child into a world where bullets flew, heralding
another conflict, another rich man's ruse to
fill deep pockets and drain a generation's lives.
In the third year her husband fell; Lizzie loosed hold
On the little happiness she had, Pushed up
her sleeves and set to the task of making for her
children a key to better things than she had known,
and for her King-and-country's war, bullets and bombs.
War birds migrated east, class and privilege were
set aside, the common people invited to
the feast. Though the guns were idle nation spoke
fear to nation. With knuckles swollen, gnawed by pain
Lizzie worked, work was all she had known, Always quick
to show compassion, ever tardy to complain,
she was said to be a lake of goodness but few
offered her a comforting hand. Though many a
generous spirit broke, hope still lit her eyes
And when peace came to Lizzie's life it brought her
solitude. Children grown and gone away, her man
three decades dead she faced an unknown future
and began again. A world of unfamiliar
voices promised the future to the young and Lizzie
for the first time had no one but herself to please.
She smiled as the girls with bodies liberated,
boys with flowing hair, defied the high and mighty.
All her tribulations had served some purpose.
Feeding birds, arranging flowers, watching seasons
flow enjoying the time she had earned as hers
to waste or employ as she wished, Lizzie
outlived her friends and all but one distant child.
Slipped away in a home where the forgotten
go to die, and in a sun bright graveyard, under
bursting, bright green buds only one a who never
knew her stood to eulogise a life punctuated
by promises but defined by their betrayal.
Letters sent to far off land s carried the sad news
Of aforgotten grandmother's lonely demise.
And while Britannia mourned the very public death
Of a grandmother few people had truly known
Only the heavy laden northern sky was left
to weep for one of Britain's forgotten daughters
Blackburn is one of the old industrial towns in the Lancashire coal and cotton district, close to where I live.