Friday, 28 March 2014

The Picture: Munition Girls at Lister's

The Picture

I think that there are about 350 of you
Facing the camera in a variety of poses,
Some leaning affectionately on shoulders,
Some yearning to hide with modest self-effacement,
Some looking the camera right between the eyes,
But few of you are smiling with your own eyes,
Or indeed with your mouths;
Legs and arms vary in position too,
The individuality of each woman denoted,
Within a composed setting, redolent
Of a country house historical record,
The Lady, be-hatted, in the centre,
Surrounded by a retinue of servants -
Is she a hard faced woman
‘Doing well out of the war’?

But what did they all see when they gazed at the cameraman?
Dearly loved ones out there serving at the front or at sea,
Or lost, wounded, blinded, gassed, half-drowned or dead
Brothers, sons, husbands, fathers, nephews and uncles,
Out there, ghost marching on the summer sward.

And what are the thoughts going through all your varied minds?
Who is fretting about working such long hours?
(Finding it hard to keep up with the cooking, shopping, cleaning, washing, ironing)
Who is enjoying the escape from domestic service or the farm?
Who is enjoying the feel of a wage in her purse?
Who is enjoying a night out with the girls?
But some of you girls and women with tans:
Is anyone worried that her skin is a little yellow?
Is the face and head quite what it was?
Or are any of you thinking that there might just be German women
Who might just be posing at that very same moment,
Positioned in a very similar way,
Thinking the same thoughts and having the same feelings.

None of you know that the war will end in just over a year,
You might be thinking that this could go on
And on and on until 1921,
You don’t know how many of you will get the vote
In the ‘Khaki Election’, a year after this picture.

Just the one, I think.

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