Jeannette Hatterley (British Working Class Poets)

Jeanette Hattersley

Jeanette Hattersley’s poetry has appeared widely in magazines and anthologies over the past forty years and in two collections: Call it Mature (1988) and Time of Her Life (1993), both from Smith Doorstop Books. She co-edited the small press poetry magazine The Wide Skirt between 1991 and 1997 and is currently seeking a publisher for a new collection of her work entitled Washing Nellie Paisley.


In the afternoon the woman who made wedding dresses
for half the town paints, like a child, a bouquet

of primary colours. The stems run down the paper,
flatten on the lower edge like a stagnant pond.

The woman who drove a van, delivered milk
to half the town, paints a house with no curtains.
The windows are empty, no sign of life.

The woman who baked, who mended and sewed,
whose grand-daughter lives with a man “out of
loses all patience and throws her brush down.

The woman who ran the riverside café, a day out
for half the town, paints a tree without leaves.

All of them smirk at each other’s efforts,
hold their own out for the others to see.

Washing Nellie Paisley

To the memory of my Great Aunt
A kindly voice, conspiratorial,
like velvet soft skin unfolds
in the morning scent of sleep.
We undo a nightdress,
home- made before the knuckles
became useless.
Roses shower down wallpaper.
Do I have any boyfriends?
She winks like someone at school.
Suds on skin taut
on swollen vertebrae.
A nice clean young man,
none of this long hair eh?
The voice deepens,
tea thickens
in a white china cup.
Oyster coloured, the corset
is eased on,

a second spine of little hooks.
Don’t let anybody down,
she whispers, behave yourself.
A modern song bursts
from a portable radio.
She knows all the words.
They’re grand lads,
she says as the clean-cut trio
fill the room.
We draw back the quilt
before we leave.
Squares from sheets and shirts;
pyjama stripes and florals
sewn on winter nights.
Tiny stitches , unbroken.
A mild green river. We swim across.
Beyond, a sandstone bridge, a sky
free of factory smoke.
Wet skin fizzles dry, we stretch
in long grass like cats.
Back home, the Don oozes

between blackened mud -banks.
We speak a foreign language;
shopkeepers lean forward, squinting
till the penny drops.
Aye you mean baps.
We have apple cake and girdle scones,
we shell peas on the doorstep.
Soon, we sing our speech like the locals,
join in the street-skipping.
Bonny back home means portly.
We stretch like cats in long grass.
Nobody asks for a fight.

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