If there hadn’t been a war,
and the men hadn’t left,
and the women hadn’t needed to do men’s work.
If it hadn’t been so long since you smelt apple-blossom,
and you hadn’t missed your father’s voice,
and the way he made a cup of tea.
If you hadn’t spent so long daydreaming about the end of it all.
If you hadn’t had ideas about what you could do if they’d only let you,
hadn’t planned to do better than they thought you might.
If you hadn’t been so damned happy donning trousers, gloves and mask,
despite the grime, and the clamour and the heat.
If you hadn’t kept your father’s letter in your pocket, hadn’t promised to work hard, to be proud.
If you hadn’t learnt the songs your mother sang, the war songs,
the songs of strong women.
If you hadn’t had those dreams,
there might have been no change,
might have been no steps which led to us, sitting here, now.
Jessica Wortley is a writer and teacher currently working towards her MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. In the summer of 2014 Ishewas writer in residence at the Lit and Phil library in Newcastle, where she led creative writing workshops on the theme of nature. Her writing was included in the 100 Faces, 100 Stories installation, and she has been involved with the South Tyneside Cultural Spring project. Last August she was invited by Appletree Writers to read at the Edinburgh festival after her work came first and third in two of their competitions and was included in two of their anthologies. In October her work was chosen as November’s poem of the month by Diamond Twig press. Recently, she has been involved in the ‘Young Writers’ award scheme, in association with the Lit and Phil, and she took part in Newcastle University’s 2014 Write Around The Toon project. You can read more of her work on her blog www.dancingbeepoetry.wordpress.com.