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Picture 10261196, photograph by Francis Frith, 1955, image copyright Mary Evans / Francis Frith Collection

My aunt says
by Sue Burge


they all lived in a hop-hut for months to escape the bombings in Rotherhithe   the kids picking   my nan and her sisters stripping the hops from the stalks into a barrel   maybe one her husband had made although perhaps the metal staves would have been too precious    the air smelt of beer and cheer   everything green   the hops compressible as sponges Orwell noted during his wanderings eight harvests before this woman and her grubby gang arrived   homeless  though they didn’t yet know they’d lost the first house of three in London’s blitzed wastelands

the hop-huts their sanctuary   they slept on straw-stuffed sacks scratching hop-lice bites so like the city’s bedbug nips   your mother wasn’t born yet   says my aunt   but that’s not right   she had already slipped into that blinkered world in 1937   was she so tame and quiet her siblings forgot her?   Tommy would be finding trees to climb   would want to be the one to pull the vines down   London Bridge is falling down   falling down   Milly was the obedient hardworking one   but Emy always wanted small soft things to love   did she burrow through the straw to find her Thumbelina sister calling Mary… Mary Margaret…?   these sandy-haired urchins   did they know they were picking the hops to make the beer to fill my grandfather’s little empire?



© Sue Burge

Picture 10261196, photograph by Francis Frith, 1955, image copyright Mary Evans / Francis Frith Collection



Sue Burge is a freelance creative writing tutor, mentor and editor based in North Norfolk, UK.  Sue’s poems have been published in a wide range of journals and have also featured in themed anthologies on science fiction, modern Gothic, illness, Britishness, endangered birds, WW1 and the ongoing pandemic.  Her four poetry collections are: In the Kingdom of Shadows and Confetti Dancers (Live Canon), Lumière and The Saltwater Diaries  (Hedgehog Poetry Press).  She is currently working on her next full collection which explores the world of the alter ego she left behind in Paris three decades ago.  Her collection of eco-poetry, watch it slowly fade, is forthcoming with Hedgehog Poetry Press. 


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