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21ST-CENTURY POETRY Mother’s Elocution Class by Jenny Mitchell

Mouth like a cartoon fish, she hooks a haitch
on every vowel talking to the Sirs.
Yes, Headmaster, Jennifer his facety.
I mean, hinsolent.

No, Doctor, hif you please.
The pain is hall the time, not just herratic.

She beams and they are sky
supporting her to be the best

not back-a-yard Jamaican
solid as a yam, youth worked to death
in their old people’s home.
But girlish, close to Hinglish, nodding with her boss:

Yes, hof course. More hovertime.
She moves from side to side, chin down
coquettish in soiled uniform – Shirley Temple
posing On the Good Ship Lolly Pop.

Looming home, haitch dumped at the door
a damp umbrella.
She does not need protection now.
This is how to be a woman: shout.

More blasted overtime.
White people think I’m made of shit.

Crash, bang about the place.
In the morning, haitch neatly in the mouth.

Facety and back-a-yard are Jamaican expressions for rude and common. Jenny Mitchell’s first collection, Her Lost Language, was published last year by Indigo Dreams. 21st-century Poetry is edited by Andy Croft, email



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