Cold cold morning

November, and you stand in your mobcap
that hated worn black gown
look up at the big house, lit and warm
your tear-stained face pale as the mist
a mist cold as the employer that has told you to leave
leave the one job that feeds your family
family bereft of a father or sons to work
servant work you despised, literate girl that you are
work you so needed

Beggars can’t be choosers

But once the son of the house chose to court you
and you rebuffed him
your days there were numbered
have been sent home without a reference
on a chill winter morning
so you stand in your mobcap, your servant uniform
look up at the big house, lit and warm
weep for the hungry mouths at home
those so small sisters

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

This poem has been written in response to a prompt at Dverse, where we are asked to respond to one of four paintings. I chose John Atkinson Grimshaws painting entitled A November Morning (1883). I looked at the painting (see below), saw the servant girl looking up and her story just came to me.

John Atkinson Grimshaw – Shipley Art Gallery. Title: November Morning, Knostrop Hall, Leeds. Date: 1883. Materials: oil on canvas. Dimensions: 61 x 86.4 cm. Source: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/november-morning-knostrop-hall-leeds-35520. I have changed the light and contrast of the original photo.
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35 thoughts on “Cold cold morning

  1. This painting has inspired nearly all the poems so far, it could have been on its own! I love that you got right into the servant girl’s story, Kim, starting with the mobcap and the ‘hated worn black gown’. A sad story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully written Kim. I like the edge of sadness, abd I loved the way you pulled the focus of the image deeper. Well conceived wotk my friend. I used same image. Loved its bleakness.

    Liked by 1 person

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