Valerie Simmons was born in London, England in 1921. She has been writing poetry since she was six years old. At the beginning of WWII she worked in a first aid post dealing with Blitz casualties. When the Battle of Britain ended she joined the Women’s Air Force (WAF) where she was an admin officer throughout England and in Egypt. After the war she earned a BA from London University and went on to get her teaching qualifications. She has taught and worked in libraries. A lover of books, for the past 18 months Valerie has been living at the Terraces of Baycrest where she attends a weekly poetry group. It’s the “high spot” of her week. Valerie wrote this poem to commemorate the women who were crippled by WWI who have not been remembered as the men have been.
THE LOST GENERATION
BY VALERIE SIMMONS © 2014
Scarcely anyone commemorates a lost generation of women
Spawned by “the war to end all wars”,
But they are woven into the fabric of history
As indelibly as the Remembrance Day ceremonies.
There are many poems describing the sacrifices of the men,
Those dead soldiers, sailors and airmen
Who would have been their husbands,
And the unborn children who left them barren.
All my childhood was threaded with spinster aunts.
I see them at tea in my mother’s drawing-room,
When summoned from the nursery to greet them,
Elegant plates of cake perched daintily on their knees,
Sitting there in their best clothes,
With small-talk on their lips, and intimidating hats.
I sense a disparity between them and my mother,
But could not define its origin nor pin it down,
Yet I knew that something was wrong
And that they were in some way incongruous.
There were so many of them too,
In my close family I can recall at least twelve pairs of sisters,
Striving to connect with uncharacteristically subdued children,
All of them “aunts” whether they really were, or not.
Somehow they seemed pathetic and inadequate
With their fragile relevance honed for the occasion.
They were untrained except in household skills
And some of them lived in shabby gentility
Presenting brave but careworn faces to a bereft and broken nation.
I realise painfully now that they were indeed a lost generation of women
Who figuratively died like the men they would have married,
And whose incomplete lives were borne with an uncomplaining fortitude
Because there was no alternative in an unbalanced world.