To honour International Women’s Day I’m posting this poem about a woman.  It was first published in The Best of Manchester Poets, vol. 2, published by Puppywolf (2011).  I aimed to give the reader enough clues (the Gauloises cigarettes, the stubborn streak) for them to be able to guess the identity of this woman before they read the final lines.

It’s a good prompt: with which historical figure (famous or infamous) could you have gone to school, college, university with?  Did you even sit next to them in the classroom?  What were they like then?


One of the girls I went to college with

was Joan who’d left home early.

She smoked Gauloises, had a stubborn

streak, wanted to study philosophy.

We thought she was depressed; she cut

herself and once put out a cigarette on her arm.

I wish I’d asked her why.  I can see her now

with that hair cropped short, staring straight ahead.

People shouting, the smoke, the crackling fire.

Too hot, I need to step back.





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