me black dress about 17
by Virginia Lowe

The four letter word
I knew it existed
I knew what it meant
but had never
heard it said
seen it written –-
Even asked directly
best girlfriend, boyfriend
could not bring themselves
to articulate it
in my presence –-
Railway station graffiti
seeing me coming
must have dropped it
from the walls

D H Lawrence I knew
poetry first
Snake and others
then Sons and Lovers
so when at work
I was offered a copy
–- still banned –
of Lady Chatterley
I accepted with alacrity
and read his sensuous descriptions
with delight
(I was not, in point of fact
so very innocent)
And of course
discovered too
the Mysterious Word

My mother
poor prim innocent
would not have known
the Word
would not have even known
or so I thought
of its existence
But she did know
and roundly approved
of censorship –
She was horrified
for my morals
and even more
for my good name –
Not, so much
that I had read the book
but that
–- Oh shame! –-
I had borrowed it
from a MAN!

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I was all dressed up for a school ball, and felt very glamorous and sophisticated in my first black dress. It is taken in our best room, with my mother’s Victorian furniture.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this piece about 12 years ago. I remember the incident vividly. The poem came to me while swimming in the local pool, which I do usually twice a week. I have a pad and pen in the car, for jotting ideas when I get back after the swim, so I don’t lose them on the way home (and that has happened, believe me).


Virginia Lowe
has been writing poetry for about 50 years. She has been published in various on-line journals as well as Silver Birch Press, and is working on an autobiography in verse, almost complete, entitled A Myopic’s Vision. She has been a librarian and a university lecturer, and, for the last 20 years, she has run a manuscript assessment agency Create a Kids’ Book. Her own book, based on a reading journal kept of her own two children from birth, 5000 handwritten pages, is Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell (Routledge 2007). She also writes a regular column ‘Two Children Tell’ in the British review journal Books for Keeps.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This was taken about three years ago, and represents my passion for picture books. The author of The Children who Loved Books, Peter Carnarvas, came through our service some years ago with his first book, and has gone on from strength to strength.