The Girl from Graisley Green
written by: Ron Kempton
Katie stepped onto the train, her destination? Wolverhampton. She carried a broken heart for the loss of her mother and father. She carried a small bag of scant belongings. She left her brothers and sisters, and said good-bye to her home. Looking forward and looking behind, she watched the fields and trees rush past. Time is transient, it has no home and won’t stay in any one place for long. People appear then fade, places become home then turn into photographs of a life long ago. Katie loved the cool breezes of autumn but she knew the wind would hurry past and fall would soon be gone. She knew the train would take her to a new life then another new life would replace it. Life tumbled past as rain clouds turned the sky into a whirlpool then melted over the hills.
Katie occupied her thoughts with song, her family and friends would hear her singing to herself as her busy days turned her into a woman suffering the fate of the working class in Victorian England. Little money, even less opportunity and as the days took their toll, children and the struggle of caring for them.
Did the empty morning offer you anything? Struggling to meet the ends that don’t exist.
A woman carrying the weight that all women carry in a place that is shrouded in fog and coal dust. What dreams could you nurse? Where else could you hope to go for salvation? From Wolverhampton to London, from scarcity to shadows, crowded rooms, a night in Trafalgar Square. South to Kent where a poor harvest meant less work, less funds to live on. Perhaps a night at Thavies Inn or Shoe Lane and frequenting the lodging houses on Thrawl Street. In the final answer you shrugged it all away and sat down against a wall in Mitre Square. Katheren closed her eyes, falling into a dark shadow that would never let her go.
Harvest time, autumn’s rich colors dressed the roadside, remember Kate? We walked together sharing the early mist until a small ray of sunshine peeked through. Blackthorn, Cherry bird and Dogwood decorated the roadside. Late September there was little to harvest that year. Still the trip to Kent was a time to remember. It was such a trip that we slept in a barn with all the harvesters who were headed to the same place. Once we took the kids and they had such fun. It was a fine time to escape the smoky streets of the east end. The stench, the crowds and rumors of a mad man, Kent was like heaven.
Your song still comes on the fall starlight. I see you still as you walked away, I feel you next to me, I hear you laugh into the fields of hops when we tended the crops until the end of the day. As you found your way through Houndsditch along the foggy sidewalks of Duke Street.
Hungry time devours everything. I swear, Kate I can still feel your heart beat. The East End was so cruel. We scrounged for money to make our bitter days less sad. The upper classes dined with silver, and silk table clothes while we tried to make enough for crowded lodging. These days I only look at us through the hazy eyes of memory. How I wish we would have stayed together. I should have gone with you to your sister’s to ask for money. I should have laid next to you at Miter Square or spent the funds we used for drink on a bed at Coony’s. I was never much for askin’ God to give me anything but if I could change that day with his help I would. Didn’t he see you lying there? Or maybe he only cares for those of the upper classes. Couldn’t he see the slow death all the souls on the east end were sufferin’. Shadows turn and here I am, older, sick, and filled with regret. We parted in houndsditch. You said you would see me again at no later than four. I never saw you again.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
Written in honor of Catherine Eddowes, fourth victim of the Whitechapel murders In London 1888. And Women who are victimized everywhere.
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