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The Living Photograph

Jackie Kay

The Author
Jackie Kay MBE is a Scottish poet and novelist.
Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh in 1961 to a Scottish mother and a
Nigerian father. She was adopted as a baby by a white Scottish couple,
Helen and John Kay, and grew up in Bishopbriggs, a suburb of Glasgow,
in a 1950s-built housing estate in a small Wimpey house, which her
adoptive parents had bought new in 1957.
Jackie Kay was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire
(MBE) on 17 June 2006. She is currently Professor of Creative Writing at
Newcastle University, and Cultural Fellow at Glasgow Caledonian
University. Kay lives in Manchester. She took part in the Bush Theatre's
2011 project Sixty-Six Books, with a piece based upon a book of the
King James Bible. In October 2014, it was announced that she had been
nominated as the Chancellor of the University of Salford.

The Living Photograph


Stanza 1
My small grandmother is tall there,
straight-back, white broderie anglaise shirt,
pleated skirt, flat shoes, grey bun,
a kind, old smile round eyes.
Her big hand holds mine,
white hand in black hand.
Her sharp blue eyes look her own death in the eye.

The Living Photograph


Stanza 2
It was true after all, that look.
My tall grandmother became small.
Her back round and hunched.
Her soup forgot to boil.
She went to the awful place grandmothers go.
Somewhere unknown, unthinkable.

The Living Photograph


Stanza 3

But there she is still,


in the photo with me at three,
the crinkled smile is still living,
breathing.

Broderie anglaise shirt

Pleated skirt

Sharp blue eyes

back round and hunched

crinkled smile