Womens Business

When I had a son in his early teens
a Russian thought formed in my head
that if a war came I would cut off
the index finger of his right hand
so that he would be no use for fighting.
The part of me which visits
hospitals would do the cutting.
I wouldn’t care if he hated me
for what I did.
I might even be pleased.
By this time I knew that he was nearly
a man, and that if I didn’t cut his finger off
or shoot him in the foot, he would go.
Even if he was afraid.
Even if he thought it was pointless.
Now he is a man and I ask him
to carry my suitcase.

Until 2003, Lynn Jenner worked as an educational psychologist and counsellor, and read a lot. In 2004 and 2007 Lynn studied writing at Whitireia Polytechnic and in 2008 completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Victoria University. In 2008 her folio Dear Sweet Harry, a mixed genre work of poetry, prose, found text and visual images concerning the life and times of Harry Houdini, won the Adam Prize for outstanding folio.

During 2008 Lynn’s poem ‘The Look and Feel of 1963’, was published in 4th Floor, the literary publication of Whitireia Polytechnic. ‘Womens Business’, and another of her poems, ‘The Day Before the Battle of the Somme’; both from  Dear Sweet Harry, were published in Turbine 08.

Jenner comments: ‘ “Womens Business” concerns some of love’s nastier obligations. While researching First World War records for Dear Sweet Harry I became obsessed with why boys volunteered when they must have been afraid, and how their mothers let them go. Not why—how. Lots of people have written about this leaving and this letting go. Ernst Toller, a volunteer in the Kaiser’s army, a leader in the German revolution of 1919, and a playwright, gives a young man’s point of view:

   I died
   Was reborn
   Was reborn
   I was my own mother—that’s all that matters.
   Once in his life every man must cast adrift from everything, even from his mother; he must
   become his own mother.[1]

If my poem and his were jigsaw pieces, I think some of the holes and lumps would match.

   [1] Ernst Toller, I Was a German; The Autobiography of a Revolutionary, translated by Edward Crankshaw, Paragon House, New York, 1991. First published Querido Verlag, Amsterdam,1934.

Poem source details >



Turbine 08
4th Floor, 2008: The Look and Feel of 1963