‘EAST END GIRL DANCING THE LAMBETH WALK’: BILL BRANDT, 1939


He’s set it up, of course. Or, rather, framed it.
There’d be no feigning this young woman’s delight
in being ‘free and easy’ and doing
‘as you darn well pleasy’. She’s got her best blouse on,
with shoulder puffs, her sister’s shoes, which fit her now,
black ankle socks and shoulder length, unpermed hair
freshly washed – and waved, probably with Kirby grips.
Doin’ the walk, she lifts the hem of her skirt,
revealing her slip – and smiles coquettishly.

Beside her is a line, a queue almost of
female acolytes. (The only boy looks away).
They’re pre-pubescent, excited, nervous at what they see:
grown up clothes, shapely legs, unimaginable bust,
a sensuousness that, unwilled, will be theirs.

Down the street of terraced houses, symmetrical
as barracks, a woman strides, her back turned
on this miracle: a girl who knows
she will never grow old – ‘Any ev’ning,
any day…Doin’ the Lambeth Walk.’ Oi!

 

 

Note: first published April 2009.

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by Ashen Venema - April 28th, 2017 at 12:31

    Loved this the first time.
    No way to post the image here?

  2. #2 by David Selzer - April 28th, 2017 at 13:36

    As a general rule, I’ve stopped posting images with the poems. However, this perhaps should have been the exception – http://www.billbrandt.com/bill-brandt-archive-print-shop/sp36-east-end-girl-dancing-the-lambeth-walk-1939

  3. #3 by Ashen Venema - April 28th, 2017 at 13:49

    Thanks for providing the link. It’s an iconic image, full of delight, and you sketched it so well.

  4. #4 by John Huddart - May 1st, 2017 at 23:12

    Thanks for the link. That girl is stunningly beautiful, in a way that reaches across years and pierces the heart! Thinking a print an opportunity I had to draw back when it revealed itself to be £2500.
    I should say that owning the poem is a great compensation!

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