Learnin’ Letters

I wanna learn me letters Ma,
I wanna learn ta read.
If I can learn me letters Ma,
We’ll ‘ave the things we need.
An’ when I grows ta be a man,
I’ll be a proper gent,
Discussin’ trade ‘n’ politics…
I’ll knows what all they meant.

I wanna education Ma,
Ta prosper an’ ta shine.
Ta be respected by me peers
An’ dress in suits so fine.
I’ll buy yer pretty dresses Ma,
An’ lip rouge an’ cologne,
Yer’ll not be wantin’ through the years,
I’ll take care of me own.

I wanna ‘ave a future Ma,
I wanna decent job.
Earnin’ decent wages,
Not a slave fer a few bob.
Ta see the daylight every day,
Ta feel the warm sunshine.
Oh please don’t shake yer ‘ead Ma…
Don’t send me down the mine.

Our Jimmy doesn’t mind Ma,
‘e says its fine wif ‘im.
‘e tells me what it’s like Ma,
‘e says it’s pretty grim.
‘e says ‘e’ll keep things goin’
Until Pa’s back on ‘is feet,
Aw, come on Ma, I begs yer…
Learnin’ letters would be sweet!



Naughty Boy

Me mammy’s gonna catch yer Clyde
And when she does, yer’ll see,
She’ll whip yer naughty little hide
Across ‘er waitin’ knee.
And when she’s done, me pappy’s
Gonna make yer work fer nowt,
An’ no use fer ta cry ‘n’ whine,
No use fer yer ta pout.

Yer shouldna’ gone an’ done it Clyde,
Yer shouldna’ kicked the ball.
Yer knows fer sure yer shouldna’ kicked
Against the parlor wall.
Yer brains is in yer britches Clyde,
Yer ‘ead is filled wi’ rubble,
Our Angus double-dared yer
Just ta getcha inta trouble.

The parlor winda’s ugly now,
Me mammy hates the board.
But it’ll ‘ave ta do because
It’s all’s we can afford.
Which means I’ll never get
That brand new bike when I turn seven,
Yer shouldna’ aughta’ done it Clyde,
Yer’ll nae get inta Heaven!



Norma Pain was born in Liverpool, England and now lives in Parksville, British Columbia, Canada. Thirty of Norma’s poems were published by Dana Literary Society, between 2004 and 2007 and she was twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize by that same on-line poetry site. She self-published a book of rhyme in 2000 called Bulging Assets.

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30 Responses

      • Norma Pain

        Thank you Michael. Yes, the Cockney accent usually drops the ‘H’. I was not consistent in my poems in this regard. I certainly didn’t want to drop the ‘H’ in Heaven!, so I must be forgiven 🙂

    • Norma Pain

      Thank you Cheryl. I didn’t have any particular area in mind when I wrote Learnin’ Letters. I used to read a lot of Catherine Cookson novels when I was younger and some of the dialects she used must have influenced my writing. She was from the South Shields, County Durham area in N.E. England. The Naughty Boy dialect I must have picked up from my first husband who was Scottish.

  1. Russel Winick

    These are both delightful Norma! Great stories, with lovely meter and rhyme. I plan to read them over and over.

  2. Paul Freeman

    Two entertaining, character and dialect driven poems that gallop along apace.

    The first is so tragic, though. Once you get beneath the dialect, you hear the story of a child pleading to go to school rather than down the coal mine. An unachievable dream, however, because his father’s too ill to work, so the narrator has to join his brother down the mine. His mother will hear nothing of this school malarky, and of course in coal-mining communities the long term illnesses the father would likely have would be black lung disease.

    The second poem has Clyde with ‘Yer brains is in yer britches’. I reckon we’ve all been there, breaking a window as a kid with a clumsy kick of the ball or a swing of the bat. All the worse if it’s a neighbour’s window.

    Thanks for the reads, Norma.

    • Norma Pain

      Thank you Paul. It was so very tragic that young people were forced to go into the mines just to survive poverty. I appreciate your comments.

  3. Roy Eugene Peterson

    These poems roll along wonderfully and tell two stories that seem to come from knowing the ones involved. Believe me, Paul, I think it is worse to break a window on my own house.

  4. C.B. Anderson

    I loved the dialect in both poems, Norma. You have an incredible knack for being light and serious at the same time.

    • Norma Pain

      Thank you C.B. I’m not sure if astrology holds any truth but I am a Libran, so always aiming for balance, if possible.

      • C.B Anderson

        How’s that again? You’re a librarian? I have doubts about astrology myself. I’m a Pisces, but that does not keep me from eating seafood, or reading the scales.

  5. Sally Cook

    Norma, ditto to what C.B. said. You’ve got the knack ! Loved your poems.

  6. Brian A Yapko

    Both of these poems are quite intriguing, Norma. I share everyone’s delight with the dialect. The references the speaker makes in “Learnin’ Letters” and his probable unhappy destiny working in the mines made me think of Wales in “How Green Was My Valley” or perhaps the County Durham of “Billy Elliot.” There’s real pathos in the speaker longing to see the sunlight every day rather than be stuck slaving underground. Also, these poems have the rhythm and repetitions that cry out to have them set to music. Are they in fact based on songs? If not, they would be wonderful set to traditional English folk-style melodies.

    • Norma Pain

      Billy Elliot is one of my favorite movies, not just for the incredible acting but for the wonderfully happy toe-tapping music and pure joy of the boy actor when dancing. These poems were not based on songs. The idea just occurred to me from the books I have read. Thank you for your comments Brian.

  7. Jeff Eardley

    Norma, two thoroughly enjoyable pieces again and meant to be performed on stage, hopefully in your first one-woman show, in the footsteps of Pam. I love the dialect. Could there be scouse in there? We have a great dialect here in North Staffs where “can’t” and “shan’t” become COSTNER and SHATNER meaning that those two great US actors will always be welcome here.

    • Norma Pain

      Thank you for your incredible compliment Jeff, but I will never be a one-woman show like Pam Ayres, who I greatly admire. I prefer to remain in the background but I do enjoy very much, the compliments and/or critiques I receive from all of the other wonderful poets on SCP. The Costner/can’t and Shatner/shan’t twist is quite funny.

  8. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Norma, these two poems are an instant hit with me for many reasons. Firstly, I love the colloquial language and the child-like, sing-song rhythm that brings the characters to life. You took me by surprise with ‘Learnin’ Letters’. I started off laughing and before I knew it, I was wiping away tears… tears that held memories of home and family… tears that tapped into hardships that I’ve been all too aware of.

    ‘Naughty Boy’ is wonderful. It speaks of an era of values and respect; an era of little money but plenty of morals; an era of responsibility and accountability; an era you have brought to life in wonderful words that speak to my heart. Thank you!

    • Norma Pain

      Dear Susan, it appears that I overlooked responding to your lovely comments on these two poems for which I apologize. Your comments are so appreciated.

  9. Mark Stellinga

    Norma, 2 wonderfully fun pieces. Thanks for an early morning chuckle. 🙂 I figured you had to ‘ve grown up in this ‘unique’ Liverpool-dialect to whip up tales like these in cockney. For a Midwesterner like myself, getting a grip on their plots is delightfully tricky, but a whole lot easier than deciphering the dialogue my wife and I and I sometimes struggle with on BritBox. Super job – m’lady –

    • Norma Pain

      Thank you so much Mark. It was fun to write these poems. It was also very enjoyable to read your first poem on this site. I look forward to more.

      • Mark Stellinga

        Thank you, Norma, here’s a little doo-dad I *attempted* in a strong ‘Ausie’ style –

        ‘Tiny Bawb’ Always Wins His Fights

        Just before the Ausie, ‘Tiny’ Bawb, commenced to swingin’…
        tryin’ to knock the hooter off o’ Reggie Badger’s fice…
        Folks was placin’ bets that ‘Tiny’ Bawb ‘d whoop his arse
        for chattin’ up his sheila in a way that weren’t real nice!

        Now Reggie weren’t the jammiest lad when looks was divvied out…
        whilst ‘Tiny’ Bawb’s companion was a right fine lookin’ skirt…
        And folks was bettin’ perty big that – when their brawl was done –
        Reggie – bein’ fairly sloshed – ‘d be the one most hurt!

        Ezmerelda Poltergeist, ’Tiny’s’ bit o’ floff,
        felt the tension building and remarked – to warn the sod –
        “Bugger off, ya’ smarmy dweeb”…then grabbed him by the belt,
        slammed him up against the ba’ an’ kneed ‘im really hod!

        “‘Tiny’ Bawb’s the toughest bloke in Sydney,” she proclaimed,
        “and take my word – yer ‘bout to be the victim of a crime
        If you don’t feal yer boots right now…before this goes too fa’…
        an’ I ain’t all that keen on bein’ the one who takes the blime

        “For what that man ‘ll do to you! You’re ‘bout to take the biscuit
        for dumbest wanker breathin’- and to lose a buncha teeth!
        In fact,” she added, “I just flutt’ed twenty quid myself
        that ‘Tiny’ Bawb, without a doubt, ‘ll beat you half to deeth!”

        “So do yerself a favor,” she continued…“on yer bike,
        ‘cause rackin’ off’s the only way you’ll live another dye!
        All them sca’s’ on Tiny’s fice should give ya’ some idea
        of what that squiffy beast ‘ll do to make his rivals pye.

        “It’s not that I’m not flatt’ed, and, if Tiny weren’t aroun’ –
        although yer hod to look at – we’d’a prob’ly wound up mites,
        But, as it is, he’ll kick yer arse if you don’t leave right now,
        ‘cause ‘Tiny’ Bawb – I’ll guarantee ya’ – always wins his fights!”

        I gotta whip up a corny one now and then, they’re easier on my heart – take care.

      • Norma Pain

        Very funny Mark, but tricky to get my tongue around the dialect.

  10. Mark Stellinga

    Tricky to capture it too…some pretty odd colloquialisms and a fairly tough accent to mimic. Just a ‘smiler’…

  11. Muhammad Asif Nadeem

    Whispering winds through ancient trees,
    Unveiling secrets with every breeze.
    Nature’s melody, a soothing song,
    In harmony, we all belong.
    These are just a few selections from the poetry collection by Norma Pain. Each poem captures different emotions, experiences, and the beauty of nature.


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