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OEM 1 : THE LIVING PHOTOGRAPH (by Jackie Kay)

My small grandmother is tall there,


straight-back, white broderie anglaise shirt,
pleated skirt, flat shoes, grey bun,
a kind, old smile round her eyes.
Her big hand holds mine,
white hand in black hand.
Her sharp blue eyes look her own death in the eye.
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.
But there she is still,
in the photo with me at three,
the crinkled smile is still living, breathing.

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

Meaning
The personas grandmother looks tall in the
photograph.
She is standing with good posture, wearing an
embroidered lace blouse.
She wears the blouse with a pleated skirt, non-heeled
shoes and her hair in a bun.
She is smiling kindly.
Her big hand is holding the personas hand.
The contrast of their skin colours can clearly be seen
in their linked hands.
Her grandmothers blue eyes suggests that her death
is near.

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

Meaning
The personas reference of death came true.
The grandmother became thinner and more fragile.
Her back became hunched.
She became forgetful.
Soon, she passed away.
Upon her death, she went to a place that no one
knows.

Stanza 3
Line

Meaning

14 But there she is still,


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

However, in the photograph, her grandmother will


always be alive.
The persona was there years old in the photograph
with her grandmother.
Her grandmothers smile is still so alive and real.

Moral Value
1 We must treasure our loved ones when they are alive.

We must spend as much time as we can with our loved ones while they are still living

When they pass away, all that will be left are the memories, as is illustrated in the poem.
2 It is difficult to lose a family member.

It is always difficult to deal with the death of a loved one.

The persona loses her grandmother when she was younger but she will always remember her.
3 We must never forget the importance of family relationship.

We should not forget to love and care for our family, especially our grandparents who are the

pillars of a family.
When they are old and sick, we must continue to take care of them.

Summary of Stanza 1
The persona is looking at an old photograph of her grandmother and herself. She describes the
photograph her grandmother is standing tall and straight, dressed in a white embroidered lace blouse
with a pleated skirt, and flat shoes. Her grey hair is pulled neatly into a bun. She is smiling kindly while
holding the personas hand in hers, giving her the security and comfort. As the persona describes their
linked hands white hand in black hand it is clear that they come from a mixed race family. The last
line seems to suggest that the persona knows that her grandmothers death will come soon.

Summary of Stanza 2
While the first describes the photograph, in the second stanza, the persona is remembering her
grandmother later, when she is older and has become ill. The persona recalls how her grandmother soon
grows thinner and more fragile. Her back is hunched and she becomes forgetful as is illustrated in the
line, Her soup forgot to boil. Eventually, she passes away and upon her death, she goes to an
unimaginable place.

Summary of Stanza 3
However, in the photograph, the personas grandmother will forever be alive. She is still there, holding the
hand of her three-year-old granddaughter, with her smile looking so alive and real.

Themes
1 The everlasting quality of a photograph

A photograph immortalizes a person or a moment. What is captured in a photograph will remain

alive forever.
In the poem, the personas grandmother has already passed away. However, in the photograph,

she will always be healthy and alive.


A photograph also allows us grandmother passes away to reflect on what happened in the past

and relive our memories.


2 Death

Death is a definite outcome for all of us.

In the poem, the persona recalls how her grandmother was once strong and healthy but soon
grows older and becomes ill.
In the end, the grandmother passes away and the persona is only able to relive her memories with
her grandmother through a photograph.

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