Lydia's mother
sliced the bread thinly
and buttered sparingly
and handed Lydia


two limp slices
and said
get that inside you


can't have you going
with your stomach rumbling
people'd think


you've not been fed
Lydia took the two slices
and a mug of stewed tea


but she hadn't been fed
that was why
she went and got
the rolls and bread


but she said nothing
just nodded her head
and followed her mother


into the living room
and sat at the table
her big sister
had gone to bed


her father was sleeping
off the beer
Lydia nibbled like a mouse


a thin long haired girl
of a mouse
can I go up West?
she asked


up West?
her mother repeated
as if her daughter


had sworn at her
up West?
she said again
turning the words around


in her head
to see how they fitted in best  
can I?


her daughter
asked again anxiously
you can in the sense
that it's possible


but if you mean may
as a permissibility
then no


her mother said
Lydia said
uncertain where


she was
in her request
your gran always said


that the difference
between can and may
is one of possibility
over permissibility


said Lydia's mother
may I go?
Lydia asked softly


no you may not
her mother said
why not?
her daughter asked


because I said so
her mother replied
why do want to go there?


her mother asked
Benedict said
he was going there
and that he'd take me


Lydia replied
oh him
her mother said


she sat and took a bite
from her sandwich
picturing the boy
from upstairs


in the flats
with his hazel eyes
and big smile


and self assurance
about him
why does he want to go
up West?


she asked
he likes adventures
Lydia said


her mother said
repeating the word
as if


it were unknown to her
who does he think he is
Biggles or someone


like that?
Lydia sat nibbling
holding the bread


in her thin hands
he's never mentioned Biggles
Lydia said


don't talk
with your mouth full
her mother scolded
Lydia swallowed


the bread
he's not said nothing
about no Biggles


Lydia said
well you can't go
her mother said firmly
looking at her daughter's


thin frame
and lank long hair
do you mean I mayn't?


Lydia uttered gently
I said what I mean
her mother said
and don't get mouthy


like your big sister
or you'll feel
my hand


across your backside
Lydia nibbled
and looked away
a train steamed crossed


the railway bridge
leaving grey white smoke
behind it


lingering there
unsettling the air
her mother muttered words
but Lydia didn't listen


she watched clouds
cross the sky darkly
carrying a storm


or rain
she liked her backside
as it was
she didn't want


no pain
she'd not ask

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