Teatime done with
I went with Helen
across the bomb site
off Meadow Row


and crossed
the New Kent Road
to the ABC cinema
and along side


the dark alleys
dim lights
damp stink
she just behind me


clutching her doll
Battered Betty
by one arm
was that a rat?


she half said
and screamed
could be
I said


you see
them at night
down here
she clutched my arm


with her free hand
Battered Betty
swaying behind her
what we looking for?


she asked
cigarette ends
I said


What do you
want them for?
she asked
make up a smoke


with Rizla fag papers
I said
you smoke
old tobacco?


she said
put it
in your mouth?
If I get


enough tobacco
I said
looking around


the ground
she said


I find dropped coins
I found a cuff link once
silver it was
but one


ain't much good
unless you're
a one armed man
I said


does your mum know
you smoke?
God no
I said


she has enough
to worry about
without me
adding to it


she frowned
clutched my arm tighter
well you shouldn't smoke
she said


you're only 9 like me
and I would never smoke
and our children
when we have them


won't smoke either
she said
she looked
at Battered Betty steely


I pushed her words
and images
out of my mind
for the moment


I saw a semi-smoked
Senior Service
on the ground
by the wall


and stooped
to pick it up
it's got lipstick on it
Helen said distastefully


it's has a woman's
spittle inside
I looked at her
disapproving gaze


and threw it away
yes you're right
I said
men's spittle's best


she frowned darkly
I said
not really


I just jest
another time maybe
I thought
taking her deeper


into the dark
and rats
and damp stink
of drains


remembering it all
it sinking
into my
9 year brain.

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