Why do you wear
your guns back to front
in the holsters?
Helen asked me


as we walked
the bomb site
by Meadow Row
I saw this cowboy


in a film
at the cinema
have his like this
and you cross


your hands over
and get your guns
isn't it slower
that way?


she asked
no it's speed that matters
not how
you wear your guns


I said
I showed her
how quick I was
and she stood bemused


clutching her doll
Battered Betty
tightly to her chest
haven't you got


caps in your guns
to make them
sound real?
she asked


no I ran out
and anyway
I can make
the sound myself


by going
she jumped away
holding Battered Betty


to her chest
you could have told me
you were going
to make that loud


banging noise
Betty got frightened
I looked at her
tightly woven plaits


of hair
and thick lens glasses
and her small hands
holding the doll


sorry Betty
I said
patting the doll's head
I put the guns away


and we walked
to the New Kent Road
and along
under the railway bridge


and by the Trocadero cinema
gazing at the billboards
and small pictures
of films


being shown
you can come
with me here
on Saturday


I said
they've got
a good cowboy film


haven't any money
for the cinema
Mum said
she can't afford it


Helen said
my old man'll
cough up some money
if I ask


I said
she looked at me
Mum'll let me go
if you ask her


Helen said
ok let's go
ask her now
I said


so we walked
to Helen's house
and I told her
about how I practised


drawing my guns
she looked at Betty
but whether


she was listening
to me
or not
I couldn't say.

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