Alice liked the soft
voice of her mother,

the telling of stories
as she fell into sleep.


She liked it when her
mother hugged her
tight and kissed her
goodnight. Her father


seldom came to story
tell or hug or kiss or
such; seemed it was
too much. His voice


was deep and harsh
as winds, his eyes
dark and shark like,
peering without those


feelings of love or
want or admittance
into his realm of deep
concern, cared neither


if she drowned nor
burned  nor if in her
dark hours she counted
unhappiness on her


fingers and toes; he
was her father, but
one of those. She liked
to hug and kiss her


doll, poor substitute
for a father's love,
it sitting there in hers
arms unblinking and


smile-less as her father
did; feelings not there
or if so, well hid. Alice
kissed her mother's brow,


her arms, her hands,
her fingers, too, what
was a deep sad fatherless
or seemingly so, girl to do


to bridge the space or gap,
but sleep in her mother's lap

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Lizbeth wants
more to love


than the once
a day glimpse


or quick meet
on the field


with her love


during their
lunch recess


with hardly
time to talk


or to kiss
while prefect's


not watching
she wants to


be able
to make love


(at least try
what she'd read


in that book
the big girl


had shown her
and loaned her)


she wants now
to feel him


enter her
(as the book


had described)
to be one


in body
and in heart


to sense his
lips on hers


and other


secret parts
to feel him


kiss her bits

inner thighs


lids of eyes

her small tits


but in class
during maths


bored to tears
she thinks on


whose warm lips


had met hers
in the gym


during lunch


he shyly
not tonguing


just kissing
holding her


close to him
she sensing


his kisses
wanted more


making love
on the floor


but the bell
rang its chime


no more time
just the caught


of what they


did and not
leaving her

bored and hot.

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Lydia is quiet
going down the slope
by Arrol House
and onto


Rockingham Street
Benedict says nothing
he thinks it best
to let her brood


until she’s ready
to speak
he's seen it
in the films before


where the female
opposite the cowboy
has her moods
or quiet times


and the cowboy
lets her get on with it
while he rides off
into the sunset


to fight the bad guys
or Injuns
or have a shot
of Red Eye


in the bar in the town
watching the dancers
on the makeshift stage
he gives Lydia


a side on gaze
her straight hair
seems unbrushed
her dress is creased


and the cardigan
has a hole
in the elbow
they walk up


towards Draper Road
by the blocks of flats
he says
(hating silence)


the parents
were rowing last night
something to do
with money


or the lack of it
from what
I could gather
through the bedroom door


lying in the dark
seeing the thin line
of light
from the other room


the old man hates
being short
needs dosh
to get


his best suits
and brown shoes
saw something odd
last night


Lydia says suddenly
looking at Benedict
odd? what was odd?
he asks


her thin hands
the nails chewed
my big sister


and her man friend
your sister's always odd
says Benedict


more odd
she made me sleep
in the tiny cot bed
which I haven't done


for years as its
too small for me really
but anyway
she made me sleep there


so she and her man friend
could sleep there
he's been turned out
of his digs


as he calls them
and Mum didn't like
the idea but Dad
in his usual drunken state


said O let him stay
a few days
until he gets himself
a place


so there am I
stuck in the cot bed
feet dangling
over the ends


just about room for me
except my backside
gets cold
when I turn over


nothing worse
Benedict says
than a cold backside
well then


Lydia says
after the lights were out
and she thought
I was asleep


I heard this noise
like squashy sound
and I lay there
with my eyes open


at the dark shapes
and hearing
these odd sounds


and the giggles
and snorts and such
Benedict gazes at her
side on


her thin lips
were opening
and closing
like the goldfish


he had which fell
 into the sink
out of the fish bowl
and its tiny mouth


was closing
and opening
upon the wet
white surface


then the bed springs
were going gong gong
then silence
as if they were dead


Lydia says
straight ahead


and I never got
to sleep in the end
for ages
what with them


and the cold
on my backside
and the trains
going over


the railway bridge
and the shunting
of coal wagons
so you're tired


Benedict says
that’s why you
were quiet just now
thought I'd done


something wrong
when I first met you
outside your flat
and you came out


with a face
suppose so
she says
and they walk along


Draper Road
to the Penny shop
where he treats her
to a penny pop drink


and 4
fruit salad sweets
and they stand
by the penny


ball game machine
on the wall
and watch some kid
press the buttons


and the ball
goes around
and around
until it disappears


in a slot
and Lydia thinks
to herself
sipping her drink


grown ups
are an odd lot.

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Anne crutches herself into Sister Paul's office. The nun is sitting in a chair behind a desk, hands folded on the table, eyes stern, lips a straight line. Anne stands before the desk, taking in the huge crucifix on the wall above the nun's head.

- You can sit down, Anne, the nun says, eyeing her firmly, watching the 12 year old girl, as she manoeuvres herself with one crutch onto the chair.

Anne sits down and puts the crutch beside the chair and pulls her red skirt over her knees, covering the stump where her leg had been.

- Do you know why you're here? Sister Paul asks, unfolding her hands, and laying them flat on the desk top.
- No, Anne says, looking at the nun's black and white headdress, the thin features of the face, hawk-like nose.

-There has been complaints made about you, the nun says. She watches as the girl fidgets in the chair, lifts herself with her hands, back further, on the chair. - Are you not comfortable? She asks.

- No, Anne says, My knickers are too tight.

The nun sighs, looks at the wooden ruler on her desk, wishes she could, but knows she can't.
-  Complaints made by other children here and staff members, the nun says, toying with the ruler with her fingers.

-What sort of complaints? Anne asks.

-The worse sort: bad language, insolence, rudeness. It has to stop, Anne, do you understand? The voice sounded like grit poured into a bucket.

Anne fingered at her backside. -Ah, that's better, sorted it out now, she says, putting her hands together in her lap. - I can't recall any rudeness, she says, acting miss innocence, butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, kind of expression and pose.

The nun looks at the girl and inwardly is glad she never married and had children, especially if one had been like this.

- Sister Bridget says you called her a dried up prune, the nun says, looking at the dark hair and eyes of the child, the insolent way she sits and looks.

Anne frowns.- Me? To Sister Bridget?

-Yes, to Sister Bridget, and Sister Mary says, you exposed your bottom to her when she asked you to take your afternoon sleep. The nun looks at the girl's expression, her frown of brow.

- No, not me, Sister Paul, must have been some other kid's backside she'd seen.

-Are you calling these two nuns, liars?

The girl looks at her hands in her lap, raises two fingers upwards, out of the nun's sight.- No, not liars, just mistaken. We all make mistakes, Anne says, we're all human, after all.

Sister Paul's eyes darken, she grips the ruler tighter, pushes her toes to the end of her sandals.

- And some of the children have made complaints, too, the nun says, the words hard as nails from her lips.

-Ah, you know what liars kids can be, Sister. They couldn't tell the truth if it came wrapped in yellow paper saying, TRUTH. She smiles at her wit.

Sister Paul doesn't smile; her lips tighten, her eyes scan the child, if the girl at been at one of the schools, rather than the nursing home, she'd be well on her way to a sound caning.

- I know children, Anne, and liars, the nun says, eyeing the girl firmly, tapping the ruler on her palm. - You are a liar, and I know you. I have read the reports on you before you came. I was reluctant to take you in, but had little choice. You will behave yourself or be expelled from the nursing home. Is that understood?

Anne senses a fart coming on, but holds it in. - Yes, Sister, sorry Sister. It's my leg you see, it gives me pain, and keeps me awake at nights, and I get tired and I get irritable. She puts on a hurt expression.

The nun sits upright and stiff, an expression of dislike etched on her features.

-We are given pain, by God, for a purpose, Sister Paul says, it is a gift we ought to shoulder and bear with gratitude.

-Like haemorrhoids, you mean? Anne says, fiddling with her fingers, a blank look on her face.

- You know what I mean, young lady, pain in general, not in particular. At that moment the nun feels a great urge to inflict pain on the girl sitting in front of her. She can picture it, the whole scene, the satisfaction.

Anne shifts in the chair, steadying herself. - Can I go now?

The nun sits back in the chair, eyes focusing on the girl, her face straight and stiff as a board.- Your  leg has been amputated, so how can it give you pain? the nun says, her words pushed from her mouth as if they were sour.

- Nerve endings, they don't realise the fucking legs gone, oops sorry, about that it kind of slipped out while I was engaged in thoughts, Anne says, looking at the nun's reddening face. - Didn't mean to, it's my leg you see, it gets me all uptight, and wound up like a clock, and then ping!  Out it comes.

The nun sighs deeply. The word hammers inside her ears and brain. - I won't have such language, do you hear me, not another rude word or expression.

Anne clenches, the cheeks of her buttocks tightly, to hold in the the coming wind. She nods, gives an expression of remorse, allows her eyes to water, takes out a handkerchief from her skirt pocket and wipes her nose. - Sorry about that, don't mean to be such a bad girl, my apologises to all. She wipes her eyes, lets herself go, does her acting bit, slumps her shoulders, weeps softly.

The nun is confused, sits up, feels an urge to go around to the girl and embrace her, say, there, there, dear child, but she doesn't, instead she stares at the girl, at the slumped shoulders, at the dark hair, the sight of neck, and wonders what kind of mother she would have made had she married, would she have coped with the nappies and sickness and foul smells and dressing and undressing a baby and the disturbed nights, and a man touching her, and doing things to her. No, she couldn't have married, nor had a child. She sighs and softens, -OK, Anne, lets say no more about it, and she gets out of the chair and walks around to the child weeping, in the chair, and puts an arm about her, feeling the shallow shakes, the sobs, the sight of the one leg, knowing a stump was beneath the skirt. - There, there, calm down, it is all too much for you after losing your leg, I'll have a word with the children and staff and explain about your pain. She holds the girl close to her breast, feeling her there, the catching of breath, the sobs, the shaking shoulders, and plants a kiss on the girl's black hair and head.

- Sorry, Sister Paul, Anne says, between her acted sobs, sniffing, wiping her nose, feeling the fart go away silently, like sneaky hound, all without sound.

The nun feels her heart open and close. - All right, Anne, you may go and rest your leg or stump, she says, going back to her chair and sitting there, watery eyed.

Anne lifts her head, pushes her hair from her eyes, sniffs and wipes her nose. -Thank you, Sister, you're like a mother to me. She pulls herself up from the chair with the crutch, feels the pain shoot through the stump, rubs it, pulls a face.  - I'll go and rest it, she says, soft voiced, sobs held in check, head lowered. She crutches herself from the room slowly, sensing the nun's eyes on her, feeling a sense of fulfilment, like passing an audition, and lets the door click gently behind her.

Sister Paul sits and fingers the ruler. Sniffs and coughs softly. Feeling the girl's shoulders in her hands, the gentlest of touches, the sense, momentarily, of being a mother, compassion, concern, yes, it is there, she says inwardly, maybe I might have made a good mother after all had it been God's wishes, even if I had to put up with a man's touch for the duration. Thank God,  she says softly inwardly, for my vocation .

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She waits for the school bus with her younger sister and a few others. The weather is warm and dry, clear blue and white clouds in the sky. Elaine knows he'll be on the bus; she's thought of nothing else, but that, since she woke that morning. Even on the loo, she thought about him; about how he had kissed her the day before; about how it was her first kiss from a boy, brushing of lips, not pressed hard. Over breakfast, she sat eating the breakfast her mother had prepared for her, thinking of him, mouthing the cereal, seeing him in her mind’s eye. As she washed after breakfast, she had him in mind, wondering if he would want to kiss her again that day, wondering if she'd let him or if she should. She had dressed slow, him in mind, taking her time, having borrowed her mother's old fashion scent, put on underwear, bra, blouse, skirt and white ankle socks and sat gazing at herself in the mirror, looking through her just cleaned with spittle, spectacles. She looked frumpish. She straightened her shoulders, lifted her head, raised her chin, gazed. She was so shy it hurt. Not then, while looking at herself in the mirror, but when she was with others, and they were gazing at her, or talking to her or at or about her. Teachers could make her cry, by just a stern look or words bellowed at her. Her stomach churned; nerves, she supposed, going once more to the loo, shutting the door, locking it, sitting. A book was on the shelf. Her father's book of butterflies. He kept it there to view while on the loo. He had a room full of books. Most beyond her understanding. She took the book down; the dust jacket was torn. She opened it up and randomly looked at the pictures. What was the butterfly, John had said about? She tried to recall, but she couldn't, there were so many. She closed the book and put it back on the shelf. The bus was coming around the bend in the road, thoughts of the morning at home, vanish in a wave of nerves that grips her stomach. The bus stops and the door opens. She waits with her sister and the others, then boards the bus herself. She feels self-conscious, aware that others are gazing at her as she makes she way along the aisle of the bus, to the seats, where she and her sister, usually sit. Some one says, Hello, Frumpy, and there is scattered laughter, she blushes, looks at the floor as she walks on, tries to focus, knowing he is on the other side of the aisle, maybe looking at her, maybe not. The normal chatter resumes, the radio is blasting out a pop song, she sits by the window, looks out, gets herself comfortable, undoes her coat. Her sister chats to friends nearby, laughter, giggles, loud voices. Is he looking? She stares out the window. The bus moves away, hedges, trees and fields, pass by quickly. She wonders about him. Is he there? has he come today? She wants to look and see, but can't get her head to turn. The scene changes quickly: hedges, fields, cottages, birds in flight, a tractor in a field, a road, sheep, cows, and a man by a fence. Is John looking over his seat at her? Have a look. No, I can't. Go on. No I can't. She fidgets, moves in the seat, pulls at her skirt, adjusts her bra that's tight. Some one sings along to the song on the radio. Her sister joins in. Life and soul of. Have a look. Casually. She pushes her toes to the top of her shoes. Presses hard. She pushes her hands in between her thighs. Feels anxious. Feels the need to pee come on; nerves that’s all, nothing more. Ignore, think of something else. That morning, as she washed under her arms, she noticed, what seemed for the first time, hairs, dark, curly, under her armpits. She'd not noticed before. Not cared more like. But now she did see them, and thought: he might see. How? Going to show him your armpits and say look at these hairs, John? She blushed as she soaped, rinsed and dried. And lower down, where he mother had said to keep clean and fresh, she noticed, as  if it had grown over night, pubic hairs. She tried not to notice usually; pretended they weren't there, as she had once tried to ignore, the first swellings on her chest, the bulb-like swellings that worried her, until her mother, under her breath, said: they're your breasts, all girls get them eventually; it means you’re becoming a woman. What a burden. She wasn't sure she wanted to become a woman, she told her mother. No choice in the matter, her mother said, smiling. She hates the long bus ride to school; hates the chatter, laughter, music bellowing, snorts and giggles. Is he looking? Have a quick gaze. No, I can't. Should she? Just a quick glimpse, turn of her head, a innocent turn and look. What if he's looking at her and she blushes red as a spanked backside? No, best not to. Pretend we don't care. Look at the passing view. When she had undressed for bed the night before, and stood there, staring at herself in the tall mirror, she thought herself frumpy. She stood there gazing. Her sister asleep. Stood looking at her face. The glasses, her eyes, large and dark. Her nose, flattish, broad. Her mouth, too wide, like a fish grinning. She had made a kissing sound. Pursed her lips. Some one laughs on the bus; she looks around, Goldfinch, the boy next to John, guffaws noisily, but John has his head turned towards the window, unconcerned. She sits and studies the top of his head, the hair, the turn of head, half profile, glimpse. As she removed her bra the night before, as she prepared for bed, she unclipped the back fiddly bits, and let it slip away; her breasts feeling free, warm, and just there, waiting, a fully fledged nature study. She had dressed quickly, pretended they weren't hers. She was stepping out of her comfort zone. She looks out of the window, the passing scene: trees, hedges, fields, hills, rabbits, cows and onward. She closes her eyes. Tries not to think of her bladder calling. Pushes her hands deeper between her thighs. Shuts out sounds, laughs, chatter, music, snorts and giggles. She sees behind her closed eyes, the kiss again, him kissing her on the sports field, the day before. Feels it still. The slight touch of lips. Brushing skin on skin. And his hand, where had that been? One on her arm, holding her nearer to him, the other, touching her back, her spine, fingers walking downwards. The touch, lips, warm, wet, and she opens her eyes, and feels a rush of feelings, along her nerves, spine, arms and legs, and her stomach churns, her heart thumps wildly as if it's her last. But none has seen, none has felt. Her sister still talks, Goldfinch sits and gabbles, and John, he sits unaware, that she is burning wildly, inwardly, a rush of electricity rushes along her nerves, a glow down below, her mind is confused and alive, and she sitting there with that: I'm out of my comfort zone, scared look and soft moan.

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Benedict waits
by the pram sheds
in the Square
for Lydia


to come out
of her flat
he wants to take her
to the big bomb site


behind the tabernacle
although she won't
tell her mum
where she's going as such


she'll say to the park
to play on the swings
or slide or other such thing
just as he did


to his mother
the baker rides by
on his horse drawn cart
the horse walking slow


the baker sitting
on top of the cart
nodding his head
still no sign


of Lydia
Benedict sighs
he hates wasting time
likes to be out


and at it
a man with his boxer dog
walks by
the man puffing


a cigarette
hat at the back
of his head
the door opens


and Lydia comes out
in her red and white
checked dress
and white cardigan


she looks stressed
and walks towards Benedict 
looking behind her
at the door


of the flat
got out then?
he says
just about


she says
had to help
put the washing
in the copper


and gather up all
the dirty stuff
and take rubbish
to the shoot


and just done
he nods
and says
a girl's work


is never done
as my old man says
well it is for now
she says


where are we going?
she asks
big bomb site
behind the tabernacle


he says
isn't it
dangerous there?
she says


not if you’re careful
and don't let
the Rozzers see you
he says


so they walk
down the slope
and along
Rockingham Street


she talks of her mother
being in a mood
about her father's drinking
and O yes it's all right


for him to booze
and sing
and play the fool
but it's me


who has to feed
you kids
and keep a roof
over your heads

she says
her mother said
Benedict listens
takes in


her straight hair
her thin arms
and legs
her pale features


her mouth opening
and closing
like a fish
in a bowl


they cross over the road
and walk up
 and along the street
behind the Trocadero


by the smaller bomb sites
along the narrow alley
and out
on the main road


where they go down
the subway
to get across
to the tabernacle


she still talking
about her mother
and her big sister
and the bloke


she brought home
the other night
and wanted to take him
to the bedroom


for some reason
or other
Lydia adds frowning
the subway echoes


her words
they float
then bounce
off the walls


as they climb the stairs
up and out
she stops
and looks


at the bomb site anxiously
will other kids be there?
she asks
usually are


he says
but that doesn't
matter none
they'll keep to themselves


and we can keep to ours
she bites her lip
and follows him
as they climb


between hoardings
and up and into
the bomb site
with its half standing houses


and ruins
and walls
and houses empty
with no roofs


or roofs
with only three walls
she hesitates
stands with her fingers


in her mouth
want if the Rozzers come?
she says
leave it to me


he says confidently
she follows him
as he climbs
onto a wall


and over the top
come on
he says
she climbs after him


mind you don't
scrape your knees
he says
and helps her


over the wall
holding one
of her hands
she gets up and over


and stands inside
a bombed out house
it stinks
she says


yes probably
some tramps
pissed in here
he says


not still in here
is he?
she says anxiously
no long ago scarpered


he says
he walks through a room
and she walks after him
holding her nose


looking around her
bits of wallpaper hang
from walls
a doorway with no door


a window without glass
that looks out
on an abandoned garden
full of weeds


she follows him up
a riggedy stairway
holding on
to a rocking bannister


and up
to a landing
with three rooms
going off


in each direction
he stands still
taps the floorboards
with his foot


should be safe
he says
is it?
she says nervously


course it is
he says
walking carefully
over the floor


of the room
she stands
by the doorway
what if the floorboards


are rotten
and you fall through?
she says softly
then I get


to the bottom
quicker than I came up
he says smiling
come on


he says
beckoning her over
she stands still
fiddling with her fingers


then she bites her fingers
of one hand
and holds her groin
with the other


it won't give way
he says
she holds herself
it might


she says
then we die together
he says
what away to go eh?


she looks at him
standing there
with his hazel eyes
and quiff of hair


and his hand
held out
towards her
she walks gingerly


over the floorboards
one step
after another
until she reaches


his hand
and grips it tight
and they are there
in the middle


of the room
she feeling
as if she's wet herself
and he like one


who has climbed
Mount Everest
and is about
to plant a flag


with glee
she looks at him
and he looks out
the window


as far
as his hazel eyes
can see.

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Dick Morecraft said
about joining the Scouts
who used
the church hall


good venture
he said
we do things
tie knots


and learn
about nature  
how to start a fire
with two bits of wood


and sing songs
around campfires
and so on he went
walking home from school


you wanting to join the scouts
like you wanted diarrhoea
listening half heartedly
thinking of what


was for tea
or what to do
after school
and where to go


and we learn how
to put up tents
Dick added
the last straw


you said
I’ll think about it
see you around


and so off he went
along Newington Butts  
and you went down
the subway and along


hands in pockets
when you saw Ingrid
up ahead with bent shoulders


and lowered head
what’s up? you said
and she showed you
a tear


in her school dress
a rip in the side
her white vest


my dad’ll kill me
(not quite you knew
but he’d beat her
black and blue)


what do I do?
she said crying
wiping her eyes
don’t go home


just yet
you said
my mum’ll sew it up
like new


we’ll go to
my place first
that’s what we’ll do
so you walked


up and out the subway
and across the bomb site
and up Meadow Row
(her mother or father


needn’t know)
and up the concrete stairs
to your flat and in
and you explained


to your mother
what was wrong
and she said she’d fix it
with needle and thread


and so Ingrid
took off the dress  
and gave it
to your mother to sew


and sat there
in the sitting room
in her vest and underwear
fiddling with her fingers


looking around
the room shyly
arms and legs
carrying badges


of black and blue
go get Ingrid
a glass of Tizer
and biscuit


your mother said
and don’t gawk so
and so you went
to the kitchen


and poured
a glass of Tizer
and got a biscuit
from a tin


and took them in
Ingrid wide eyed said
thank you
and took the biscuit


and glass
and nibbled
and sipped
and you told her


about the scouts
and what
Morecraft said
about tents


and tying knots
and lighting fires
with sticks
and such


(not caring much)
and all the time
eyeing the bruises
and welts on legs


and arms
and your mother said
don’t stare so
at Ingrid in her


white( near grey)vest
and underwear
so you changed
the subject


to the cinema
about some cowboy film
where the good guy
twirls his gun


and goes pop pop pop
you said
and gets the baddies


just like that
and how after
the boring bit
where he kisses a girl


he twirls
his gun again
(you need
to practice that)


and she listened
as she sipped her drink
and nibbled the biscuit
sitting there


with her badges
of blue and black
in her underwear
and a red line


her skinny back.



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Miryam meets you at the bar

of the base camp in Madrid.

She has an orange juice

and cereals

and a coffee chaser.


Did you sleep o.k?

you ask, sitting beside her,

with a coffee

and toast and cigarette.



she says,



Her eyes light up

like lights

on a pinball machine

when it's played well.


You? she asks,

you sleep all right?

Sure, but the ex-army guy

wasn't too pleased,

me getting back in the tent

at that hour,

you say.


Fuck him,

she says.

No thanks,

you reply.


She sips the juice,

her lips hold the glass

as she drinks,

her mouth is fish-like

as she swallows.


You talk about

the ex-army guy's moans

about his mother's boyfriend,

how they don't

get along(he

and the boyfriend),

and how he feels

left out and how

he got thrown out

the army because

he was suicidal.


She sips,

and you watched

her eyes feasting on you

as they did

the night before,

and you recall her

undressing in

the small space

of her tent,

the girl she shared with

off fucking some guy

she'd met on the coach,

the tall guy

with an Australian accent.


You watched her,

as you disrobed yourself,

the space throwing

you together,

each touching each,

kissing and undressing

and kissing.


He still feel suicidal?

she asks.

Guess so,

you say,

tried to talk him

through it all,

laying there

in my sleeping bag,

half asleep,


and talking to him,

eyes closing,

and his voice

becoming a drone.



he seemed happier after,

snoring not long after,

as I was laying there

thinking of you.


She eats the cereal,

talks about the girl

coming back

just after you left,

well fucked

and happy,

glassy eyed,


and stinking of booze.


You sip the coffee,

take in her small tits,

pressing against

her coloured top,

flowers and balloons,

patterns, eye catching.


She begs a smoke

from your packet

and you nod,

and she takes one out

and lights up

from the red

plastic lighter,

the cigarette,

held between her lips,

kissable lips,



Yes, it had been

a good night,

you and she

and someone

strumming a guitar

from the bar,


loudly singing,

not far.

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Picking out
the right sized stone
was just the start
and Lydia helped


picking up
this one then
that from
the bomb site


and showing it
to him
in her small palm
he took it


and placed it
in the catapult sack
and pulled back
and aimed


at some tin can
he'd set up
some distance away
and it go


and the tin can
went flying with a zing
and she laughed
and said


you got it straight on
and clapped
her hands together
then looked around


for another
while he went
and set the tin can
up again


on the stone wall
of what had once been
the side of a house
now blown


wide apart
he watched her
all intent


as if
she were seeking gold
or coins that had dropped  
she liked being


his ammunition collector
better than being
at home
with her snoring


older sister
and her mother
in hell frozen over mood
and her father


sleeping off
the night before booze
better here
with Benedict


being his
ammunition supplier
his right hand girl
besides he often


bought her a drink
of pop or sweets
from the Penny shop  
his 9 year old features


seeming older
and her 8 year old face
seeming younger


her hands
frail looking


skin and bones
she said
here is this OK?


and she ran to him
and showed him
and he said
yes just right


and he put it
in the sack
of the catapult
and aimed


then said
hey you want to try?
but she shook her head
no I might hit


I ought not to
and besides
I like watching you


and so he aimed again
and let it go
and it zoomed
through the air


and caught the tin
and it flew spinning
with a yelping sound
and hit the ground


and she thought
of her big sister
throwing up
in the early hours


after the binge
and night out
and her mother
bellowing out


in the early hours
you bloody whore  
and her father saying
O quit the mouth


let the kid learn
her own way
and she Lydia
turning over


away from
her sister's butt
and back
the sound of vomiting


in her ears
and he tucking
the catapult in
the back pocket


of jeans
thought of his younger sister
getting herself
run over by a car


cuts and bruises
a small scar
otherwise OK
the other day


and right
he said
looking at Lydia
come let's go


get us
a penny drink of pop
from the Penny shop
and she smiled


and walked beside him
his John Wayne swagger
cowboy hat
on his head


ready to shoot
any bad cowboys
who came along
bang bang dead.

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