girl

HELEN AND THE GUNS.

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
BANG BANG
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
showing

 

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
everyday
she looked at Betty
but whether

 

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

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Untitled

“how beautiful is the silence of growing things
in a place full of even deader things?
the soft roots of innocent herbs
poke through the rotten flesh
and curl around the dirty bones
of forgotten ancestors
that deserved better than this.” And
all of this underneath the rubber soles
of a young girl’s Sunday shoes,
scuffed white surrounding curled baby toes.
Her world watches as she jumps from rock to rock,
lining the winding road as it leads out.
And she laughs at herself,
dark curls bouncing with her. Again she wonders,
“how blind are the sunken eyes
of those who stopped looking? the flies buzz
and run their tiny feet all over
the stiff, unfeeling organs
of ancient lovers from a different land, different time.
if they could see now, they’d just see rotting wood,
the unsightly view we condemn all our expired kind to-
maybe that’s why they stopped looking, closed their eyes.”
She smiles, and the old breeze
chills her crooked teeth, stirs her Sunday dress,
black and white against her bony knees.
And she tells herself-
“It is just his body that lingers,
falling victim to natural defamation;
his soul floats on to a truer place,
full of grander memories.”
For she cannot afford to think in any other way.

CHRISTINA AND PLACES.

Christina was with friends
schoolgirls like her
and she saw me

 

coming across
the sports field
she left them

 

and met me
and I heard them
cackle like hens

 

I’d turned down
Reynard's game
of football

 

to be there
what's tickling
their fancy?

 

I asked
nodding
towards the girls

 

on the field
O you know
what girls are like

 

any juicy bit
of gossip
to bite on

 

what gossip is that?
about the gym
and us the other day

 

she said
and that prefect
turfing us out

 

O that
I said
looking at her eyes

 

seeing worlds there
I wish I was in your year
she said

 

then I
would be leaving school
this year

 

instead of next
shouldn't wish
your life away

 

or before you know it
you'll be an old lady
with grey hair

 

and wrinkles
God forbid
she said smiling

 

we walked up
the field together
she talked

 

of her parent's rowing
and her mother's moods
and how her big brother

 

had  done things
but then she broke off
and talked

 

of the girl in her class
who thought
she was dying

 

because she had
started to bleed
during P.E

 

we got to fence
which separated
the field from the road

 

where cars and lorries
were going by
she looked back

 

at the field
we don't get
enough time together

 

she said
you being
in a village

 

miles away
and I living
in this boring town

 

at least we do
see each other
I said

 

not enough
of each other though
she said

 

her lips stopped
and parted slightly
I gazed at her

 

for a few moments
taking in her eyes
and lips

 

that kiss
in the gym
she said

 

that could have
led somewhere
could it?

 

I said
yes it may
she said

 

BENNY
someone called my name
across the field

 

who the heck is that?
she said
my mate Reynard

 

I said
what's he want?
football game I expect

 

you're not going
to play football
are you?

 

she said
I waved away Rolland
indicating I wasn't playing

 

and he ran off
with other boys
towards the goals

 

on the other end
of the field
she looked at the boys

 

kicking a ball around
never understand boys
she said

 

what do they see
in kicking a ball about?
never mind them

 

I said
we have limited
time together

 

she nodded
and she looked back
at the field seeing

 

who was nearby
and who was who
then she came

 

close to me
and kissed me
her lips warm

 

and wet
skin on skin
tongues touched

 

a fire like sense
raced along
my nerves

 

I closed my eyes
and so did she
and we were

 

in places
and positions
in our minds

 

where
we wanted
to be.

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NO SWAN CAME.

Yehudit walked with me
in the woods
and sunlight pushed
through the branches

 

of trees overhead
birds sang
a rabbit rushed off
through the thick

 

undergrowth
she wore
the dark green skirt
and white blouse

 

school had ended
for the holiday
wonder if our swan
is there

 

she said
reminds me
of the Wagner opera
I liked the way

 

the sunlight
lit up her hair
as she walked
tints of dark brown

 

and light brown
a hair grip
held in place
unruly bits

 

Lohengrin
she said
that's it
that's the opera

 

she had undone
the green school tie
the collar loose
the tie untidily

 

pulled away
neck showed
last time
we saw it

 

at the lake
(the name
she called
the pond)

 

we sat and kissed
and you put
your hand
up my skirt

 

she said
where the blouse
was stretched
her breasts

 

pushed out
seeking escape
and there was that bloke
fishing over the way

 

and we didn't care
a toss
she said
I liked how

 

her soft
plump hand
held mine
her fingers

 

gripped mine
preventing their escape
had they wanted to
(which they didn't)

 

yes I remember that
I said
(we only noticed him
just before we kissed

 

tucked amongst trees)
is it unusual
for swans
to come to our lake?

 

she asked
I shouldn't think so
I said
(I hadn't thought

 

about it at all)
as we walked
I glanced at her profile
the nose

 

the flushed cheeks
the eyes blue
clear blue
as if

 

in white dishes
her hair brushed
in her usual
careless way

 

I hope he's not
there today
she said
it's not the same

 

kissing
in front of others
I doubt he is
I said

 

Lohengrin
yes I had heard
the highlights
of the opera

 

on the radio
a few times
the swan bit
she had said about

 

as we came
to the pond
(my word not hers)
we  saw no one

 

was there
except ducks
and moor hens
and fish swimming

 

just under
the surface
we sat
on the warm

 

grassy bank
and she sat
with her chin
on her knees

 

her hands holding
her legs
peaceful
she said

 

a crow sounded nearby
a woodpecker tapped
away at some tree
I could see

 

the impression
of her bar strap
through the white
cotton blouse

 

at the back
how do they manage
to undo them?
I thought

 

my hands each side
of my legs
balancing me
I love it here

 

she said
I like it anywhere
I said
she turned

 

and playfully
hit my arm
I meant the place
not that

 

she said smiling
still no swan
I said
she looked

 

at the water's skin
a Mallard swam by
do you think of sex
all the time?

 

she said
pretty much
I said
I thought so

 

she  replied
there was that heron
landed that time
I said

 

yes there was
she said
the sun was warm
white clouds

 

no swan
and us
making love
in my head.

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FOR SOMETHING NOT DONE.

Ingrid's words
were muffled
when she spoke to me
by Dunn's hat shop

 

where we said
we'd meet
the day before
her thick lip

 

(where he father
had backhanded her)
moved slowly
does you dad

 

wear hats?
she asked
looking in
the shop window

 

no
I said
never seen him
ever wear a hat

 

not even to cover
his balding head
she looked
at the passing traffic

 

what happened to you?
I asked
pointing to her lip
my dad didn't like

 

the way I brushed
my hair
he said it was
too tartish

 

whatever that means
she said
tapping her
recently brushed hair

 

I tried to get out
of his way
but he caught me
with a backhand

 

I’m going
to the cinema
this afternoon
I said

 

there's a cowboy film on
and I want to see
how the good guy
draws out his gun

 

he does it
by crossing over
his hands
could I come?

 

she asked
Mum might give me
9d for a ticket
as long as Dad

 

doesn't know
she added
sure
I said

 

come to my flat
after lunch
we walked down
the subway

 

to get
to St George's Road
to walk along
to Bedlam Park

 

to try out
the swings there
and buy an ice cream
outside the swimming pool

 

(money I'd been given
by my old man
for polishing
his brown brogues)

 

I studied her
as we walked along
she talking
of her old man's temper

 

and how he punched
her mother
for letting
his dinner get cold

 

I noticed her
faded grey dress
the flowers red
against watery green stems

 

grey-white
ankle socks
black scuffed shoes
her thin hands

 

gesturing as she talked
and the slight smell
of dampness
as I neared her

 

the bruise
under her left eye
fading
like the morning sun

 

where her old man
had thumped her
for something
she hadn't done.

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FOR SOMETHING TO DO.

From her bedroom window
Lydia could see
the grass and pigeons

 

and some boy
with a bow and arrow
she could hear

 

her mother shouting
at her father
her sister

 

still asleep
in the big bed behind
the tattooed arm

 

hanging from the bed
her mouth open
Lydia saw the boy turn

 

it was Benedict
his quiff of hair
an arrow in his bow

 

pointing downwards
he was mouthing words
and making gestures

 

with his free hand
she opened the window
letting in

 

the morning air
are you coming out?
Benedict asked

 

Lydia's sister
stirred in the bed
where are you going?

 

Lydia asked
thought I’d go
to one of the big

 

train stations
see the steam engines
he said

 

she looked back
at her sister
the blonde hair

 

over her face
a breast hanging
out of her nightie

 

which one?
she asked
he fired an arrow

 

at a pigeon
but it flew away
Victoria?

 

he said
I’ve no money
she said

 

he went
to pick up the arrow
stuck in the grass

 

he wiped mud
off the end
when are you going?

 

she asked
after lunch
he said

 

walking up
to her ground floor
window and peering in

 

at Lydia's sister
can you call for me?
she asked

 

sure
he said
will your mother

 

be ok about it?
last time
she almost

 

bit my head off
Lydia looked out
at the grass

 

and dandelions
growing
she'll be all right

 

she said
uncertain but trying
to convince him

 

ok
he said
I’ll call for you

 

he walked off
across the grass
holding his bow

 

and arrow
shut the blooming window
her sister said

 

turning over in bed
Lydia pulled down
the window

 

and watched
as Benedict
climbed the green

 

metal fence
and disappeared
from view

 

Lydia picked up
her sister's
dirty washing

 

for something
(in the meantime)
to do.

 

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ANNE BEFORE BREAKFAST.

Anne put her crutches
by the table
on the lawn
and sat next to me

 

how's it going Kid?
ok
I said
what's for breakfast?

 

porridge or cereal
or toast
I said
no egg and bacon

 

and sausages?
she said
no
I said

 

fuck me
she said
who eats toast
or porridge

 

or  cereals?
pass me a glass
and pour me
some of that

 

orange muck
I poured her
a glass of orange juice
and put it

 

by her hand
she sipped it
I've tasted better
she said

 

I want you
to push me
down to the beach
later Kid

 

can't stick
being stuck
with these other kids
they drive me

 

up the wall
with their
goody-two-shoes
nonsense with the nuns

 

especially Sister Paul
the stuck up bitch
I looked back
towards the nursing home

 

other kids
were sitting about
other tables
and here and there

 

a nun was attending
to them
got any more wine gums
from your mother?

 

she asked me
no they've gone
Sister Bridget took them
to share

 

amongst the others
bloody communist
she said
I looked at her

 

sitting in the chair
her one leg visible
the stump
of the other leg

 

hidden beneath
her blue dress
the dress had little
anchors and boats

 

on it
had your look Kid?
she said
you're always trying

 

to look at my stump
aren't you?
I can't help it
my eyes are drawn

 

to the missing leg
I said
she lifted her dress
and showed

 

the stump of leg
have a good look Kid
I looked at the stump
then looked away

 

towards the windows
of the nursing home
when do you want
to go to the beach?

 

I asked
as soon as I’ve had breakfast
she said
she pulled down

 

her dress to cover her stump
and sipped the juice
the red ribbon
in her dark

 

straight hair
had come loose.

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MIRIAM AT BURGOS IN 1970.

Inside Burgos Cathedral
Miriam was in shorts
and tee-shirt
and I nearby

 

and a woman
next to her
said casa de Dios
Miriam said something

 

back in Spanish
and the woman
scowled at her
and moved away

 

muttering in Spanish
under her breath
what did she say?
I asked

 

Miriam said
the old bat
said this
was the house of God

 

and that I
was not dressed
correctly
I looked

 

at the woman
who was glaring
at Miriam
what did you

 

say to her?
I asked
I told her
go wash her fanny

 

I nodded
and looked
at the glaring
Spanish dame

 

I spoke no Spanish
but whatever
the dame was muttering
didn't sound

 

like a blessing
I tried to focus
on the mass
the words(now

 

in Spanish not Latin)
Miriam folded
her arms
her eyes sharp

 

as pencils
her red hair
tight curls
smelling of sun oil

 

and scent
a guy in front
had his eyes closed
muttering a prayer

 

in Spanish
the priest
at the altar
was colourful

 

like a beetle
arms out stretched
Miriam whispered
I'll need a drink

 

after this
and something more
later in the tent
she smiled at me

 

her eyes bright
and alive
and mischievous
I had lost my way

 

in the mass
but the beetle priest
was lifting the host
Christ was present

 

and I bet
the old Spanish dame
was giving Him
the low down

 

on Miriam
but I knew
He'd understand
His love

 

was wide and deep
and Miriam and her promises
would have to wait
and keep.

 

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AFTER BIOLOGY IN 1962.

Reynard and I
held back
after biology
while the other kids

 

had gone
and we walked up
the corridor
I could have scored that goal

 

lunchtime
if Goldfinch
hadn't got
in my way

 

he's always
where you don't
want him to be
Reynard said

 

I saw Jeanette
walking ahead of us
with her blonde friend Angela
Jeanette had class

 

I thought
her friend
was a short
mouthy girl

 

but Jeanette
was quite reserved
and looked at you
as if you had stepped

 

in her sunshine
but I liked her
and that quick kiss
I snatched the other day

 

still felt stuck

on my lips
Angela had short tight
blonde curls

 

Jeanette had long
dark hair reaching
her shoulders
I gazed

 

at her thin figure
her arms by her side
the satchel
over her shoulder

 

Reynard was still talking
about the football lunchtime
I was looking
at Jeanette’s sway

 

of hips almost unseen
yet visible
to the trained eye
the way her legs

 

came down
to her well heeled shoes
the white ankle socks
think we ought

 

to try get Frazer
on our side
he'd be great in goal
better than Dunton

 

the prat
he couldn't save a goal
if the ball
was as big as he was

 

Reynard said
yes we must get Frazer
I said
wondering how I’d get

 

that kiss
that Jeanette promised
the lips tempting
and her cheek

 

just visible
the place my lips
touched
the other day

 

and the kiss
just stayed there
and wouldn't
go away.

 

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