There were bright lights
from the ceiling
once it got
dark outside


and when big Ted
brought in
the sandwiches
for tea or supper


or whatever
they called it
I sat next to Christine
on one


of the double sofas
and she looked
at the plates
of sandwiches


that were laid
on the table
and said
usual boring stuff


I’m not eating
I’d rather starve
big Ted said
O come on


young lady
we've got
to get you well again
and out of this ward


he offered her
a ham sandwich
real ham
he said


not that tin stuff
she looked at him
don't fancy meat
she said


he took up
a cheese sandwich
he said


good stuff
I’ve tasted it
in the kitchen


I could eat a horse
I said
taking the cheese sandwich
no horse sandwiches today


Ted said smiling
Christine gazed at me
then at the plate
of sandwiches


it's an effort to eat
she said
I should be coming home
from my honeymoon now


if the fuck hadn't left me
at the altar
done my head in
Ted raised his eyebrows


is there anything
I can get you other
than sandwiches?
they've got


sausage rolls downstairs
all dressed
in my wedding dress
with flowers


and waiting
and he doesn't show
I take a ham sandwich
his loss


I said
he must be missing a screw
not to wed you
she gazed at me


then took
a cheese sandwich
and ate
Ted frowned


and walked off
to get the teapot
and coffee pots
and cups


from the trolley
you'll find someone
I said
don't think


I want anyone now
think I'll become a nun
or missionary
in some far off land


sexless and taking care
of others
she sat eating
in silence for a moment


or two
not sure
I could go long
without sex


come to think of it
she took a ham sandwich
with one hand
and placed a hand


on my thigh
with that dull light
in her green blue
left eye.

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As I came
from the Embankment
underground station
towards Charing Cross


I saw Julie standing
looking in
a shop window
she looked thin


in the jeans
and yellow tee-shirt
her hair was drawn back
in a ponytail


she saw me
and walked towards me
thought I’d meet you here
she said


got bored waiting
in Trafalgar Square
I said


good that you're here
we kissed and walked
hand in hand
up to Charing Cross


how are you?
I asked
she said


the doctors
have been on my case
all week
and the nurses


have been
breathing down my neck
into everything I do
can't even go


to the bog
without them
standing outside the door
in case I’m shooting up


and are you?
I asked
course not
where am I


going to get anything
to shoot up?  
we came to the road
and crossed


at the lights
and into Charing Cross Road
I missed you
she said


missed you too
I said
wish I had
a photo of you


to put by my bed
can't get one
she said
the parents won't bring


a thing from home
unless you have a camera?
no I don't
have a camera


I said
she said
I’m going


to a jazz concert
next week
I said
jazz? yuk


she said
I’d rather
have an enema
who are you seeing?


Charles Lloyd
jazz sax guy
but I can see you
in the day time


it's in the evening
she looked at me
we could try book
into that crazy hotel again


for a few hours
she said
get that same room
and bed


I asked
no next week
she said


I said
I’ll ring through tonight
she smiled


give me something
to look forward to
all week
get me through


the nonsense
with the docs and nurses
we went into
Leicester Square


and into a café
for two coffees
and a slice
of chocolate cake each


and I studied
her face
and small breasts
just out of reach.

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Jeanette was by
the wire fence
leaning against it
her hands


in front of her
resting one
on the other
she watched me


as I came out
of the school door
leading from the side
onto the sports field


her friend Angela
the blonde girl
had gone home
for lunch


my did you kiss me
like that?
she asked
as I went by her


your cheek
was tempting me
I said
so I kissed it


you should have
at least asked
she said
I will next time


I said
looking at her
taking in
her thin frame


and arms
what makes you think
there will be
a next time?


she said
her eyes were dark
like small currents
in cream dishes


I feel lucky
I said smiling
she didn’t smile back
you hang around


with that Rolland boy
don't you?
she said
yes he's a friend


I said
I don't like him
she said
he doesn't like you


much either
I said
he says
you're a titless wonder


she blushed
and looked away
but I like you
I think you have


a certain class
I mean the way you
sit there listening
to all that classical stuff


Miss Graham plays
to us in lessons
while we
are bored brainless


you sit there
in another world
actually enjoying it
she looked at me


I love Beethoven
she said
his music moves me
her eyes settled on me


she played with her fingers
but you ought
to have asked
before kissing


she said
have you told anyone
I kissed you?
no of course not


she said
shame it might do
some good
I said


in what way?
she said
other kids might not
think you so stuffy


and snobbish
I said
she looked
at her well heeled shoes


and white socks
it was only a peck
she said
not a real kiss


it was lips
on cheek skin
I said
wet and warm


she said shyly
there you go
I said


Rolland called out
from the sports field
best go


I said
see you in class
and I ran off
towards Rolland


and other boys
kicking a ball
maybe a kiss tomorrow
she had said


as I went off
up on the grass
I nodded
and turned away


the sky had brightened
blue skies
had moved off
the dull of grey.

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Christina called
as I got off
the school bus


I went over
to her
standing by
the wire fence


the girls' playground
she took my arm
and walked me


along the fence
out of earshot
of others
I dreamed


of you last night
she said
did you now
I said


watching a prefect
looking over
what was I up to?
that would be telling


she said
that's the point
I said
some girls


were playing skip rope
singing a rhyming song
she looked at me
with her brown eyes


you kissed me
she said
is that all?
I said


the prefect  was walking
over towards us
his lanky frame


at a steady pace
it was a long kiss
she said
how long?


I asked
I didn't time it
she said
but it was good


made me feel
all unnecessary
as I heard
my cousin say


when she stayed
with us
what are you two
up to?


the prefect asked
he said to me
should be making


your way
to the boys' playground
not here
chatting up girls


looked at him
then at me
she dreamed of me


last night
I said
she was just
telling me


I bet no one
dreams of you
I added
looking at


the lanky prat
do you want to go
to the headmaster?
he said


giving me
the stern eye
was looking at me


her eyes like
melted chocolate
got to go
I said to her


see you lunch time
at recess
on the field
I walked off


the prefect stared
after me
Christina stood
with her hands


in front of her
her thumbs playing
with each other
I turned before


I went out of sight
and blew
her a kiss
which she pretended


to catch and put in
her school skirt pocket
the prefect scowled at her
as she walked away


patting my blown kiss
next to her thigh
easing out
a school girl sigh.

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Judith took me
to the derelict cottage
just off the wood
in the Easter recess


from school
she opened up
the back door
and into the kitchen


with its smell
of damp and decay
it's been empty for years
she said


my sister and I
used to come here
and pretend
it was our own cottage


smells horrible
I said
ignore the smell
she said


pretend it's our
own cottage
and we have
just moved in


after marrying
when did we marry?
I asked
after we left school


she said
she walked into
a larger room


with wide windows
looking out
onto a large
overgrown garden


we could grow
some of our own food
she said
looking out


the window
I looked at
the hanging wallpaper
and a damp patch


on the ceiling
and our children
could play out there
she said


what children?  I asked
when did they come along?
after we married
she said


I don't remember
I said smiling
you will
if you pretend better


she said
moving through
to another room
at the front


I noticed a space
where a picture
must have hung
because it was cleaner


than the rest
of the wall
I like this room
she said


this is where we will sit
and have our TV
and radio
and the children


can sit with us
and we can cuddle them
I nodded playing along
let me show you upstairs


to the bedrooms
she said
so I followed her
up the creaky stairs


her green skirt
swaying as she walked
three bedrooms
she said


one for us
one for our boys
and one for our girls
she stood


in the front bedroom
looking out
over an untidy hedge
onto the road


this is our bedroom
she said
turning around
looking at it all


our bed can go there
she said
pointing to a wall
on the left


and we can have
a dressing table
and dresser
the room was empty


and smelt
over by the right wall
was a pile of shit
some one's been here


and dumped
I said
probably some tramp
or hobo


she looked
at the shit
and said
who's dumped


in our bedroom?
I laughed
it isn't our room yet


she said
I pretended
the shit wasn't there
and we went


into the other bedrooms
and she said
this was where
such and such


will be
and out of the window
the overgrown garden
seemed vast


with an apple orchard
to the left
she touched my hand
and squeezed it


we will be happy here
she said
I looked about
the room years after  


the cottage smelt ranker
and she was dead.

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Lizbeth sits
in the bath
sponges down


and under
her thin arms
over small


but full breasts
soapy suds
hot water


is washing


between thighs
(here she sighs)
wiggles her


two big toes
she wonders
if he would


do such things
she doubts it
not the type


but she's tried
to get him
to have sex


even once
in her room
but mother


came back too
soon and spoilt
her chances


and that time
in his room
with his tank


of old bones
and bird's eggs


and model
hanging down


but no sex
she sponges


along thighs
it is he


rubbing her
his warm lips
planting hot


wet kisses
on the back
of her hand


touch on touch
O too much
if was such.


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I knocked
on Lydia's front door
and waited
the morning sun


was coming
into the Square
Lydia's old man
opened the door


and stared at me
with bloodshot eyes
what do you want?
he said


is Lydia
coming out?
I asked
who wants to know?


I do
wondered if she'd like
to see the trains


I said
why would she
want to see trains?
he said gruffly


she likes trains
I said
he looked beyond me
at the block of flats behind  


who said
she likes trains?
she did
I said


I work
with fecking trains
all day
she's never said


about trains before
he said
looking at me again
his eyes trying


to focus
we often
go see trains
I said


we went  to Waterloo
train station
the other week
he closed his eyes


his hairy chin
and breathed out
a beery flavour


he bellowed suddenly
I stepped off
the front door step


and stood
gaping at him
he called again


he opened his eyes
and stared at me
I detected life
behind the mask


Lydia came
to the door
and peeped under
her old man's arm


this kid wants to know
if you want go see
fecking trains
he said gently


his voice silky
do you?
she nodded her head


can I?
she asked
he looked at me
as if I’d just


stolen his wallet
he said
steam trains


I said
yes steam trains
she said
we like watching them


he raised his eyebrows
and looked down at her
under his arm
resting on the door jamb


ok ok
if you want go see trains
go see trains
he said


and wandered off
leaving Lydia and me
looking at each other


Waterloo again?
I asked
what about Victoria station?
she said


ok sure
I replied
and she turned


to go get
her shoes inside.

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Ingrid usually wore
the faded grey
flowery dress
that had seen


better days
I saw her crossing
Rockingham Street
I was getting


bread rolls
and she was standing
by the wall
of the flats


red eyes
hair unbrushed
where are you going?
she asked


getting rolls
for breakfast
I said
how comes


you're out here
so early?
I asked
my dad


pushed me out
said I was getting
on his nerves
she said


have you had breakfast?
I asked
no not yet
she said


I looked up
Meadow Row
the early morning sun
was breaking


through clouds
you can come back
to my mum's place
I said


have rolls and butter
she looked at me
can I ?
she said


of course
I replied
taking in her red eyes
and untidy hair


and a fading bruise
under her left eye
real butter?
she said


yes and maybe
cheese if you want
I said
she looked at me


her eyes
feeding on me
what now?
she said


come to the bakers
with me and we
can go back


to my mum's place
I said
so we went across


to the baker's shop
and I bought
crusty bread rolls
my mother had said


and we walked back
through the Square
and up the stairs
to the flat


are you sure
your mum
won't mind?
she said


as I opened
the front door
no she won't mind
the more the merrier


I said
and so we went
into the kitchen
and I told my mother


and she said fine
and cut open the rolls
and buttered them
and put in


some cheese
and Ingrid and I
went into
the front room


and we ate them
in an early morning
and as she ate


I gave a secret sigh
seeing the fading bruise
her left eye.


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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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