girl

WAITING FOR LYDIA.

Lydia's mother
opened the door
of the flat
after I had knocked

 

and gave me
a stern stare
is Lydia coming out?
I asked

 

she looked hard
at me
where?
to the herbalist

 

get some sarsaparilla
I said
sarsaparilla?
she said

 

yes it's good for you
they say
makes blood
I said

 

she looked
at my scuffed shoes
and blue jeans
and the gun and holster

 

hanging
from the snake head
elastic belt
around my waist

 

I suppose she can
her mother said
LYDIA
she bellowed

 

windows rattled
a dog
across the Square
barked

 

the milkman's horse
lifted its head
from the nosebag
Lydia came to the door

 

and poked her head
out from under
her mother's arm
Benedict here

 

wants to take you
to get a sarsaparilla
Lydia looked at you
her eyes narrowing

 

then widening
ok
she said
can I go?

 

she asked
course if I say so
as long
as you are wrapped warmer

 

than you are now
her mother said
Lydia rushed back inside
and her mother

 

took a long drag
of a cigarette
her yellowing fingers
in a V shape

 

what's your father
do for a living?
she asked
the smoke carrying

 

her words to me
he's a metal worker
I said
he makes things

 

from metal
she stared at me
a few loose hairs
had escaped

 

the flowery scarf
about her head
I think
he frequents whores

 

she said
I see
I said
unsure

 

what she was saying
she inhaled
on the cigarette again
her eyes

 

gazing beyond me
keep Lydia out
a fair while
she said

 

pushing out smoke
I want to rest
my eyes a while
ok

 

I said
she went indoors
and I waited for Lydia
sniffing in the smoke

 

hanging about
the doorstep
the dog barked again
the horse ate

 

from the nosebag
the milkman whistled
a few notes
from some tune

 

I sniffed the smoke again
hoping Lydia
would be out
wrapped warm soon.

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INGRID'S EAR.

Ingrid's right ear
was still numb
where her father
hit her head

 

as she climbed the stairs
to Benedict's flat
and knocked at his door
he's in the Park

 

I think Ingrid
or try the bomb site
on Meadow Row
his mother said

 

so she climbed down
the stairs
her eyes
filled with tears

 

her hearing like
she was under water
swimming
she crossed the Square

 

and over Bath Terrace
into the Park
passed by
the flowers beds

 

the trees
the wire fence
coming into view
her eyes scanned

 

through the wire
to see if he was on
the swings
but he wasn't

 

she entered the playground
and searched
but he wasn't there
her heart sank

 

low ebb feeling
she walked back
through the Park
along the path

 

and crossed
Bath Terrace
and back through
the Square

 

passed kids
playing skip rope
or football
some playing a tag game

 

running
here and there
she walked down
the slope

 

and over
Rockingham Street
passed the fish mongers
up the narrow pavement

 

passed the houses
her eyes watery
looking up the Row
hoping he'll be there

 

passed the public house
where her father went
and got drunk
and round

 

into the narrow
side road
where the bomb site
spread before her eyes

 

the coal wharf
on her right
horses and wagons
still there

 

she scanned the site
walked to the edge
her heart thumping
her eyes  searching

 

and there he was
over by the wall
of a bombed out house
2 walls gone

 

roof blown off
him standing there
picking up stones
she called his name

 

he turned and waved
she hurried towards him
over bricks
and stones

 

and chickweed
to where he stood  
2 small stones
in his hand

 

been looking for you
she said
her voice
on the edge

 

of breaking
what's the matter?
he said
but guessed

 

saw her watery eyes
her tone of voice
my ear hurts
she blurted out

 

and held her right ear
with her hand
your old man?
he said

 

she nodded
and cried
and Benedict
hugged her

 

his 9 year old arms
about
her thin shoulders
they stood

 

in the recess
of the bombed out house
sunlight pushing
through the tile less roof

 

unsure
what to say or do
he kissed her hand
and ear

 

a catapult wedged
in the back pocket
of his jeans
the small stones

 

held tight
in his left hand
he kissed the ear again
hoping

 

it would help
to heal the pain.

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NOT A GIRL THING.

Janice said
she wanted to show me
how well she skipped
with her new skip rope

 

I watched
as her small hands
held the wooden ends
and her arms

 

circled like windmills
and her feet
lifted from the ground
in an odd dance

 

the rope going over
and under
over and under
have a go

 

she said
no it's OK
I said
let me show you

 

how good I can draw
my new gun
from my holster
I said

 

tapping
the toy gun
at my side
a brown hat

 

(an uncle's trilby)
plonked
on my head

she watched me

 

her red beret
on her head
the lemon dress

I liked her in

 

the black plimsolls
touching toes
I took out the gun
and spun it

 

around my finger
like I’d seen
in the Jeff Chandler films
my old man

 

took me to see
my other hand
spaced at my side
I put the gun back

 

in the holster
and on the count of
1-2-3
I drew the gun

 

in the blink
of her lovely blue eyes
as 1-2-3
bad cowboys

 

(invisible to her)
fell and died
can I have a go?
she asked

 

sure you can
I said
so undid the belt
and holster and gun

 

and handed them
to her
to put on
which she did

 

in clumsy fashion
all fingers and thumbs
once she was ready
(at her own

 

female pace)
she said
count me in
so I said ok

 

and counted 1-2-3
and she went
for the gun
and sent it

 

spinning
through the air
catching sun light
on the silvery parts

 

as it fell
to the ground
with a clattering
spark flying

 

cap banging
sound.

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Sent Away Again

Little girl,

crying as she is sent away.

 

Sent away yet again.

 

Sent away from the place

where she has been for weeks.

 

The place she thought she

might finally fit in.

 

 

But she was wrong.

 

So now she's leaving again.

 

 

She can't find the place,

HER place,

the place where she belongs!

 

She's searching,

forever searching,

for the one place she will be loved.

 

 

She's searching,

forever searching,

for her forever home!

Author's Notes/Comments: 

Dedicated to the more than 400,000 children in foster care.

Please let me know what you think!

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PRACTISING.

Christine winds
the necklace
around her

 

going red
small finger
the small linked

 

silver chain
swells the flesh
why do that?

 

the quack asks
to get me
away from

 

deeper pain
she utters
the quack scowls

 

his eyebrows
like dark birds
join in deep

 

hovering
signs of non
approval

 

she unwinds
the necklace
the finger

 

once again
turning white
practising

 

she whispers
shoving it
deep within

 

the cleavage
of her plump
bra-less breasts

 

the quack stares
like some kid
taken in

 

by an old
conjurer’s
sleight of hand

 

all gone now
can't see trick
you big prick

 

she mutters
feeling then
the warm chain

 

fall between
her closed thighs
sitting there

 

silver links
shut away
from his eyes.

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ALICE AND THE NEW DAWN

Mary wakes from
her, troubled, uneasy
sleep. She turns and
sees Alice behind her

 

looking at her. What
are you doing here?
she asks, sitting up,
looking down at the

 

child. Wanted to be
near you, Alice replies.
You can't come into

my bed, what will

 

they say if they find
you here? Mary's voice  
rises higher than she

meant. They won’t,

 

Alice says, no one
knows. They'll miss
you, Mary says, look

for you, and if they come,

 

what then? The child
sits up, rubs her eyes.
I'll hide, she says. Mary

sighs, lays back on the

 

bed, looks at the ceiling.
The child lies next to her,
head on her thin shoulder.

You can't do this, Alice.

 

But I have, the child says.
Your bed's lumpy. If they
find you in here, I’ll lose

my job and God knows

 

what'll happened then.
There is black spider
creeping along the dull

ceiling, slow movements.

 

We mustn't tell them,
Alice says. She runs a
small finger along

Mary's arm. You can't

 

stay here, Mary says,
you must go back to
your own bed before

they find you've gone.

 

Don't you love me any
more? Alice softly asks,
looking sideways at the

maid beside her. Yes,

 

of course I do, but this
mustn't happen again.
I'll be gone, then who

will you have to love,

 

now your mother's ill
and locked up? Alice
frowns and looked at

her hands, small, white,

 

pink. Mother used to
let me into her bed and
cuddle her. Her pink

fingers join and she

 

makes. I'm not your
mother, Mary says,
I’m just a maid who

wants keep her job.

 

Alice looks at her.
You said you'd be my
adopted mother. Mary

looks at her biting a lip.

 

Yes, I did. She looks
away, at the window
where lights begins

to show. All right,

 

but you must go back
now, before you're
missed. Can I come

another time? Alice

 

asks, her bright eyes
gazing. Yes, if I say so,
no creeping into my

bed at night unless

 

I know, Mary says.
Alice nods her head.
Best get back then,

she says. Be careful.

 

I will. And if I’m seen,
I’ll say I was sleep
walking, Alice says.

You mustn't lie, Mary

 

says. Should I tell them
the truth then? Alice asks,
smiling, getting down

from the bed. Be careful,

 

sleep walk just this once.
The child nods, opens the
door and closes with a

click. Mary gets out of

 

bed, opens the door, looks
along the dim passage.
The child has now gone.

Silence. Cold morning

 

air. A hard frost maybe.
What if she's seen? What
then? She shuts the door,

pours cold water from a

 

white jug into a white bowl.
Morning wash. Hands
into the water and throws

into her face. The coldness

 

wakes her. Far off a bird
sings. What if she's found
out of bed? What a turn up.

Poor kid. Me another mother

 

Nearby a church bell rings.

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HIS TURNING EYE.

Whatever else
her Polish accent
didn’t do
it didn't stop

 

her quest for sex
and Benedict
nigh on gave in
one or twice

 

(who was counting?)
time on his hands
(a rare event)
or caught unaware

 

and thinking
do I dare?
and he had to admit
even against

 

his better will
she was
a lovely dame
and such

 

well?
Sophia said
you want to?
he looked passed her

 

at the door closed
the bed fresh made
as if she knew
bins all emptied

 

of their dust
and muck
you want me?
you want to fuck?

 

he looked
at her blue uniform
the greeny top
the tight pressing bra

 

the eyes ice cool
I don't know
he said
what if some one calls?

 

or the old guy
comes back
to his room
for some reason

 

or other?
Sophia stood
always the excuses
always the worry

 

of others coming
or going
she said
come on

 

she said
sitting on
the fresh made bed
have me now

 

make up
your mind
he gazed out
the window

 

the snow was settled
trees hung
white with brown
not just now

 

he said
as she spread
herself down
upon the bed

 

one leg raised
a glimpse of thigh
caught as in a mirror
of his turning eye.

 

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SATURDAY MORNING RIDE.

You both rode your bicycles
to the small church
along the lane
and parked your bikes

 

against a tree
in the churchyard
out of sight from the lane
will there be anyone in there?

 

Milka asked
as you tried
the old wooden door
don't think so

 

people only come here
one Sunday in the month
you said
you opened the door

 

and walked in
it smelt of damp
and oldness
and no one was there

 

you walked up the aisle
and looked at the old pews
and stained glass windows
people still come here?

 

she said
guess so
you said
kind of old isn't it

 

you stood looking
back at her
her dark hair
brought into a ponytail

 

her jeans and green top
do you like the place?
you said
for what?

 

she said
to visit
you said
been to better places

 

she said moodily
thought you
were going to take me
somewhere

 

we could be alone
and kiss and such
she added
looking around the church

 

we are alone
you said
yes but hardly
the place to kiss

 

and do things
she said
we can kiss here
you said

 

then what?
she said
she walked down the aisle
looking about the place

 

you watched her
we could have ridden
to the pond place
and did more

 

she said
let's just sit
and get the feel
of the place

 

you said
she reluctantly walked
back to you
and you sat in

 

one of the pews together
I wonder how many couples
have walked down
this aisle as man and wife?

 

you said
a few unfortunate couples
I guess
she said

 

you smiled
some make a go of it
you said
don't get any ideas

 

she said
I'm not ready
for that stuff yet
do your brothers

 

still needle you
about going out
with me?
you asked

 

not any more
they got bored with it
in the end
besides you're

 

their friend
and I’m just their sister  
they said
you ought to see a quack

 

after going out with
she said unsmiling  
and my mother
trusts me with you

 

which is annoying
why annoying?
I wanted her to be worried
that I was doing things

 

and have her look at me
like I was a no good whore
you laughed
what for?

 

to see her reaction
she trusts me
you said
well she shouldn't

 

Milka said
not after
what we have been up to
it's not always

 

what you do
it's what people think you
do that makes them
judged you

 

you said
I don't like this place
she said
let's go elsewhere

 

ok
you said
and so you got out
of the pews

 

and walked out
of the church
and got on your bikes
and rode off

 

into the Saturday morning air
giving her moving hips
as she rode
a happy stare.

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ELAINE UNDONE.

That is it
all over
Elaine thinks

 

on the bus
after school
she and John

 

and the kiss
all done with
everything

 

on the edge
her nerves wrought
as if each

 

hidden thought
was exposed
to everyone

 

silently
she sits near
the window

 

looking out
tears sitting
on the rims

 

of her eyes
like actors
impatient

 

to get on
to the stage
and perform

 

she’d seen John
walk on by
to get on

 

the school bus
he is there
across the

 

aisle sitting
looking out
as she is

 

wondering
what went wrong
what he’d said

 

or done wrong
at lunch time
on the field

 

at recess
he saw her
on the bus

 

sitting there
looking out
not at him

 

pretending
not to know
he is there

 

Goldfinch talks
beside him
some such stuff

 

 in his ears
empty words
soft laughter

 

all John wants
is Elaine
to have her

 

near to him
her body
close and warm

 

not this cold
far distance
between them

 

Elaine feels
all undone
all exposed

 

each nerve taut
every
thought of John

 

being near
but not near
wanting him

 

next to her
as it was
before lunch

 

the bus moves
to go home
she watches

 

scene changes
vibrations
moving tears

 

to the edge
like fragile
suicides

 

thinking on
the long fall
but her love

 

bites deeply
all undone
can’t recall.

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