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
to the herbalist


get some sarsaparilla
I said
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


from the snake head
elastic belt
around my waist


I suppose she can
her mother said
she bellowed


windows rattled
a dog
across the Square


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
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


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


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 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
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


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
her thin shoulders
they stood


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


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


it would help
to heal the pain.

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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


the toy gun
at my side
a brown hat


(an uncle's trilby)
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
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


through the air
catching sun light
on the silvery parts


as it fell
to the ground
with a clattering
spark flying


cap banging

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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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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


signs of non


she unwinds
the necklace
the finger


once again
turning white


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
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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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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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


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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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


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


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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That is it
all over
Elaine thinks


on the bus
after school
she and John


and the kiss
all done with


on the edge
her nerves wrought
as if each


hidden thought
was exposed
to everyone


she sits near
the window


looking out
tears sitting
on the rims


of her eyes
like actors


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


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


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
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
moving tears


to the edge
like fragile


thinking on
the long fall
but her love


bites deeply
all undone
can’t recall.

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