1950S

INGRID AND THE FEELING OF BEING LIKED.

Ingrid was still tender
where her father beat her
so she lay
not sat

 

on the grass
outside Banks House
by Bath Terrace
with Benedict

 

so her family
couldn't see her
Robin Hood
supposedly fired

 

his last arrow
at where
he wanted to be buried
Benedict said

 

read it in a book
I’m reading
she watched him
has he talked

 

the quiff of hair
the grin
and the hazel eye stare
where did it land?

 

she asked
in Sherwood Forest
some place
he said

 

was Maid Marian
with him at the end?
she asked
I think so

 

Benedict said
but kind of old then
I guess
best to die young then

 

she said
while you're still
good looking
and have love

 

held on
until the end
she looked
at his patterned

 

sleeveless jumper
the black short trousers
the grey socks
the 6 shooter gun

 

tucked into
an holster
belted
around his waist

 

guess so
he said
some do die young
Billy the Kid did

 

he added
she moved
and winced
her eyes closed briefly

 

he watched her
how's your old man
behaving?
Benedict said

 

she said nothing
but looked
towards the coal wharf
where lorries

 

and horse-drawn wagons
stood being loaded
with sacks of coal
a train past over

 

the railway bridge
cluttering noisily
like that is it?
he said been

 

up to his tricks again?
she looked at him
and then up
at the block of flats

 

behind them
I must have done
something wrong
she said

 

so he said
Benedict said
she looked at him
moving her legs

 

to get comfortable
he said I was asking for it
she said
I went by him

 

on the stairs
the other evening
and he gave me
the the hard man stare

 

I just grinned at him
she looked away
yes he said you did
she said

 

he doesn't like you
she added
ditto
Benedict said

 

she was silent
she looked
as a horse-drawn wagon
moved away

 

from the coal wharf  
a man sitting on the top
holding reins
I like you through

 

she said softly
as the wagon went by
at the end
of the road

 

with its heavy load
we could have a ride
in the back
of a coal wagon

 

he said
good fun
do you like me?
she asked

 

of course I do
he said
I meet you
and talk to you

 

and we go places
don't we?
he said
yes we do

 

she said
how about a 1d drink
and an ice lolly ?
he said

 

she nodded
another train
steamed overhead
on the railway bridge

 

by the Duke of Wellington pub
and so they got up
from the grass
and walked back along

 

the grass
through the Square
he talking
about Robin Hood again

 

she looking at him
taking in
his words
sensing

 

the tenderness easing

as she walked
feeling close him
as he had one hand

 

on his six shooter gun
as he walked.

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HER WEDDING DAY.

Under the railway bridge
in Rockingham Street
where the steam trains
go by overhead

 

quite frequently
going to somewhere else
by Baldy's
the grocer's store

 

where you get merchandise
quite often
for your mother
you sat with Janice

 

waiting to have
your hair cut
(your mother sent her
with you

 

to make sure
it was done right)
she had her
red beret on

 

the fair hair
flowing from beneath
her bright eyes
and straight white teeth

 

when we marry
she said
(why do girls do that
to a kid of 8?

 

at 9 maybe
that's fine
why spoil his day
with wedding days

 

and such?)
shall I wear
cream or a white dress?
(cream would be better

 

than white
make her look
less pale
more quaint

 

make her look
less likely to faint)
cream'd be good
you said

 

and what about my bouquet?
what flowers
should I have?
(God knows

 

you mused
I know nothing
of such things
whatever

 

the flower guy brings)
I don't know
flower names
you choose

 

you said
she smiled
and nodded her head
who will be

 

your best man?
she asked
Carmody or Jupp?
you said

 

she didn't
look impressed
or Jim?
you added

 

he'll do
she said
(why ask you?)
you liked the way

 

her eyes went wide
at the mention
of Jim
(did she fancy him?)

 

and the way she leaned
her head to one side
when you said
cream to the colour of dress

 

(to you
it was a thing
to keep from life
and head

 

it would seem
but to her
it was a dream)
but who

 

will give me away?
she said
my Daddy's dead
and mother too

 

would my old man do?
you said
but she shook her head
(wise kid you thought)

 

Gran may
if she's not too old
she added
looking straight ahead

 

or too ill or dead
my brother could
if he's old enough then
(many years hence

 

you hoped)
a boy amongst men
you said
she just smiled

 

and gave nod of head
and how many kids
shall we have?
she asked

 

(why ask me
you thought
how many there'd be?)
two or three?

 

you said
or more
she suggested
gazing at the barber

 

who was finishing off
a middle-aged man
with a comb and mirror
wearing a smile

 

who's next?
he asked
taking off the cape
from the man

 

he is
Janice said
pointing to you
and a short back

 

and sides
his mother said
Janice added
the barber nodded you

 

to the chair
and you sat there
gazing at Janice
in the mirror

 

imagining her
as a bride in white
or cream
on some one's arm

 

coming down the aisle
with her smile
but not tomorrow
or next year

 

or after that
but off
some where
in quite awhile.

 

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LIBERATING COAL

After school
about dusk
you and Helen
went down the back

 

of the coal wharf
and picked up
dropped pieces of coal
from the cobble

 

stone floor
or reached
just inside
the railed up fence

 

and picked out
what you could touch
(not over-much)
and put it

 

into an old sack
you'd brought
do your parents
know about this?

 

Helen said
hell no
you said
I just sneak it in

 

and drop it
into the coal bunker
in the kitchen
when no one's looking

 

while they're
in the other room
watching the TV
saves them money

 

you added
Helen nodded
what if you got caught?
who by?

 

well a Rozzer
or your parents
she said
looking concerned

 

the eyes behind
her glasses
looming large
just say I found it

 

and was taking it home
away from harm
you said
she frowned

 

what do mean?
I was joking Helen
I don't what I'd say
make it up

 

as I went along I guess
as usual
she nodded
her two plaits of hair

 

bobbing at the back
of her head
I’d wet myself
if a Rozzer

 

stopped me
she said
I’m like that
well don't worry

 

just leave it to me
to talk
act dumb
she smiled

 

I could give
my imbecile look
my dad said
I’m good at it

 

she said
after getting enough
in the sack
to be able to carry

 

you walked along
Meadow Row
the sack in your left hand
held tight

 

how was school today?
you asked
ok except
that Cogan boy

 

called me four eyes
and said I looked like
a dead fish
him

 

you said
he wears glasses himself
the stupid feck
and he looks

 

as if someone as stopped
an operation
on his features
half way through

 

Helen laughed
did you swear?
she said
don't think so

 

you said
don't pay no attention
to Cogan
you look pretty

 

she smiled
and took
your right hand
and held it

 

as you walked across
Rockingham Street
she looking out
for any Rozzers

 

and you for other kids
who may see her
holding your hand
a kid's got not

 

to seem a cissy
you understand?

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HIS STRICT WILL

Fay stood next
to Baruch
in the Square

 

have a ride
if you like
on my new

 

blue scooter
he had said
so she did

 

with one foot
placed firm on
the scooter

 

the other
pushed away
the hard ground

 

moving on
the scooter
hands gripping

 

the rubber
handle bars
and she sensed

 

air in her
face and hair
moving fast

 

Baruch left
behind her
in the Square

 

he thinking
how happy
now she was

 

moving on
over ground
other kids

 

shouting out
faster Fay

and she did

 

as if all
pent up fears

had gone bang

 

and had then
disappeared

get off that

 

Jew's scooter
her father

shouted out

 

and she turned
and the fears

all returned

 

she got off
the scooter

handed it

 

to Baruch
all joy gone

happiness

 

had dissolved
her father

gripped her hand

 

hauled her off
looking back

at Baruch

 

hatefully
but Baruch

merely smiled

 

his contempt
his green eyes

or hazel

 

as some said
shooting off

those arrows

 

pretendingly
in the butt

of Fay's strict

 

catholic
father but

to Fay he

 

blew to her
from his palm

the unseen

 

pink kisses
of concern

then she'd gone

 

up the stairs
to her fate

a lecture

 

against Jews
murderers

of Jesus

 

he will say
or worst still

punishment

 

a beating
to enforce
his strict will.

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GOOD MANNERS

Skinny Kid sat
by the white metal table
on the lawn
Anne sat opposite him

 

her crutches
by her chair
I heard
you puked last night?

 

Anne said
I did
Skinny kid said
all over the blankets

 

and pillowcase
nice
said Anne
it was the liver

 

they made me eat
he said
I told them
it made me ill

 

but they said
it was good for me
and said
I had to eat it

 

serves them right
she said
Sister Bridget moaned at me
he said

 

O her
she's got  a face
on her
like a sufferer

 

of haemorrhoids
what's haemorrhoids?
he asked
painful

 

bulging blood vessels
hanging from the arse
she said
he tried not

 

to picture it
or see it
in the nun's face
feel better now though

 

he said
good
she replied
my mum's visiting today

 

he said
good for you
she said
has your mum

 

visited you yet?
he asked
no I think she's
making the most

 

of me
not being around
Anne said
it's a kind of holiday

 

for her
me stuck here
after my fecking leg
was chopped off

 

he stared
at the area
of her skirt
where no leg appeared

 

she saw me in the hospital
and brought me grapes
and flowers and stuff
and a bag

 

of odd socks
he stared
at her one leg
hanging from out

 

of the skirt
does it hurt?
he asked
it does at times

 

and I go to rub it
and it isn't there
someone's stolen
me fecking leg

 

Anne bellowed
to the kids
playing on the swings
and slide

 

on the lawn
of the nursing home
they looked over
at her

 

then quickly
looked away
a nun nearby
shook her head

 

and wagged
a finger
Skinny Kid looked
at the vacant area

 

of skirt again
what's the matter Kid
want to see my stump?
and she hitched up

 

her skirt
to reveal the stump
of her leg
and a glimpse

 

of blue underwear
he blushed
and looked
at his hands in his lap

 

never mind Kid
she said
good manners
is a load of crap.

 

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LET IT STAY THERE.

Helen put dandelions
she had picked
into the pocket
of her dress

 

present for my mum  
she said
she likes flowers
soon be her birthday

 

but I don't know
how old she is  
but flowers
is the best to get

 

don't you think?
Benedict nodded
he'd taken her
to the grass

 

in the park
where dandelions
grew in abundance
she'll like them

 

he said
I think so
Helen said
they came out

 

of Jail Park
and crossed Bath Terrace
and along
by the metal fence

 

until they came
to Rockingham Street
she talking
about the man

 

who stopped her
on the way to school
a few says before
and he said

 

he would take her
to the seaside
if she went with him
there and then

 

what did you say
to him?
Benedict asked
I didn't know

 

what to say
he looked so scary
should have gone
to find a copper

 

Benedict said
I was scared
she said
so what happened?

 

I just stared at him dumbly
like I was an imbecile
as Dad says to me
when I sit

 

at the dinner table
with my mouth open
then what?

Benedict said

 

he took my hand in his
and it was hot
and sweaty

and I screamed at him

 

and he ran off
she said
good for you

Benedict said

 

should have
kneed him one
I was too scared
to do anything

 

that's why
I screamed
they went under
the railway bridge

 

just as a steam train
went across the bridge
and pushed grey
and white smoke

 

over the side
and into the sky
and she said
where would he

 

have taken me
do you think?
God knows
Benedict said

 

but not to the seaside
but he didn't say where
he kept that
dark image

 

to himself
and let it stay there.

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ALL UNDONE.

All undone,
as he does,

 

Ingrid knows,
every time

 

picks on her,
punishes,

 

nothing new,
but she knows

 

afterwards
even when

 

the wounds go
and pain stops,

 

it will come
like seasons

 

once again.
Her mother

 

is too weak
to stop him,

 

too frightened
to say boo

 

or say no,
and as she

 

walks over
the bombsites

 

with her friend
Benedict,

 

listening
to his talk

 

of brave knight
fighting bad

 

with sharp sword
or strong bow,

 

or share his
bag of sweets

 

or soft drinks,
in London’s

 

50’s streets,
being his

 

high lady
in distress,

 

or be there
by her side,

 

9 years old
as she is

 

but seeming
much older,

 

his friendship

and sharing

 

and boyhood
Robin Hood

 

sort of love
and sharing,

 

makes the days
of darkness

 

of wounding
punishments

 

easier
and her mind

much bolder.

 

 

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WHAT LYDIA HEARD.

Lydia
watches through
a thin gap
in the dark

 

brown curtains
her sister
much older
in the bed

 

holding tight
to her tall
spiv boyfriend
and kissing

 

his thick lips
then his ears
which even
nine year old

 

Lydia
finds quite gross
it takes all
her childish

 

innocence
not to know
what the show
is about

 

she looking
through the gap
sees the spiv
put his hand

 

on the nude
buttocks of
her sister
Lydia

 

looks away
looks out at
the green grass
and the flats

 

and windows
opposite
ignoring
the giggles

 

and snorty
sounds she hears
from the bed
behind her

 

behind dark
brown curtains
how the heck
she got trapped

 

behind there
in her games
pretending
the window

 

was a stage
and she a
child actress
awaiting

 

to begin
when her big
sister came
tiptoeing in

 

with the spiv
while hiding
unseen there
Lydia

 

silently
hid her feet
and stealthily
had her peek

 

now she sees
pigeons walk
or kids play
with skip rope

 

or football
or cowboys
and Injuns
but behind

 

the curtains
on the bed
another
game is played

 

two actors
in combat
by the sounds
her sister

 

breathlessly
makes beyond
but innocent
lydia

 

puts her hands
to cover
her small ears
watching kids

 

play their games
and joyfully
run about
ignoring

 

whatever makes
her sister
giggle soft
then loudly
laughing shout.

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AN ODD LOT.

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

 

studying
her thin hands
the nails chewed
my big sister

 

and her man friend
your sister's always odd
says Benedict
no

 

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

 

looking
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

 

odd
Lydia says
staring
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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