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
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
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
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


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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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


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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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


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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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

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



had dissolved
her father

gripped her hand


hauled her off
looking back

at Baruch


but Baruch

merely smiled


his contempt
his green eyes

or hazel


as some said
shooting off

those arrows


in the butt

of Fay's strict


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

of Jesus


he will say
or worst still



a beating
to enforce
his strict will.

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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
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


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
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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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,
as he does,


Ingrid knows,
every time


picks on her,


nothing new,
but she knows


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


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


and her mind

much bolder.



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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


finds quite gross
it takes all
her childish


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


looks away
looks out at
the green grass
and the flats


and windows
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
the window


was a stage
and she a
child actress


to begin
when her big
sister came
tiptoeing in


with the spiv
while hiding
unseen there


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
game is played


two actors
in combat
by the sounds
her sister


makes beyond
but innocent


puts her hands
to cover
her small ears
watching kids


play their games
and joyfully
run about


whatever makes
her sister
giggle soft
then loudly
laughing shout.

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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


her thin hands
the nails chewed
my big sister


and her man friend
your sister's always odd
says Benedict


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


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


Lydia says
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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