1950S

BLEEDING FROM A HEART

Fay can see Baruch
from the window
of the living room
down on the area

 

of grass below
he is alone
sitting on one
of the bomb shelters

 

left over
from the war
she peers down at him
taking in

 

the cowboy hat
the silver looking
6 shooter toy gun
he seems

 

to be cleaning
she wishes
she was there
with him

 

but her father
says she is to stay in
and learn about the saints
and said he will

 

quiz her later
when he gets home
from work
about them to see

 

what she has learnt
the book
is on the chair
unopened

 

a bookmark
of St Benedict
lies on top
her mother

 

is in the kitchen
preparing soup
she knows her mother
would turn a blind eye

 

if she wanted
to go out
but they both know
that her father

 

would punish her
if he caught her out
especially
with Baruch

 

the Jew Boy
as her father calls him
the killer of Our Lord
he often says

 

although Baruch
denies being involved
in any way
she hopes Baruch

 

will look up
at her window
and see her
he has put his gun

 

in the holster hanging
from the belt
of his jeans
and holds a rifle

 

bought for him
for his birthday
he aims at the sky
and twirls around

 

pretending to shoot
pigeons flying
over head
she watches him

 

as he aims
at the coal wharf
where the coal carts
are being loaded

 

with coal
from chutes above
her father doesn't like
Baruch even though

 

Baruch always smiles
and says shalom
to him if he passing
her father on the stairs

 

of the flats
Baruch says
her father is a schmuck
but she doesn't know

 

what that means
but if Baruch said it  
it must be a nice term
she thinks wiping away

 

the steamed up glass
where she has
breathed on it
she blows him a kiss

 

from the palm
of her thin hand
he doesn't know
but he'll get it

 

any how she knows
he aims at
the steam train
passing over

 

the bridge
by the Duke of Wellington pub
she smiles as he does
the kickback

 

from his rifle
the train passes
unharmed
the driver unaware

 

he has been fired upon
by a cowboy
from the grass
she eyes him

 

determinedly
wants him to look up
at her window
he lifts the rifle

 

to the sky again
and fires
then he pauses  
lowers his rifle

 

and stares at her window
she waves
he looks
she waves frantically

 

he looks away
she bites a lip
he stares up
at her window

 

and beckons her down
with a wave
of his hand
she waves

 

crossing her hands
as if to say
can't come
he gazes

 

and then waves
and blows a kiss
from his hand
upwards

 

then he climbs down
from the bomb shelter
and disappears
the grass is empty

 

he has gone
the book of saints
lies on the chair
unopened

 

she goes
from the window
and picks it up
and opens

 

and begins to read
sensing
a good portion
of her 11 year old

 

girl's heart
bleeds.

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ANNE'S AUDITION

Anne crutches herself into Sister Paul's office. The nun is sitting in a chair behind a desk, hands folded on the table, eyes stern, lips a straight line. Anne stands before the desk, taking in the huge crucifix on the wall above the nun's head.

- You can sit down, Anne, the nun says, eyeing her firmly, watching the 12 year old girl, as she manoeuvres herself with one crutch onto the chair.

Anne sits down and puts the crutch beside the chair and pulls her red skirt over her knees, covering the stump where her leg had been.

- Do you know why you're here? Sister Paul asks, unfolding her hands, and laying them flat on the desk top.
- No, Anne says, looking at the nun's black and white headdress, the thin features of the face, hawk-like nose.

-There has been complaints made about you, the nun says. She watches as the girl fidgets in the chair, lifts herself with her hands, back further, on the chair. - Are you not comfortable? She asks.

- No, Anne says, My knickers are too tight.

The nun sighs, looks at the wooden ruler on her desk, wishes she could, but knows she can't.
-  Complaints made by other children here and staff members, the nun says, toying with the ruler with her fingers.

-What sort of complaints? Anne asks.

-The worse sort: bad language, insolence, rudeness. It has to stop, Anne, do you understand? The voice sounded like grit poured into a bucket.

Anne fingered at her backside. -Ah, that's better, sorted it out now, she says, putting her hands together in her lap. - I can't recall any rudeness, she says, acting miss innocence, butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, kind of expression and pose.

The nun looks at the girl and inwardly is glad she never married and had children, especially if one had been like this.

- Sister Bridget says you called her a dried up prune, the nun says, looking at the dark hair and eyes of the child, the insolent way she sits and looks.

Anne frowns.- Me? To Sister Bridget?

-Yes, to Sister Bridget, and Sister Mary says, you exposed your bottom to her when she asked you to take your afternoon sleep. The nun looks at the girl's expression, her frown of brow.

- No, not me, Sister Paul, must have been some other kid's backside she'd seen.

-Are you calling these two nuns, liars?

The girl looks at her hands in her lap, raises two fingers upwards, out of the nun's sight.- No, not liars, just mistaken. We all make mistakes, Anne says, we're all human, after all.

Sister Paul's eyes darken, she grips the ruler tighter, pushes her toes to the end of her sandals.

- And some of the children have made complaints, too, the nun says, the words hard as nails from her lips.

-Ah, you know what liars kids can be, Sister. They couldn't tell the truth if it came wrapped in yellow paper saying, TRUTH. She smiles at her wit.

Sister Paul doesn't smile; her lips tighten, her eyes scan the child, if the girl at been at one of the schools, rather than the nursing home, she'd be well on her way to a sound caning.

- I know children, Anne, and liars, the nun says, eyeing the girl firmly, tapping the ruler on her palm. - You are a liar, and I know you. I have read the reports on you before you came. I was reluctant to take you in, but had little choice. You will behave yourself or be expelled from the nursing home. Is that understood?

Anne senses a fart coming on, but holds it in. - Yes, Sister, sorry Sister. It's my leg you see, it gives me pain, and keeps me awake at nights, and I get tired and I get irritable. She puts on a hurt expression.

The nun sits upright and stiff, an expression of dislike etched on her features.

-We are given pain, by God, for a purpose, Sister Paul says, it is a gift we ought to shoulder and bear with gratitude.

-Like haemorrhoids, you mean? Anne says, fiddling with her fingers, a blank look on her face.

- You know what I mean, young lady, pain in general, not in particular. At that moment the nun feels a great urge to inflict pain on the girl sitting in front of her. She can picture it, the whole scene, the satisfaction.

Anne shifts in the chair, steadying herself. - Can I go now?

The nun sits back in the chair, eyes focusing on the girl, her face straight and stiff as a board.- Your  leg has been amputated, so how can it give you pain? the nun says, her words pushed from her mouth as if they were sour.

- Nerve endings, they don't realise the fucking legs gone, oops sorry, about that it kind of slipped out while I was engaged in thoughts, Anne says, looking at the nun's reddening face. - Didn't mean to, it's my leg you see, it gets me all uptight, and wound up like a clock, and then ping!  Out it comes.

The nun sighs deeply. The word hammers inside her ears and brain. - I won't have such language, do you hear me, not another rude word or expression.

Anne clenches, the cheeks of her buttocks tightly, to hold in the the coming wind. She nods, gives an expression of remorse, allows her eyes to water, takes out a handkerchief from her skirt pocket and wipes her nose. - Sorry about that, don't mean to be such a bad girl, my apologises to all. She wipes her eyes, lets herself go, does her acting bit, slumps her shoulders, weeps softly.

The nun is confused, sits up, feels an urge to go around to the girl and embrace her, say, there, there, dear child, but she doesn't, instead she stares at the girl, at the slumped shoulders, at the dark hair, the sight of neck, and wonders what kind of mother she would have made had she married, would she have coped with the nappies and sickness and foul smells and dressing and undressing a baby and the disturbed nights, and a man touching her, and doing things to her. No, she couldn't have married, nor had a child. She sighs and softens, -OK, Anne, lets say no more about it, and she gets out of the chair and walks around to the child weeping, in the chair, and puts an arm about her, feeling the shallow shakes, the sobs, the sight of the one leg, knowing a stump was beneath the skirt. - There, there, calm down, it is all too much for you after losing your leg, I'll have a word with the children and staff and explain about your pain. She holds the girl close to her breast, feeling her there, the catching of breath, the sobs, the shaking shoulders, and plants a kiss on the girl's black hair and head.

- Sorry, Sister Paul, Anne says, between her acted sobs, sniffing, wiping her nose, feeling the fart go away silently, like sneaky hound, all without sound.

The nun feels her heart open and close. - All right, Anne, you may go and rest your leg or stump, she says, going back to her chair and sitting there, watery eyed.

Anne lifts her head, pushes her hair from her eyes, sniffs and wipes her nose. -Thank you, Sister, you're like a mother to me. She pulls herself up from the chair with the crutch, feels the pain shoot through the stump, rubs it, pulls a face.  - I'll go and rest it, she says, soft voiced, sobs held in check, head lowered. She crutches herself from the room slowly, sensing the nun's eyes on her, feeling a sense of fulfilment, like passing an audition, and lets the door click gently behind her.

Sister Paul sits and fingers the ruler. Sniffs and coughs softly. Feeling the girl's shoulders in her hands, the gentlest of touches, the sense, momentarily, of being a mother, compassion, concern, yes, it is there, she says inwardly, maybe I might have made a good mother after all had it been God's wishes, even if I had to put up with a man's touch for the duration. Thank God,  she says softly inwardly, for my vocation .

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AS FAR AS HIS EYES CAN SEE.

Benedict waits
by the pram sheds
in the Square
for Lydia

 

to come out
of her flat
he wants to take her
to the big bomb site

 

behind the tabernacle
although she won't
tell her mum
where she's going as such

 

she'll say to the park
to play on the swings
or slide or other such thing
just as he did

 

to his mother
the baker rides by
on his horse drawn cart
the horse walking slow

 

the baker sitting
on top of the cart
nodding his head
still no sign

 

of Lydia
Benedict sighs
he hates wasting time
likes to be out

 

and at it
a man with his boxer dog
walks by
the man puffing

 

a cigarette
hat at the back
of his head
the door opens

 

and Lydia comes out
in her red and white
checked dress
and white cardigan

 

she looks stressed
and walks towards Benedict 
looking behind her
at the door

 

of the flat
got out then?
he says
just about

 

she says
had to help
put the washing
in the copper

 

and gather up all
the dirty stuff
and take rubbish
to the shoot

 

and just done
he nods
and says
a girl's work

 

is never done
as my old man says
well it is for now
she says

 

where are we going?
she asks
big bomb site
behind the tabernacle

 

he says
isn't it
dangerous there?
she says

 

not if you’re careful
and don't let
the Rozzers see you
he says

 

so they walk
down the slope
and along
Rockingham Street

 

she talks of her mother
being in a mood
about her father's drinking
and O yes it's all right

 

for him to booze
and sing
and play the fool
but it's me

 

who has to feed
you kids
and keep a roof
over your heads

she says
her mother said
Benedict listens
takes in

 

her straight hair
her thin arms
and legs
her pale features

 

her mouth opening
and closing
like a fish
in a bowl

 

they cross over the road
and walk up
 and along the street
behind the Trocadero

 

by the smaller bomb sites
along the narrow alley
and out
on the main road

 

where they go down
the subway
to get across
to the tabernacle

 

she still talking
about her mother
and her big sister
and the bloke

 

she brought home
the other night
and wanted to take him
to the bedroom

 

for some reason
or other
Lydia adds frowning
the subway echoes

 

her words
they float
then bounce
off the walls

 

as they climb the stairs
up and out
she stops
and looks

 

at the bomb site anxiously
will other kids be there?
she asks
usually are

 

he says
but that doesn't
matter none
they'll keep to themselves

 

and we can keep to ours
she bites her lip
and follows him
as they climb

 

between hoardings
and up and into
the bomb site
with its half standing houses

 

and ruins
and walls
and houses empty
with no roofs

 

or roofs
with only three walls
she hesitates
stands with her fingers

 

in her mouth
want if the Rozzers come?
she says
leave it to me

 

he says confidently
she follows him
as he climbs
onto a wall

 

and over the top
come on
he says
she climbs after him

 

mind you don't
scrape your knees
he says
and helps her

 

over the wall
holding one
of her hands
she gets up and over

 

and stands inside
a bombed out house
it stinks
she says

 

yes probably
some tramps
pissed in here
he says

 

not still in here
is he?
she says anxiously
no long ago scarpered

 

he says
he walks through a room
and she walks after him
holding her nose

 

looking around her
bits of wallpaper hang
from walls
a doorway with no door

 

a window without glass
that looks out
on an abandoned garden
full of weeds

 

she follows him up
a riggedy stairway
holding on
to a rocking bannister

 

and up
to a landing
with three rooms
going off

 

in each direction
he stands still
taps the floorboards
with his foot

 

should be safe
he says
is it?
she says nervously

 

course it is
he says
walking carefully
over the floor

 

of the room
she stands
by the doorway
what if the floorboards

 

are rotten
and you fall through?
she says softly
then I get

 

to the bottom
quicker than I came up
he says smiling
come on

 

he says
beckoning her over
she stands still
fiddling with her fingers

 

then she bites her fingers
of one hand
and holds her groin
with the other

 

it won't give way
he says
she holds herself
it might

 

she says
then we die together
he says
what away to go eh?

 

she looks at him
standing there
with his hazel eyes
and quiff of hair

 

and his hand
held out
towards her
she walks gingerly

 

over the floorboards
one step
after another
until she reaches

 

his hand
and grips it tight
and they are there
in the middle

 

of the room
she feeling
as if she's wet herself
and he like one

 

who has climbed
Mount Everest
and is about
to plant a flag

 

with glee
she looks at him
and he looks out
the window

 

as far
as his hazel eyes
can see.

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JUST LIKE THAT IT WENT.

 

Dick Morecraft said
about joining the Scouts
who used
the church hall

 

good venture
he said
we do things
tie knots

 

and learn
about nature  
how to start a fire
with two bits of wood

 

and sing songs
around campfires
and so on he went
walking home from school

 

you wanting to join the scouts
like you wanted diarrhoea
listening half heartedly
thinking of what

 

was for tea
or what to do
after school
and where to go

 

and we learn how
to put up tents
Dick added
the last straw

 

ok
you said
I’ll think about it
see you around

 

and so off he went
along Newington Butts  
and you went down
the subway and along

 

whistling
hands in pockets
when you saw Ingrid
up ahead with bent shoulders

 

and lowered head
what’s up? you said
and she showed you
a tear

 

in her school dress
a rip in the side
showing
her white vest

 

my dad’ll kill me
(not quite you knew
but he’d beat her
black and blue)

 

what do I do?
she said crying
wiping her eyes
don’t go home

 

just yet
you said
my mum’ll sew it up
like new

 

we’ll go to
my place first
that’s what we’ll do
so you walked

 

up and out the subway
and across the bomb site
and up Meadow Row
(her mother or father

 

needn’t know)
and up the concrete stairs
to your flat and in
and you explained

 

to your mother
what was wrong
and she said she’d fix it
with needle and thread

 

and so Ingrid
took off the dress  
and gave it
to your mother to sew

 

and sat there
in the sitting room
in her vest and underwear
fiddling with her fingers

 

looking around
the room shyly
arms and legs
carrying badges

 

of black and blue
go get Ingrid
a glass of Tizer
and biscuit

 

your mother said
and don’t gawk so
and so you went
to the kitchen

 

and poured
a glass of Tizer
and got a biscuit
from a tin

 

and took them in
Ingrid wide eyed said
thank you
and took the biscuit

 

and glass
and nibbled
and sipped
and you told her

 

about the scouts
and what
Morecraft said
about tents

 

and tying knots
and lighting fires
with sticks
and such

 

(not caring much)
and all the time
eyeing the bruises
and welts on legs

 

and arms
and your mother said
don’t stare so
at Ingrid in her

 

white( near grey)vest
and underwear
so you changed
the subject

 

to the cinema
about some cowboy film
where the good guy
twirls his gun

 

and goes pop pop pop
you said
and gets the baddies
dead

 

just like that
and how after
the boring bit
where he kisses a girl

 

he twirls
his gun again
(you need
to practice that)

 

and she listened
as she sipped her drink
and nibbled the biscuit
sitting there

 

with her badges
of blue and black
in her underwear
and a red line

 

across
her skinny back.

 

 

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AMMUNITION COLLECTOR.

Picking out
the right sized stone
was just the start
and Lydia helped

 

picking up
this one then
that from
the bomb site

 

and showing it
to him
in her small palm
he took it

 

and placed it
in the catapult sack
and pulled back
and aimed

 

at some tin can
he'd set up
some distance away
and it go

 

and the tin can
went flying with a zing
and she laughed
and said

 

you got it straight on
and clapped
her hands together
then looked around

 

for another
while he went
and set the tin can
up again

 

on the stone wall
of what had once been
the side of a house
now blown

 

wide apart
he watched her
searching
all intent

 

as if
she were seeking gold
or coins that had dropped  
she liked being

 

his ammunition collector
better than being
at home
with her snoring

 

older sister
and her mother
in hell frozen over mood
and her father

 

sleeping off
the night before booze
better here
with Benedict

 

being his
ammunition supplier
his right hand girl
besides he often

 

bought her a drink
of pop or sweets
from the Penny shop  
his 9 year old features

 

seeming older
and her 8 year old face
seeming younger
thin

 

pale
her hands
frail looking
fingers

 

skin and bones
here
she said
here is this OK?

 

and she ran to him
and showed him
and he said
yes just right

 

and he put it
in the sack
of the catapult
and aimed

 

then said
hey you want to try?
but she shook her head
no I might hit

 

something
I ought not to
and besides
I like watching you

 

and so he aimed again
and let it go
and it zoomed
through the air

 

and caught the tin
and it flew spinning
with a yelping sound
and hit the ground

 

and she thought
of her big sister
throwing up
in the early hours

 

after the binge
and night out
and her mother
bellowing out

 

in the early hours
you bloody whore  
and her father saying
O quit the mouth

 

let the kid learn
her own way
and she Lydia
turning over

 

away from
her sister's butt
and back
the sound of vomiting

 

in her ears
and he tucking
the catapult in
the back pocket

 

of jeans
thought of his younger sister
getting herself
run over by a car

 

cuts and bruises
a small scar
otherwise OK
the other day

 

and right
he said
looking at Lydia
come let's go

 

get us
a penny drink of pop
from the Penny shop
and she smiled

 

and walked beside him
his John Wayne swagger
cowboy hat
on his head

 

ready to shoot
any bad cowboys
who came along
bang bang dead.

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UNCAGED BIRD

Shalom
you said
but Fay's father

 

ignored you
on the stairs
of the block of flats

 

you were only trying
to make peace with him
because of Fay

 

but he wasn't
buying into any Jewism
as he termed it

 

forgetting that
his Jesus said head
of his Catholic Church

 

was a Jew himself
but that was
another matter

 

so you let him go
on his way
up the stairs

 

humming some
Latin hymn to himself
later seeing Fay

 

on the way
to the grocer's shop
through the Square

 

she said her father
had forbidden her
to even talk with you

 

(the Jew Boy
he had said)
but she knew it was 

 

impossible even
if she wanted to
which she didn't

 

despite the risk
she ran in seeing you
or talking with you

 

I only said shalom to him
you said
she frowned

 

it means peace
you said
I could have said

 

something else to him
less friendly
she smiled weakly

 

best say nothing
she said
o.k

 

you said
so you walked with her
to the grocer's shop

 

across the road
and along to the grocer's shop
by the newspaper shop

 

where they had
The Three Musketeers book
in the window

 

which you wanted
to buy at sometime
and you showed her

 

the book and the cover
with a picture
of three musketeers

 

sword fighting
and you walked on
to the grocers

 

and she bought
what was on her list
and you got

 

what your mother
had written
on a small scrap of paper

 

and afterwards you said
how about a penny drink
at the Penny shop?

 

and she looked anxious
and said
not sure Dad  said

 

not to linger around
well don't linger
you said

 

but have a drink
and we can sit
by the wall outside

 

and see the world go by
and sip our drinks
she hesitated

 

but then said
o.k
so you took her

to the Penny shop
and bought two bottles
of penny pop

 

and sat outside
by the wall
your shopping bags

 

beside you
the morning sun
blessing your heads

 

and she talked
of the nuns
at her school

 

how strict they were
but one she said
was kind

 

and taught her
the Credo in Latin
word by word

 

and you sat
listening to her
and she sitting there

 

momentarily free
like an uncaged
song bird.

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THE BEGINNING OF NIGHT.

Once school was done
and after your tea
of beans on toast
you went with Janice

 

to the narrow passages
behind the ABC cinema
evening creeping in
she next to you

 

getting the jitters
street lights
here and there
casting shadows

 

making pretend giants
and you'd pick up
dog-ends
from the ground

 

and put them
in your pocket
what do you want
them for?

 

she asked
make myself
a cigarette later
you said

 

cigarette?
she said disapprovingly
you mustn't
that's horrible

 

and those
left over cigarette butts
have got
people's spit in them

 

but they make
good cigarettes
you said
her face grimaced

 

you took in
her red beret
to the side
of her fair hair

 

her blue eyes
on fire
if I did that
Gran'd spank me

 

well and truly
Janice said
trick is
not to be caught

 

you said
a rat ran by
and she screamed
a rat ran by

 

my foot
she stepped back
and grabbed your arm
yes you get them here

 

at this time
of an evening
you said
I shouldn't be here

 

she said quietly
Gran thinks
I'm in the park
well as far she knows

 

you still are
you said
but that's lying
she said

 

no it is being
careful with the truth
you said
you walked along

 

the passageway
and came out
on to the New Kent Road
and at the front

 

of the cinema
with its big billboards
and little photos
of the film being shown

 

and what was
to be shown
you peered
at the photographs

 

Janice beside you
how about
I bring you here
on Saturday?

 

you said
she peered
at the photographs
then at you

 

it's a cowboy film
she said
yes and its got
good gunfights in it

 

and I can practice
how they do it
she frowned
not sure

 

if Gran'd let me
she said
say you're with me
and she will

 

you said
she didn't look
convinced
bit her lip

 

treat you
to an ice cream too
you said
how much will it cost?

 

she asked
1/-3d
you said
but don't worry

 

my old man will pay
he usually does
she bit her lip
a little more

 

have to ask Gran
she said
ok
you said

 

then you walked
along the road
past some shops
then stopped

 

at the fish and chips shop
smell that
you said and sniffed
she sniffed

 

isn't that good
you said
she sniffed again
smells of vinegar

 

she said
and fish and chips
you said
she looked at you

 

her blue eyes
lit up
by the light
from the shop

 

want some chips?
you asked
I've no money
she said

 

I've got 6d
that'll get us
a bag to share
she nodded

 

so you both
went into the shop
and the warmth
and the smell 

 

and the noise
from some radio
blasting out
a Bill Haley song

 

and ordered a 6d
bag of chips
and added
salt and vinegar

 

and walked out
and across the road
and down Meadow Row
the moonlight bright

 

lighting up
the beginning of night.

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DATE FOR THE PARK

Having washed her doll
Battered Betty in the baby
bath, Helen dries it in an
old towel her mother gave

 

her, rubbing it with her
childish motherly attention
to detail. That done, she
dresses Betty in some doll's

 

clothes her father brought
home from a  junk shop
on his way home one Friday.
She wraps Betty in a fading

 

shawl, and goes to the front
door. Where you off to? her
mother asks. Taking Betty
out for a walk, she replies.

 

Where abouts? probably
to Jail Park, Helen says.
Watch out for strange men,
her mother says. I'm with

 

Benedict, Helen says. O,
well that's OK then, her
mother says, relieved,
pushing damp hair from

 

her lined forehead. Helen
goes out the front door
and walks along to the
railway bridge next to the

 

Duke of Wellington pub
where Benedict said to
met him. She pats the doll's
back as she walks, tightens

 

the shawl to keep the doll
warm. Benedict is waiting
by the pub wall; his cowboy
hat is pushed back, 6 shooter

 

gun is tucked in the belt
of his short trousers. Helen
sees him before he sees her,
she prepares herself: licks

 

fingers to dampen down her
hair, straightens her thick
lens spectacles, wipes her
nose on the back of her hand.

 

Am I late? she says as she
approaches him. He pushes
himself from the wall, his 6
shooter quickly out of the belt,

 

he blows the end. No, he says,
just thinking of the Billy-the-Kid
I saw at the cinema the other day.
Got shot. Died. I wouldn’t have

 

done that, I'd not have turned my
back on the marshal whatever
his name was. Helen rocks Betty
in her small arms. Given Betty

 

a bath, she says, nice and clean now.  
Benedict gives the doll a glance,
puts his gun away in the belt.
Good, he says, can't have our

 

kid dirty. Helen smiles, no, we
can't, can we, she says. Mum
says to look out for strange men,
she adds as an after thought.

 

Benedict pats his gun, no strange
man will get to you or Betty,
he says determinedly. Just as
Mum says, Helen says quietly,

 

looking at the cowboy beside
her, his hat now pushed forward,
his hazel eyes focusing, on her
and the doll. Let's go walk, he

 

says, I'll give you and Betty
a push on the swings and
roundabout. So they walk up
Bath Terrace, she telling him

 

about a boy at school calling
her four eyes, and he musing
of putting a couple of slugs in
the kid's head: BANG BANG,

 

the caps will go, just smoke,
no holes, no death, or if he chose,
maybe a good sock in the nose.

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MEETING LYDIA.

He met Lydia
in Harper Road
near the newspaper shop
the one that had

 

the Rob Roy book
in the window
which he was planning to buy
with his pocket money

 

she looked unhappy
carrying a shopping bag
in her thin hand
where you off to?

 

Benedict asked
got to go home
with this
she said

 

lifting the bag
where you going?
she asked
seeing him carrying

 

his toy rifle
and wearing
his cowboy hat
going to fight

 

at the O.K. Corral
only it won't be
ok when I get there
he said smiling

 

O.K. Corral?
she said
where's that?
he pointed to a bomb site

 

across the road
near the doctor's surgery
oh
she said

 

who else is there?
a couple of other kids
he said
why don't you come along?

 

can't
got to take
this shopping home
and besides Mum's

 

in a state
what with my big sister
not coming home
until the early hours

 

and my dad having a row
and punch up
in the Square last night
with that man

 

on the 2nd balcony
can't remember his name
and Mum and him
having a row

 

and me trying to sleep
and Hemmy
my brother
putting an earwig

 

in my bed
making me scream
and Mum bellowing at me
for screaming

 

she stopped
and wiped her eyes
on the hem of her dress
Benedict put his arm

 

around her thin shoulders
I'll get your brother
for that the git
he said

 

she said nothing
but sniffed
he took
the shopping bag

 

from her hand
and said
I'll walk you home
and after

 

we can come back
and have a penny drink
and lolly
in the Penny shop

 

what about the O.K.Corral fight?
she said
o that can wait
he said

 

they'll fight
amongst themselves
anyway
she nodded

 

and they walked back
and crossed
Rockingham Street
and into the Square

 

and he said
what does your sister do
until the early hours?
God knows

 

Lydia said
Mum says she's a prostitute
or something
I don't know

 

if it's a special
sort of job
or something
but it makes Mum annoyed

 

and Dad said
to leave her alone
as she's doing her bit
to keep dirty men occupied 

 

Benedict shrugged his shoulders
and hugged Lydia closer
so how about
that penny drink and lolly?

 

she nodded and sniffed 
and I forgot to tell you
Benedict said
I saw this

 

Daniel Boone film
the other day
up in Camberwell Green
in some flea pit

 

of a cinema
but it was good
and he had a rifle
but older looking

 

than mine
she sniffed
but looked at him
sideways

 

a weak smile
on her face
you should have come
he said

 

maybe next time I will
she said sadly
sure you will
he said

 

and they reached
her flat door
and she said
thank you

 

and he gave her
back the shopping bag
and she kissed his cheek
and went in

 

and he looked around 
to make sure
none of the boys about
had seen the kiss

 

as he had
a reputation to maintain
and kissing
or being kissed

 

by a girl
was maybe deemed
as a bit cissy
but none had

 

and he walked over
to the pram sheds
and sat on the roof
until maybe

 

she reappeared
happier not less so
as he thought
and feared.

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