She brought
two pieces of cake
her mother had made
to the pond


she termed our lake  
and we sat
on the dry summer grass
she unwrapped the paper


and handed me
the slice of cake
looks good
I said


it is
Judith said
she can do
some things right


the cake was sweet
and soft
and mouth watering
I held the cake


over my palm
collecting every crumb
she looked out
over the pond


the still skin
of water
flies hovering
over the top


bird calls and songs
and the sun seeping
the tall trees


she had her hair tied
in an untidy bun
at the back


her grey dress
came to the knees
dimly flowered
I sneaked these out


Judith said
not often
I get the chance
well done


I said
the last few crumbs
were gone now
just a damp palm


where they had been
she finished hers
and licked her palms
do you remember


when we first
came here?
she asked


I said
and I was frozen
and my fingers


were numb
she smiled
yes and I licked them
warm again


I smiled too
it had been
as she said
frozen fingers


sucked warm
her mouth over
the fingers
one by one


wouldn't do it
for just anyone
she said
I hope not


I said
that first kiss
recall that?
she asked


of course
while carol singing
and the moon bright


and you embracing me
and our lips
kind of met
you embraced me too


she said
your lips met mine
they did I recalled
sitting there


next to her
her body so close
to mine
I could hear


her heart beat
her pulse race
what carol
were the others


she asked
haven't a clue
I said


too busy kissing
and you had
your hand
drawing me tighter


to you
on my backside
yes I did
didn't I


a bird flew across
the pond noiseilly
we looked up
caught sunlight


with our eyes
bird sounds
clouds passed
her hand


touched mine
a tingle raced
along my nerves
ringing bells


in my head
years have fled
time emptied away
and she is dead.


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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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You met her in a field
beyond her house
during summer recess
that last one


before you both left
school for good
you'd walked
from the big wooden gate


by hedgerows
where birds sang
and flew out
pass you


sky blue
as if Monet
had been at work
my mother thinks


we've been doing things
she said
you said


you know what I mean
she said
a steam train
passed by


over by the far hedge
we have
you said
I know and you know


but I don't want her
thinking we have
Judy said
you frowned


the white
and grey smoke
from the train


into the sky
so it's a kind of
knowledge thing?
 you said


who's to know
and who isn't?
some people matter
she said


especially her
I’ll never hear
the last of it
if she thinks


we have
the grass was dry
and the earth hard
your shoes had seen better days


so we're here
in a field
where she could
possibly see us


and you're worrying
that she thinks
we have done things?
Judy sighed


and looked back
at the house
surrounded by fields
she's probably watching now


she said
following our movement
you looked back too
hands in the pockets


of your blue jeans
has she binoculars?
you said
not that I know


Judy said
doesn't matter
she has eyes
like a hawk


how are you
going to convince
we haven’t
done things?


you asked
she looked away
from the house
and sat on the grass


with you following
she sat cross legged
pulling the skirt
over her knees


you said
shouldn't look
didn't get a chance


too slow
she said
getting old
you smiled


I’m 14 like you
if that's too old
I'm Monet's aunt
she laughed


this isn't
solving the problem
she said
there isn't a problem


you said
just a matter
of perception
or not


as the case
is meant to be
what do you mean?
she said


your mother thinks
we have
and we have
yet you want her


not to think that
you replied
yes that's right
Judy said


maybe she wants
to think that
you said
why should she?


Judy asked
maybe she doesn't trust me
you said
she doesn't


Judy said
but she should trust me
you nodded
I see what you mean


so she should trust you
not to do such things
even when you have?
you said


it's the thought
that counts
she said
she put her hands


each side of her
on the grass
you could see
her cleavage


where her
blouse buttons
gave a little


you said
it's the thought
that counts
and the thoughts


hung around
your head
wishing it
had not been


a hay barn
but a cosy
warm bed

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Elaine feels

as if she's the center

of the world,

as if


she was

standing there

in all her frumpish nudity

for all the world to see.


She stands

against the fence

in the girls' playground

as the boys stream by


to theirs.

She knows John

was on the school bus;

he was across the aisle,


but she hadn't looked,

she gazed out the window

the whole way.

She had stood


by the the steps

of the bus

after she'd got off

hoping he would


speak to her

or touch her arm

or ...or what?

her inner voice asks


kiss you again?

his lips on yours

in view of all?

Silly fool.


She stands there,

hands in the pockets

of her dark green coat,

eyes lowered,



a boiled sweet.

Morning Frumpy,

two passing girls say,


have sex last night?

They walk on


What is sex?


she'd asked

her mother

some months back

dirty things,


don’t' indulge

or talk about it

came the reply.

She stuffed


the words in a box

in her head

marked: dirty,

do not open.


Have sex? she muses,

was it a kind of gift

given wrapped?

She looks at the two girls


walking away,

arms linked,

giggling together,

dark green coats,


white socks,

blacks shoes,

shoulder to shoulder.

John had kissed her


the day before.

What was it for?

For real? A joke?

The impression


of his lips

presses still

on her lip’s skin.

She licks to see


if he's still there,


in some spittle



She can't get him

or his kiss

from her mind,

he resides there


like a secret tenant,


moving about,

not heeding her,


not paying rent.

She feels the ends

of her black shoes

pressing on the tips


of her toes,

too tight, not right.

He presses against

the tips


of her soul

and heart,

slowly ripping

each apart.

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And Christina
hadn't seen Benedict
on the sports field
the day before


and school without
seeing him
was a long haul
of boredom


and frustration
and even
to go down
school passageways


between lessons
and not get
a peek of him
was stomach churning


with other girls
on about this
and that
and she only


wanting a peek
of him
to carry home with her
to hug and hold


in her bedroom
but today
in lunch recess


he was there
on the sports field
with that fiend of his
and she thought


he hadn't seen her
and he was wandering
the field with his friend
and they were laughing


and she so wanted
for him to turn
and see her
sitting there


on the grass
with a bunch of girls
and them laughing
and giggling


about matters
when he turned
and saw her
and she felt


her whole being
explode inside
and a rush
of feelings


flooded her
so that she was sure
she'd peed herself
with it all


and he came over
and said
didn't see you there
come let's go


for a walk and
so she got up
unsure if her legs
would hold her


what with the body
having exploded
like it had
and she went with him


and he lingered
near her
and their hands
were near


and she didn't want
to seem forward
and hold his hand
but deep inside


she wanted
to hold his hand
and kiss it
and squeeze it


and take it home
with her
but she just
let it hang there


near his
and he spoke
of being off
the day before


through illness
and that
he was ok today
and he laughed


and said
did you miss me?
and she said no
and laughed too


but god the words
clung to the roof
of her mouth
and she had to


push them out
and he said
he thought of her
laying there


unwell in his bed
and she thought
how she'd have
hugged him


had she been there
how she would have
sweated the illness
out of him


but she didn't say it
but smiled
and felt her insides
turning and turning


and he said
he dreamed of her
and she said
what did we do?


and he said
sure I cant' say
and blushed
and she touched


his hand as they
came to the fence
around the field
and it was electrifying


and her heart
seemed to thump itself
against her tit
and O how hot


it felt being there
she feeling all
so in love
and a slight wind


moved his quiff
of brown hair.

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She waits for the school bus with her younger sister and a few others. The weather is warm and dry, clear blue and white clouds in the sky. Elaine knows he'll be on the bus; she's thought of nothing else, but that, since she woke that morning. Even on the loo, she thought about him; about how he had kissed her the day before; about how it was her first kiss from a boy, brushing of lips, not pressed hard. Over breakfast, she sat eating the breakfast her mother had prepared for her, thinking of him, mouthing the cereal, seeing him in her mind’s eye. As she washed after breakfast, she had him in mind, wondering if he would want to kiss her again that day, wondering if she'd let him or if she should. She had dressed slow, him in mind, taking her time, having borrowed her mother's old fashion scent, put on underwear, bra, blouse, skirt and white ankle socks and sat gazing at herself in the mirror, looking through her just cleaned with spittle, spectacles. She looked frumpish. She straightened her shoulders, lifted her head, raised her chin, gazed. She was so shy it hurt. Not then, while looking at herself in the mirror, but when she was with others, and they were gazing at her, or talking to her or at or about her. Teachers could make her cry, by just a stern look or words bellowed at her. Her stomach churned; nerves, she supposed, going once more to the loo, shutting the door, locking it, sitting. A book was on the shelf. Her father's book of butterflies. He kept it there to view while on the loo. He had a room full of books. Most beyond her understanding. She took the book down; the dust jacket was torn. She opened it up and randomly looked at the pictures. What was the butterfly, John had said about? She tried to recall, but she couldn't, there were so many. She closed the book and put it back on the shelf. The bus was coming around the bend in the road, thoughts of the morning at home, vanish in a wave of nerves that grips her stomach. The bus stops and the door opens. She waits with her sister and the others, then boards the bus herself. She feels self-conscious, aware that others are gazing at her as she makes she way along the aisle of the bus, to the seats, where she and her sister, usually sit. Some one says, Hello, Frumpy, and there is scattered laughter, she blushes, looks at the floor as she walks on, tries to focus, knowing he is on the other side of the aisle, maybe looking at her, maybe not. The normal chatter resumes, the radio is blasting out a pop song, she sits by the window, looks out, gets herself comfortable, undoes her coat. Her sister chats to friends nearby, laughter, giggles, loud voices. Is he looking? She stares out the window. The bus moves away, hedges, trees and fields, pass by quickly. She wonders about him. Is he there? has he come today? She wants to look and see, but can't get her head to turn. The scene changes quickly: hedges, fields, cottages, birds in flight, a tractor in a field, a road, sheep, cows, and a man by a fence. Is John looking over his seat at her? Have a look. No, I can't. Go on. No I can't. She fidgets, moves in the seat, pulls at her skirt, adjusts her bra that's tight. Some one sings along to the song on the radio. Her sister joins in. Life and soul of. Have a look. Casually. She pushes her toes to the top of her shoes. Presses hard. She pushes her hands in between her thighs. Feels anxious. Feels the need to pee come on; nerves that’s all, nothing more. Ignore, think of something else. That morning, as she washed under her arms, she noticed, what seemed for the first time, hairs, dark, curly, under her armpits. She'd not noticed before. Not cared more like. But now she did see them, and thought: he might see. How? Going to show him your armpits and say look at these hairs, John? She blushed as she soaped, rinsed and dried. And lower down, where he mother had said to keep clean and fresh, she noticed, as  if it had grown over night, pubic hairs. She tried not to notice usually; pretended they weren't there, as she had once tried to ignore, the first swellings on her chest, the bulb-like swellings that worried her, until her mother, under her breath, said: they're your breasts, all girls get them eventually; it means you’re becoming a woman. What a burden. She wasn't sure she wanted to become a woman, she told her mother. No choice in the matter, her mother said, smiling. She hates the long bus ride to school; hates the chatter, laughter, music bellowing, snorts and giggles. Is he looking? Have a quick gaze. No, I can't. Should she? Just a quick glimpse, turn of her head, a innocent turn and look. What if he's looking at her and she blushes red as a spanked backside? No, best not to. Pretend we don't care. Look at the passing view. When she had undressed for bed the night before, and stood there, staring at herself in the tall mirror, she thought herself frumpy. She stood there gazing. Her sister asleep. Stood looking at her face. The glasses, her eyes, large and dark. Her nose, flattish, broad. Her mouth, too wide, like a fish grinning. She had made a kissing sound. Pursed her lips. Some one laughs on the bus; she looks around, Goldfinch, the boy next to John, guffaws noisily, but John has his head turned towards the window, unconcerned. She sits and studies the top of his head, the hair, the turn of head, half profile, glimpse. As she removed her bra the night before, as she prepared for bed, she unclipped the back fiddly bits, and let it slip away; her breasts feeling free, warm, and just there, waiting, a fully fledged nature study. She had dressed quickly, pretended they weren't hers. She was stepping out of her comfort zone. She looks out of the window, the passing scene: trees, hedges, fields, hills, rabbits, cows and onward. She closes her eyes. Tries not to think of her bladder calling. Pushes her hands deeper between her thighs. Shuts out sounds, laughs, chatter, music, snorts and giggles. She sees behind her closed eyes, the kiss again, him kissing her on the sports field, the day before. Feels it still. The slight touch of lips. Brushing skin on skin. And his hand, where had that been? One on her arm, holding her nearer to him, the other, touching her back, her spine, fingers walking downwards. The touch, lips, warm, wet, and she opens her eyes, and feels a rush of feelings, along her nerves, spine, arms and legs, and her stomach churns, her heart thumps wildly as if it's her last. But none has seen, none has felt. Her sister still talks, Goldfinch sits and gabbles, and John, he sits unaware, that she is burning wildly, inwardly, a rush of electricity rushes along her nerves, a glow down below, her mind is confused and alive, and she sitting there with that: I'm out of my comfort zone, scared look and soft moan.

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There was no place to go,

she knew that, the school

was a complete wash out,

no place at all there, except


the gym, and that was almost

always occupied. She couldn't

take him home in their lunch

hour because her sour mother


was there, mooching around

like some miserable sick cow.

The sports field was too visible,

the small area of wood was no


good, too many prefects, spying

the grounds, doing their rounds.

She could have the occasional

grab with him for a quick peck,


in some dark nook in the corridor,

but it was all too much of a smash

and grab affair, not the kind of

kiss to make a tremor through


her hair, or stiffen her small tits

with excitement kind of kiss, she

thought sitting in the class room,

as the teacher rabbited on about


some king who'd lost his head

or something. She scribbled down

the name and date and what had

happened and why and where,


giving the male teacher the, I

couldn't care less stare. If only

Benedict was there, standing

where the teacher stood, his


hazel eyes, his quiff of hair,

ready for a kiss, and embrace,

lips to lips, face to face, hot kiss.

Benedict lived too far away;


a school bus trip, an hour or so

away from where she lived and

the school. She'd seen him briefly,

in the passageway, on her way


to biology; he smiled, waved,

then was gone, off with another

boy, towards the science labs,

his quiff dancing as he walked.


She'd not kissed him all day,

no chance had permitted, the

wet grounds had ruled out going

on the sports field to wander


and smooch, the recreation

grounds were out of bounds,

the gym too busy, too crowded

with sports loving girls, doing


their indoor netball or what

have you, and all she wanted,

needed, sitting there giving

the teacher I’m bored stare,


was a gentle kiss and cuddle ,

not this regurgitated history

and brain soaked boring muddle.

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All through the woodwork lesson
and through a double dose of maths,
he thinks of her, the kiss on the sports
field, the brushing of his lips on hers.


He'd almost cut his finger on a saw,

being preoccupied with thoughts of
her, her eyes through glasses, the
innocence of lilies about her, the way


she looked so surprised, he having

kissed her.  Not planned, no he didn’t
plan the kiss, he was just going to talk
with her, get to know her more and


better, when the impulse to kiss, over

came him, as if some rarely seen fish
of the sea had drawn him into depths
he'd not known. He sits on the school


bus, got on before she had, looks out

the window, shy of seeing her, now
wondering what she'd day after that
kiss, her reaction. Trevor says softly


something about the Frump, he doesn't

turn, looks at the kids waiting to get
on the bus, excited, engaged in their
conversations, laughing. He is aware,


that she may be on the bus now, he is

so self obsessed, he can hear his heart
beat, thump through his chest. Trevor
next to him, talking across the aisle,


says something about her, but he isn’t

listening, stares out. He feels as if he's
under a microscope, eyes gawking at
him, words around him. Maybe others


saw the kiss? He didn’t think about that,

never gave it thought. The radio is on,
the music blares, some one is singing
about love and missing her. He relaxes


as the bus move off, senses no one is

aware of the kiss, no talk, or chatter
of it. Even Trevor, who is the vanguard
of gossip, says nothing about that at all.


John is aware she sits across the aisle,

a little bit back. He could possibly see
her, if he glanced over the top of his seat,
but he doesn't, he looks at the passing


scene, trees, hedges, fields, cottages.

He tries to calm his beating heart, the
thump seems almost audible, as if
the whole bus can hear its thump.  


He closes his eyes and thinks of her,

the lips kissed, the eyes behind her
spectacles, her mouth, the way her
words were stilled by his kiss, were


drenched in her virgin mouth; he had

touched her, too. His hand had soft
touched her arm, drew her body closer
to him. She smelt of countryside, air,


and hay and fields. Her lips there were

feather soft; he could have slept there,
lay there, brushed the lips, as if a red  
butterfly had landed, sought refreshment.


He reruns the kiss, in his head, plays

it over and over. She is there just across
the way; he can almost sense her eyes
on him, like feelers reaching over the


seats to touch him. He opens his eyes,

Trevor has football cards in his inky
hands, he talks of this player and that,
that football team and this, but all John
can think on is the butterfly landing kiss.



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She wonders if he'll really
be on the sports field waiting
for her, or whether it was just
something he said at the moment


to impress or set her up for a
laugh for the sake of others
who see her as a frump, some
one to laugh at or ridicule. She


eats her school dinner at her
usual pace, trying not to think
too much if he'll be there, waiting,
smiling that smile, that quiff ,


that brushed back hair. Elaine,
having finished her dinner,
having been to the loo, having
washed her hands, brushed her


teeth with her finger, walks on
the field, eyes down, her usual
stance, pretending she's invisible,
stops by the fence and looks around.


Girls in groups sit on the grass,
boys play football, some walk in
pairs. She stands alone, peers out,
looks down, hands in her cardigan


pockets. Thought you'd be here,
John says, his voice soft, like snow,
his hand by the fence where she
stands, disturbs her thoughts.


She looks at him, eyes bright,
looks behind him in case others
see or look, but none does, he's
alone, gazing, his brows dark,


fine lined. Didn’t think you
meant it, she says, to meet me,
I mean. Sure, I did, he  says,
not one to say what I don't mean.


She looks at him shyly, words
stuck in her throat, her heart
thumping, her knees shaking,
her stomach churning, feeling


undone. Want to go for a walk?
he says, don't need to stay by
the fence all the time. She moves;
her legs reluctant, her feet uncertain


of their tread. He moves beside her,
his hand brushing hers, confidently,
gazing at her sidewards. She thinks
others are watching, whispering,


gossiping, laughing behind their hands,
pointing at her, the frump, some boy
playing her along. Thought you'd
chickened out, he says, some girls do,


all talk, but then when their friends
aren't about they fall away or don't show.
She pauses, looks around, eyes the girls
across the way, none looks or cares,


no funny looks or stupid stares. I’m
a slow eater, she says, nearly last to
finish, at lunch, she says, gazing at him,
trying to see if he's having a laugh or


this is for real. No rush, he says, glad
you came. He walks on, she moves
beside him, sorting out words to say,
thoughts confused, brain spinning, her


heart thumping against her bra and tit.
You like butterflies? he asks. She mouths
words, her tongue stuck to the roof of
her mouth. She unsticks it, yes, I suppose


so, she says, like the red and white ones,
I see in the garden. Red Admiral I guess
or maybe the Peacock, he says, hard to
say unless I see it. They reach the fence


at the end of the field, stand looking back
at the field and school. You did mean to
meet me didn't you? she says hesitantly.
Of course I, he says, wouldn’t have asked


you otherwise. Others might have set it up,
she says looking at her shoes. Set what up?
he asks. You meeting me for a laugh, to
make me look a fool? she says, noticing


the scuff marks on the toes. No set up,
just me and you, the field, the sun, the sky,
this moment, he says, lifting her chin
with his finger. She stares at him, her


eyes focusing through her glasses, taking
him in, the hair, the hazel eyes, his finger
touching her chin. She wants to look inside
his head, to feel his thoughts, to sense his


wishes, I'm not very confident, she says,
I feel such a frump. He smiles, removes his
finger from her chin, draws her nearer to him,
taking her elbow, kisses her lips, so soft it


hardly touches, brushes skin, warms, thrills,
shocks and warms again, she feels as if she
might wet or leak, as if her stomach may burst,
her heart rush through breasts in a wild rush.


He hold his lips there, skin on skin, barely
pressing, moments still, moving. He pulls
away, not an expert on this kissing stuff,
he says, moving away, taking stock, studying


her eyes for fear or love or shock. Never
been kissed or kissed before, she says softly,
hardly audible, voice choked, sensing her
heart racing, her groin on fire. A bell rings


from the school, the crowds on the field
disperse and walk school wards, drift away,
in groups or singly or pairs. No one looks
or wonders why or stares. Best go, I guess ,


he says, and he's gone, well ahead, half a run,
half a fast walk. She feels her world unpinning,
coming undone, the seams of being coming apart,
revealing a symbolic arrow in a bleeding heart.


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