1962

TWO PIECES OF CAKE.

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
through
the tall trees

 

overhead
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
yes

 

I said
winter
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
Christmas
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

 

singing?
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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ELAINE UNDONE.

That is it
all over
Elaine thinks

 

on the bus
after school
she and John

 

and the kiss
all done with
everything

 

on the edge
her nerves wrought
as if each

 

hidden thought
was exposed
to everyone

 

silently
she sits near
the window

 

looking out
tears sitting
on the rims

 

of her eyes
like actors
impatient

 

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

 

wondering
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

 

pretending
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
every
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
vibrations
moving tears

 

to the edge
like fragile
suicides

 

thinking on
the long fall
but her love

 

bites deeply
all undone
can’t recall.

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THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS.

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
things?
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
puffed

 

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

 

spoilsport
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
yes

 

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
instead.

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RIPPING APART OF ELAINE'S HEART.

 

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,

 

sucking

a boiled sweet.

Morning Frumpy,

two passing girls say,

 

have sex last night?

They walk on

giggling.

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,

lingering

in some spittle

somewhere.

 

She can't get him

or his kiss

from her mind,

he resides there

 

like a secret tenant,

being,

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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THERE TODAY

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
dreams
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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SCARED LOOKS AND SOFT MOANS.

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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NO PLACE TO GO SHE SAID

 

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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BUTTERFLY LANDING KISS.

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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SYMBOLIC ARROW.

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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