1962

NOT A TIME TO DIE.

Elaine thinks
she's dying;
the splash of
red in the

 

lavatory pan
has spun her
sideways, taken
her out of her

 

usual comfort
zone, the outer
world crowding
in. Other girls in

 

the school come
and go, a bell rings,
then silence. She
stares at the lavatory

 

door, someone has
written a poem
in red ink, another
scribbled underneath

 

a rude black ink
remark. The white
is discoloured, the
walls like wise to

 

match. She pulls
off a handful of 
paper, wraps it
around fingers,

 

stares at her hands,
bites her lower lip.
She crosses herself,
from forehead to

 

stomach, from
shoulder to shoulder.
How does one die?
she muses darkly,

 

peeking down at
the pan, redness
spreading, she's
leaking a slow death,

 

being undone before
her eyes. Is this how
one dies? She should
be in maths, at her

 

desk, doing algebra
she's not understood,
looking vacant, biting
her pen. She leans

 

forward, peeks again,
feeling flushed, the
red splash spread.
She feels unwell,

 

pains kick in, the
walls turn white,
crowding in. An
outer door opens,

 

someone sings, the
door clicks shut,
the voice sings
in soft melodious

 

tones. Elaine moans,
pushes her fist into
her mouth, painful
groans. The singer

 

pauses, nears the door,
puts ear to wood.
What's up? she asks,
staring at the whiteness

 

of the door. I’m dying,
Elaine says, I’m leaking
blood. The girl who
was singing mutters,

 

it's just a flood, has
no one said, its a
female thing, so shut
your crying, I’ll go

 

get the nurse, to sort
you out, you're not
freaking dying. And
off she goes, the door

 

clicks shut again, nothing
but silence, disappointed
death and bewildered,
pale-faced, aching Elaine.

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INNOCENT GIRL STARE.

You're not eating properly
Eliane's mother said
you've hardly eaten a thing
Elaine who'd been thinking

 

of the boy John
looked up
through her glasses

 

at her mother
at the dining table
got to eat
her father interjected

 

got to eat
my young Plump Hen
her sister said nothing

 

but grinned
I do eat
Elaine said
but she didn't feel

 

like eating
it seemed the least
important thing

 

at that moment
her stomach felt
as if it had fallen
into a slumber

 

not enough
her mother said
maybe she's fallen in love

 

her father bantered
Elaine went red
and lowered her head
and began to nibble

 

at the food on her plate
nonsense
her mother said

 

it's some silly
slimming diet
I bet
not very successful

 

if it is
her younger sister said smiling
John had touched her arm

 

in passing at school
not by accident
but by design
he meant to touch

 

to bring her briefly
into his world
his circumference

 

she still touched
now and then
the area on her arm
he touched (at school)

 

with her fingers
I won't have you dieting
over some silly fad

 

her mother went on
but Elaine ceased listening
the words were buzzing flies
she wanted to

 

flick them away
with a hand
John had talked to her

 

not at her
or about her
(as others did)
or down to her

 

but with her
in a duel thing
he and she

 

kind of exchange
she ate slowly
the food almost
making her gag

 

getting stuck
in the throat
she held onto

 

the image of him
in her mind tried
to focus
on his outline

 

on his features
his words
taking each one

 

she could remember
and turning it over
in her mind
as if it were

 

a rare gem
girls your age
what are you now?

 

14 yes 14years old
ought not to diet
her mother said
breaking into Elaine's head

 

if I see you not eating again
I'm taking to the doctors
Elaine looked up

 

and put on
her good daughter face
that I'll do
whatever you want features

 

and John had placed
a hand by her head
at the school fence

 

his arm brushing softly
against her hair
and he never said anything
unkind about

 

her dark hair
or the metal grips
her mother made her wear

 

and her mother rattled on
but Elaine just returned
her innocent girl
stare.

 

 

 

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