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Her parents rowed in the night, Mother cried;
she lay in her single bed in the dark,
waiting for morning to come with its light.

All is silent now, as before a storm;
but she is reluctant to rise from bed
until she is sure that the storm is past.

Benny said he would meet her in the park
to ride the swings, and slide, and roundabout,
and see who could touch the clouds with their feet,
as they rode the swings as high as they could.

But someone is moving in the passage;
the sound of water running from the tap;
the kettle being filled, put on the stove;
but she will wait a while; too soon to rove.
She lights
her second cigarette
stirs the early
morning porridge
turns and gazes at me
as I sit
at the table smoking
and sipping tea
she'd made
some time before

That Mcdade woman's
been spreading rumours
she says
smoke from the cigarette
wraps around her words

What rumours?
I say
looking at her
standing there
one hand
stirring the porridge
the other holding
the cigarette
between fingers

She's been saying
I only went with you
because you
make me look younger
she says
pushing the words out
as if they were distasteful

Maybe she doesn't
what love is
I say

she looks back
at the saucepan
She's just
a ****** gossip
Dolly says
I'd put my fist
in her gob
if I wasn't frightened
of losing my fist
in her big gob

I take a drag
on my cigarette
and study
the steam rise
from the saucepan
and gather
around her words
like disenchanted birds.
Come 'n' see
come 'n' hear
see howfur
wide spread
th' enemy ur
'n' hear thair shouts
o' abuse 'n' threats

staun firm
mah brave men
haud claise
yer shields 'n' swords
swing wide 'n' swift
yer axes whin thay come

staun shoulder
tae shoulder
cop firm earth
beneath yer feet
yak thaim coldly
as thay come near

hawp in win
nae defeat
show courage
mah men
haud firm
dinnae fear.
Grandfather never spoke about the war,
never said a word about what went on;
didn't relate one thing that I recall;
boasted of no bravery that he had
facing the Boshe, or life in the trenches;
told no tale of bravery at the Front.

Yet reading his army record later,
he was in the midst of all that dark hell;
facing ******'s bullets, exploding shell;
smelling the stench of death as he breathed air;
riding the horses that dragged the big guns;
living amongst the dead, those quiet friends
who had once been alive, as he was then,
boys at heart, become over night, old men.
Miss Ash
gazed at me
over her glasses
her blue eyes
seemed not to blink
nor lose their sterness

if you must gaze
out the window
do it outside
of classroom time
she said

I nodded my head
I had imagined myself
as one of the three musketeers
fighting with my sword
as the soldiers came up
the stairs that led up
into the school
Pathos had fought
beside me
talking in a French
I didn't know

You are here
to learn Coles
she added
turning her head
and beady eyes
to the blackboard
where she had written
and drawn a picture
of a plant and labelled it
with white and red chalk

all eyes
gazed forward
and there
was no sound
no whispers
no talk.
Say yer prayers
claise yer een
jalouse a god
yer maw cares
wha thinks 'n' kens
ilk particle o' stoor
wha holds th' stars
in th' palms o' his hauns
wha hears 'n' acts
wha defines
whit's wha is
bit then ye
hae doubts
'n' open yer een
'n' ye struggle
tae jalouse
ony kind o' god
wha wid be
concerned aboot this
mortal coil or anythin'
o' tis contents
bit at th' back
o' yer mynd
a nipping doubt
aboot yer doubts
'n' ye claise
yer een again
'n' wantae pray
bit ye dinnae ken
whit tae say.
She can't decide
whether to slit her thin wrists
or hang herself up
from the pipe
in the female toilets

but she has nothing
to wind about her neck
and nothing
with which to slit her wrists

so she decides
to put it off
for another day
until either rope
or a belt
or a razorblade
come into her possession

we sit in the lounge
of the locked-ward
her French cigarettes

like two fish stranded
on the shore of life
for the next incoming tide
to take us off
to that other sphere
that other place
far from here.
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