|She came banging at our door: "he's on|
|nights, he's needing all his sleep,|
|I guessed my mother's soft agreement,|
|knew I'd have to turn the music down,|
|but mimicked over loud "he's needing|
|all his sleep"—her cockney whine.|
|What hurt was less my father's|
|soaped hand lashed across my face|
|(and when had he crept in from interview?)|
|than his "Mr High and Mighty—|
|who'd you think you are."|
"Shake hands' Ted's the name and tiling's the game."
Then - I must have gawped at his stumpy grin –
"Lost 'em in a Fair booth since you ask.
Took a big 'un on, see. Built the same
As Randolph Turpin; tanked me on the chin,
Left me less four teeth and counting up stars.
"Why'd I do it? Well, I needed the dosh:
Demobbed with plans to marry, but Ruth's dad
Reckoned I was scum. So, a gold ring
Stuffed with loverly carats put the kybosh
On all his schemes for her. And we ain't done bad
Though 'course she cried when her mum ducked out the wedding."
I worked with Ted stripping a factory roof
Through days of August sun and sweat. Salt swealed
My cracked lips, back, thighs, wrists ached, cack
Hands ripped and bled. But there was nothing rough
in Ted's work, and as I blundered he held
Steady, purlins his tight-wire, at each creak
Of joist a grin, while without pause he levered
Up nails with touching, orthodontic care,
And slate stacks thickened so at each day's end
The foreman muscled in to say how pleased
Big Man would be with us both. But that glare
Whenever Ted winked at me! "Don't think he's my friend"
Ted laughed it off. One monday Ted was gone.
Why? "Stood up to Malcolm," our chipple said,
"Asked for danger money, got give his cards,
Reckon his wife's behind it. She looks one –
He drew his roll-up to a nano-shred –
"Thinks she's a cut above a builder's yard."
Just eighteen and married to a squaddie
whose regiment was off to sort out Aden,
then, a few weeks later, found herself pregnant.
“I don't know if it's his. I feel sick. What
am I going to do? He’ll! He'll murder me
if he ever suspects." "But who would tell?"
"His friends, sisters, brothers, parents, they're all
watching me. 'An eye for an eye', he says
their motto is, they just wont let me be."
"Then how did....?" "Him. Your clever mate, he found
a way. I thought it might be love, I should
have known he thinks himself blue skies above
anything I do to try to please him.
Once he's back at college he'll forget me.
It's just like cradling hot coals, this knowledge
of flesh so warm on mine it seemed to make
me new each time. I burn now I recall
the words we used. If I was smart I'd learn
some trick to keep my heart from being bruised.
Now I just want my old life back. That's all."