TIME TO REMAIN SILENT

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic
A BOY AND GIRL IN 1950S LONDON

Submitted: December 06, 2014

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Submitted: December 06, 2014

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Helen's mother meets us
after school and takes us
to the market
to buy Helen
a new school skirt.

I walk behind with Helen
as her mother walks in front
pushing a big pram
with baby inside
and her brother
sitting on top.

Her mother has
a large behind
like a shelf
and muscle-bound
arms and legs.

That Cogan boy
said I looked like a fish,
Helen says to me.

How do you look
like a fish?

He said he has
a goldfish that looks
like me:
big eyes
and a big mouth.

He can talk;
he's got glasses
and a mouth
that is always open.

Keep up, you two,
Helen's mother says.

We run a few steps
to catch up.

He pinched my bottom
in class during history
and made me shout
and Mr F said
I was not to shout out
during lesson.

Did you say
it was Cogan?

No, didn't want to say;
bit embarrassing
to say he pinched
my bottom
with the whole class
listening.

Mind the road,
you two chatterboxes,
Helen’s mother bellows.

We pause at the kerb
as a lorry rushes by.

We walk across the road;
Helen’s mother's hat
is lopsided,
her coat
has a loose hem.

I had a fight
with Cogan once.

Did you?

Yes, he said
he was going
to break my nose;
but I punched him
with a left,
knocked his
glasses flying
and he couldn't
see me after that,
so I punched him
in the bread basket.

Bread basket?

Slang for stomach.

O, I see.

She frowns.

I like it when she frowns;
her forehead
creates lots of lines
and her glasses
slide down her nose.

We arrive at the market
and Helen’s mother
sorts through skirts
on a market stall.

Come here, Helen,
I need to measure you
against this skirt.

Helen goes to her mother
who places a number
of skirts against her.

Helen's eyes are wide open;
her mouth open
like a fish
out of water,
but I say nothing,
I look at her plaited hair,
her hands by her side
and brown scuffed shoes.

This is the one,
her mother says
to the market man,
I'll have this one.

The guy wraps up
the skirt in a bag
and takes the money
and gives her change.

Now home to tea,
Helen's mother says,
and don't
linger behind,
my girl,
or I’ll tan
your backside.

We set off,
following behind,
I think of Helen’s
wide eyes
and open mouth
fish impression,
but keep it inside.


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