Frankie’s Estate

is all pedestrianised –
the council blocked it with concrete poles
to stop lads in cars. Paddy says
They nash down the back lanes
knocking the wheelie bins all ower.
Wicked!

The corner shop doesn’t have any windows,
it’s metal bars or chipboard
it was burnt out last year.
Some of the lampposts are smashed
they’re hung with bike tyres.

The postie doesn’t always deliver
round the estate, because of the dogs;
sometimes Frankie goes to the post office,
moans to Mam:
It’s hard getting your post if the sour-faced wifie’s on,
she pretends she doesn’t know you: Where’s yer ID?

Dad says: If yer believed the newspapers
you’d think we don’t have proper jobs –
it’s all moonlighters, charvers, crims or dole fiddlers.
Frankie knows the council and the polis
describe this place in numbers.
He says: One in two unemployed,
half are dealers.
There are ten rats
for every mobile phone
in the estate.
It’s just numbers.
You can make them up.

Paddy and Frankie stand at the top of the street
look over the new flats,
the industrial estate,
they can just see the river
grey and wide,
the Metro Centre
glinting on the other side
and green hills beyond.
Dad tells them
Once upon a time
this street ran all the way
down the bankies,
from the West Road
across Elswick Road
Armstrong Road
Westmorland Road
and over Scotswood Road.
I could ride me bogey
without stopping
till I got to the river –
there was less cars then.
Yer Nan says once a man
got the wrong side of the neighbours
they put him in a barrel
sent him down
without stopping
at all.

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Frankie’s dad’s a car mechanic

his nails are always black
his hands scarred
he wears a boiler suit, it was blue once,
an oily rag hangs out of his pocket
for wiping spark plugs or dipsticks
or his hands – Frankie doesn’t think
it’s ever been clean.
Mam raises her eyebrows
but Dad says:
It’s the sign of a working man
a man with a skill
a man not afraid of hard work
of getting his hands dirty
it’s proud dirt.
Mam mutters:
Too proud to wash it off.
Dad can’t stand
any sign of weakness
he’s proud of the fact
he can’t cook
doesn’t wash up.
Housework is for jessies
he says and laughs.
Mam never talks
she’ll smoke tabs
bite her nails
bite her tongue
rather than hold
a long conversation
but she can speak with her eyes:
Stop that
Quiet
Go Away –
all done with eyebrows
lips and fingers.
If she does say words
they’re broken, half formed things
that she doesn’t trust
and they’ve learnt to ignore.

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Frank was in Corinne’s gang

at Benwell Primary.
Paddy wouldn’t let them
play football in the yard at playtime.
It’s always been Corinne and Frankie against Paddy.
Paddy said: Girls can’t play footie
and Frankie plays like a girl.
Paddy had a dinosaur and Hot Rod Cars
in his half of the bedroom.
Frankie had beanie babies:
a robin, a polar bear and Monkey.
He couldn’t sleep without Monkey.
Paddy used to throw it
out the window
on top of the cupboard
anywhere Frank couldn’t reach
just to wind him up
to make him cry.

Paddy still likes to wind him up
he pushes Frank and says:
Bugger off Fanny
and laughs;
Fanny Adams
you’re good at sweet
Fanny Adams.

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Frankie and Paddy

Frankie and Paddy
are twins
but they’re the opposite of identical
Paddy rubs it in
twenty times a day:
I’m good at football
you’re not
I’m muscly
you’re not
I’m tough
you’re not.
Corinne says Yeah, but yer a knob.

Corinne’s more like Frankie’s sister than his cousin
they’re the same age, round each others houses
hanging out, eating, watching tv.
Frank and Corinne are both dark haired, brown eyed,
Paddy’s fair, with bristle crew cut,
that’s why people used to think that Frank and Corinne
were the twins.

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Prologue Hom

The Golden Time

The summer Frankie was seven
was paradise, a heaven
of soft sun, fun with Corinne.
At Elswick Pool they pretended
the plants were jungle,
crocodiles lived in the shallow end,
under the water they were fish,
they opened their eyes
and swam amongst the sea of legs,
Corinne and Frankie
easy, like that, sweet
in the street games
Block one two three
Chasey, The Princess
and her ladies. One day playing Skippy
with Corinne, Donna and Kalisha,
Frankie was in the middle, chanting
Salome was a dancer.
She danced before the king.
Everytime she danced
She wiggled everything.
“Stop”, said the king
“You can’t do that in here.”
Out of nowhere
a hand grabbed Frankie’s T-shirt
Dad’s face was a storm cloud,
he gripped Frankie’s shoulders,
his voice a thunderclap:
SKIPPIN’S FOR LASSES, FRANKIE!
then whacked and whacked
the backs of his skinny legs.
Frankie was crying,
he looked in Dad’s eyes
and saw a dark tunnel.

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