Frank talks to Corinne about Becca

She says she fancies me

And Corinne says: She’s fit Frankie

slim, great arse, those tight tops

that show her belly pierce

Corinne winks,

Frank says:

She’s not a stupid giggler like some,

she’s got grey eyes

that look at you real cool.

Aye says Corinne,

And when she smiles, her nose wrinkles, she shows her teeth.

Corinne does a Becca impression:

Frankie, lots of lads would kill to go out wi her.

Frankie says: Some say they’ve shagged her.

Corinne says: They’re liars.

But she wants to go out wi me!

Frankie man, yer in – yer divvent have to marry her.

He despairs: She could have any lad. Why me?

Der! says Corinne. She fancies yer, divvy.

Don’t tell anyone, will yer?

Corinne just smacks her forehead, looks at the sky:

Everyone knaas who Becca fancies, man.

She’s top totty.

Aw fuck. Frank covers his face.

Corinne holds out her hand: Give us yer moby.

She’s texting quicker than a 100 metre sprint,

there’s a pause, his moby buzzes

Corinne looks at Frankie:

Sorted.

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School Trip

At the Hancock Museum
it’s dusty, with old windows
no proper light
they’re supposed to be looking at masks
the others are bored, nudging and jostling.
Frankie sees a mask,
it just has holes for eyes with a long bony nose
he stares at it.
Then Paddy nudges him and shouts to Dec:
Way looka, it’s The Freak!
The others crowd round, laughing
Hey Frankie!
It’s a mask of ye.
They pull faces, Dec’s chanting Freak, Freak!
Twirls his fingers at his temple.
Miss! Miss!
Looka! It’s Frankie, Miss.
Miss Thoroughgood says:
All right boys, settle down.
They go off to the drinks machine
but Frank sees Becca watching,
she’s not laughing.

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Curiosity

pulls him,
he finds his footsteps
take him back to the part of town
where the world is different;
searching inside
for that door.

He lingers on the pavement
opposite The Dog –
a dark haired woman
brushes past then turns:
Sorry
and smiles, holding the door
open for Frankie,
her smile is friendly
but Frankie finds his head
shaking No to this
invitation.
He runs home
breathless and ashamed.

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What’s the marrer wi you?

Nana asks,
she’s round for a cup of tea
with Dad, she looks at Frank

Ye look like a parsnip
all long and white.
If I was like that when I were a lass
I’d soon be put right.

Dad laughs: Aye

She says:
Come round this sunday
after Mass
we’ll gan doon the quayside
have a look round the market.

At the Quayside Market
Nana’s a ball of steel wool
the river is a dark border
the bridge is a watching eye
girls laugh, their high heels tap
the river stinks like Nana’s dishcloths boiling
the air of donuts and chips wafts around the stalls
Frankie throws a pop bottle into the oily water.
Hoy! the river isn’t a waste bin.
Nana growls and stomps off.
A foreign lad plays lonely music
on his accordion, Frank watches him
he’s young, on his own
beside the bridge.

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The Pool

When Frankie wants to escape
he goes swimming –
the iPod in his head
shuts off –  he needn’t think
he sinks into water
and swims into the silence
of breathing and physical effort.

Today the pool is busy
he can’t lose himself
instead he finds
he’s looking at the other swimmers
young men with their mesmerising
bodies – he watches
secretly, aware
he shouldn’t stare
his own heat
rising
along with his confusion.

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The Poetry Prize

The year nines had an exercise in rhyme.
A poem, not more than fourteen lines,
the theme was open: freedom, love or war
and had to use a central metaphor.
Frankie’s was the best. His teacher thought
it should be printed in the Annual Report.
He wrote about a leather glove that had
lost its pair, took it home for Dad
to see, wanted him to know he’d won
the prize, to show approval for his clever son.
Frank gave it to him proudly; straight away
Dad put it down.  The paper went astray
and turned up later, a message scribbled on it,
coffee stained and torn.  It was a sonnet.

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Options

Paddy can’t wait to leave school.
They can’t teach me owt, he sneers.
Paddy’s going to do an apprenticeship.
He spends his spare time
with dad down the garage
he can clean a set of spark plugs
change the oil in a Fiesta
can drive, Dad taught him
except it’s illegal
so he rides an off-road bike
down the back lanes.
Mam thinks it’s stupid
Dad turns a blind eye.

Frank brings his report form home
Mam doesn’t really understand
lights a tab and stares
says: Micky, what der ye think?
He’s eating a bag of crisps
watching Deal or No Deal –
Frankie says: Miss Thoroughgood thinks that English
is my strongest subject.
Dad rolls his eyes:
Swimming, spelling, poetry
isn’t there anything useful
ye can choose?
Later Frank overhears Dad talking to Mam:
There’s nowt wrong with a physical skill
a trade sets you up for life:
plumber, electrician, mechanic,
they’ll always be needed
hard work, good rewards –
yer can even be yer own boss
if yer canny –
but swimming?
Any bugger can de that.
What can yer de with swimming ?

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Later that night

they’re all watching TV
Dad, Paddy, Frankie, Mam and Corinne
100 Golden Comedy Moments
an old episode
of Are You Being Served –
Dad says: Lookit that puff.
I’m Free! he copies and makes little steps
waving his hand, Paddy laughs his head off
real loud, Mam says nowt.

Then Frank gets up:
Want a cuppa?  to Corinne
Aye,
and she follows him into the kitchen.

Dyer want sugar?
Aye.
He’s banging the teapot
and the teaspoons around:

I hate it when me dad does that.

It’s meant ter be funny, she says,

It doesn’t make me laugh.

He pours boiling water into two cups
his favourite spiderman cup
and one with flowers on
they don’t say anymore
and just take their tea
up to Frankie’s bedroom
and listen to Coldplay.

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