Dad’s Rant

Frankie’s head’s in a vice
Dad goes on and on about drugs
Gettin into bother
with the bizzies, worryin your ma
half ter death.
Frank’s not in the mood for his advice.
What about me brother?
Drinking pints and you think nothing of it?
A few pints is normal for a lad
but yee – yer tekkin all this funny stuff.
Mam is worried – I read it in the papers,
that marijuana stuff turns yer mad.
Mam, everyone does it.
I don’t says Dad,
An I never got brought home by polis
or embarrassed me ma like you.
I need a mug of tea, Frank turns to go
Dad grabs his arm:
You’ll lissen ter me.
While you live in My House
you’ll do as I say!
You never lissen ter me! Frankie shouts
That’s cause yer pissin about
wasting time at school.
I’ve got nee sympathy. Dad slams the door
Mam says:
Where’s my little Frankie gone?

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Techno Night

He’d lost Corinne
hours before, down the Red Room,
already drunk a load of vodka
when he meets Mac at Liquid –
he’s purple in the light
Hey – Frankie man, want some Special K?
he flashes a smile,
Aye, OK – yer only live once
That’s my man – you had it before?
Wey – yer in fer a ride !
and he flits away with Frankie’s cash.

At once he knows
he’s taken something strong –
he’s dancing on the moon, on the ceiling
at one point he’s screaming
I’m diving – down the K-Hole
the music curves away
mouths open and shut
shut shut, talking all this
shit shit shit, but
Frank is the eye of the storm
calm as a sea
while everyone else
swims around him
his legs begin to fade away
he has no body, he is

After a million years
standing like a rock
he wakes up in the back
of a patrol car.

The police take him
to his front door and knock.
It’s four am
Dad is cold, Mam bites her nails
makes him sweet tea.
The policeman says:
We picked him up at Central Station
trying to get money from a ticket machine.
He couldn’t tell us his name.

Dad says he’ll sort him in the morning
and goes to bed.

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Frankie goes to town

He grabs his jacket, his cash, his stash
hitches up his kecks and heads down
Westgate Hill. The wind blows
his muttered swear words
from under his breath. He’s walking
fast to keep warm. Out of the dark
a young lad steps forward:
Gotta light?
Frankie freezes -hesitates,
Aye then puts his hand
inside his pocket, gets out his lighter
clicks it – the boy leans over
his cheekbone lit yellow
a flame in his eye,
he takes a drag and looks at Frankie
smiles and winks.
Frankie pulls himself away,
as if a magnet’s holding him.
Have fun! a voice calls, he looks back
and sees a glowing tip in the dark.

He swings into The Head of Steam,
it’s smoky and loud
he spots Corinne in the crowd, she calls
Frankie! the girls all wave.
He’s ready for the night,
the earlier stuff at home pushed to the back
of his mind.
What’ll ye have? Corinne’s standing
at the bar, she looks the oldest.
Vodka and coke
What ye smilin aboot? she nudges him
Nowt – me an Paddy had a spat
he doesn’t mention the lad, the light.
Get this doon yer neck.
They clink glasses and Frankie
merges into the herd of girls.

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Corinne sends a text

Haway – mt in Pub @8
Frankie’s mam says
Don’t be late back
she takes a pull on her tab
she looks at Frankie
Yer will be back?
Aye mam – divvent fret
Paddy’s combing his hair in the mirror
Mebbe’s you’ll pull tonight
snorts and winks at himself,
Frankie puts one finger up
Hey says Dad.
Then Frankie realises
Hoy Paddy – that’s my best t shirt!
Yer haven’t worn it fer ages
I didn’t think ye’d mind
but Frankie grabs the neck and pulls
Give it back
Hey says Dad.

As Paddy swings round, his arm
hits Frankie, who loses it and throws
a punch at Paddy’s face.
Fuckin.. bastard.. Paddy grabs at Frankie
they topple onto the settee
Hey shouts Dad,
who grabs at flying fists
he roars Stop that right now!
Paddy slides to the floor, holding his jaw
the t shirt’s ripped, Divvy is his parting shot.
Dad grabs Frankie by the armpit, drags him up
and bellows in his face:
What’s up wi ye, ye radgie get?
Frankie’s pointing, panting
It’s mine, he had no right
Stop whining, yer like a kid.
Frankie bangs upstairs
He rings Corinne: I’ll be there, don’t go without me.

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Frankie’s feeling low

He calls on Mac the dealer
to buy some Tac.
Mac was in the year above Frankie
he never bothers
with school these days.
His fingers are tattooed
Love and Hate in inky blue
he’s got massive ears
and a small scar
on his cheek,
he does business
round the estate,
his phone rings
all the time.
His flat stinks of cat piss
but he has the latest DVD player.
He grins: Whey Frankie Man
hear yer went missing.

Na, neebody missed me.
I need some blow.

He claps him on the back
Here y’are son –
twenty for a Henry,
that’s some bad sativa
he hands him a packet of
leafy skunk.
You want owt else,
I’m yer man.

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A Dream

Frank’s in a giant swimming pool
swimming and swimming and swimming
but the other side doesn’t get any closer
the air is bluegreen, it shimmers
shapes shift and change.
He’s on a diving board
clouds drift round his feet or is it steam
rising from the pool ?
He wants to dive but he’s scared
his feet on the rough concrete of the board
there are lots of people in the water below
it’s so crowded he can’t find a clear space
people are shouting Come on, Dive !
It looks fun, he wants to so much
suddenly he’s falling and diving
and flying and floating
on very deep water; in its green flickering depths
he sees dark shapes moving slowly,
he’s heavy, can’t breathe, heart beating
men with shark’s teeth, with dangerous smiles
swim round him, jostling him.
One is Dad smiling, beckoning to him
he can’t hear what he’s saying.
he’s tired, grabs the tail of a man-shark
who pulls him along.
He likes the feeling under his hands,
smooth, powerful muscles,
grey slippery skin as it glides along
He’s riding it, embracing this shark body
firm between his thighs – they’re going faster
and faster,
bubbles and foam flash past his shoulders, arrowing up, they break the surface
the shark turns to look at Frank
it’s got a boy’s face
Frank wants to kiss that face, so he’s crawling
to reach it,
head full of bubbles, legs are jelly then his stomach explodes
and he wakes up tangled in sticky bed sheets.

He thinks about the face, then bites the pillow
so Paddy won’t hear his sobs.

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Nan’s House

is dark, and smells of tabs.
Her fingers are stained,
her teeth are brown, her mouth
turns down, like she disapproves
of everything.

Everyone’s careful what they say,
she takes offence dead easy,
her tongue will cut you like a knife,
her eyes miss nothing.
Frankie’s never heard her praise anyone
in his life – except the Queen
and maybe Margaret Thatcher.
And of course, The Pope
who’s more God
than God, in her opinion.

When he calls round she grunts
What you bin up to now?
Hiya Nan – he gives her a kiss
that she expects, but looks away
and doesn’t return.
I spose yer want a cup of tea?
Shall I make it?
Na! Keep yer messy fingers out me kitchen.
Yer lookin peaky, mind. Yer not
gettin that annyreksya are ye?
Yer Dad says yer foolin round wi drink.
She shrugs, On your head be it.
I’ve nee time fer wasters –
have a singin hinny.
She shoves a plate into his hands
with a flat cake on it,
How d’yer like yer tea?
Three sugars, thanks Nan.
Three? That’s too many,
what, d’yer think I’m made of sugar?
I’ll gi yer one ana half. Why
did yer run away?’
He wasn’t expecting that
he gulps and stares, no-one’s
asked him straight out before.

Why, eh? Nearly drove
yer Ma and Da mad.
No Nan. Dad doesn’t give a shit.
She swipes him with the back of her hand.
Language, boy. That’s not true.
You don’t know the half of it.
He backs away, but says again
He doesn’t care about me at all.
Yer need ter talk ter someone –
Father Michael is a good man.
He’ll set yer right.
Frankie clears his throat and wonders what to say.

Running away doesn’t make troubles disappear.
Only when yer turn and face them. God’ll help,
my faith kept me on the right track
when I had troubles.
What troubles, Nan?

There are footsteps in the hall, a voice
calls: I’ve got yer shopping!
It’s Aunty Dolly, Corinne’s mam
Hiya Frankie, she beams, Any tea in the pot?
That’s right, take a poor pensioners provisions.
Aunty Dolly rolls her eyes at him,
How yer doin? she smiles.
He’s lookin peaky, drinkin,
running wild. He’ll drive his family
into an early grave. Nan crosses herself,
Typical teenager then, says Dolly
and winks at him. Here Frankie, pet
would you put this stuff away?
Have ye got a tab, Mam?

He hears Nan grumble as he goes down the hall
to the kitchen.
He’s putting tins in the cupboard
thinking he can get off home
now that Dolly’s here. He doesn’t
want Nan asking more questions;
outside the sitting room door
he hears his name, he stops and listens:

..they should be more strict.
He needs help Mam, he’s a troubled lad.
All the more reason. Turning out like
you know who, may he burn in hell.
The world’s changed since Grandad’s day –
Nan raises her voice: Not for me it hasn’t!
and what sort of husband did ye have? Never there.
My husband’s dead, Mam.
Aye, exactly. On the rigs, divorced, then dead.
I did no better than you, then!
he hears Aunty Dolly reply
and icy solid silence fills the room.
Frankie coughs and shouts I’m off. Tarra.
He’s out the door before they can say any more.

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The Baths

He sees dark wet footprints along the side
the canoes stacked like logs
all those other swimmers –
are they wondering about him ?

Outside the north wind blows,
over the river there’s a church steeple in Swalwell
inside it hisses with heat
Metro radio distorts in the slap of water.

He thinks of Nana, her stiff iron hair
how she sings the wrong words to pop tunes
in the kitchen that hisses and steams
the wet walls when it’s cold outside.

Mam said – Stop by, see yer Nan
she’s been askin after you.
So he promises he will, after
he’s swum himself into a better mood.

Frankie takes a long time
soaping himself, with shower gel
washing his hair, scraping his arms
and legs until they’re red,
he wants to feel clean
wash away
the last two weeks.

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is what he remembers:
did he like it? or was this feeling Hate?
Frankie didn’t like Ned, his breath smelling of smoke
like Nana’s house; he kept thinking
of yellowing net curtains.
His roughness and impatience
the bulge in his trousers
the small ketchup stain on his shirt
his sharp stubble.
He said Frankie gave him signs, wouldn’t take no for an answer.
He was revolting and yet deep down
Frankie was curious
which revolted him even more.

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