Corinne worries about Frankie’s safety

Frankie says: Yer never think
it will happen.
When I go out now
I try ter judge the situation
before it goes too far.
Like a layer of skin’s
been taken off –
I feel bare,
scared but
ye still have ter step out
that front door every day
otherwise they’ve got yer
every which ways.
At school people joke
Walked into a lamppost?
Fell down drunk?
Ee look at yee!
He gets off PE again too.
In English Miss Thorogood
asks if he’s all right, concerned
that he will miss more school:
Remember exams
are only six weeks away.
She hands out sheets
headed Revision Plan,
including extra lessons after school.
Corinne and Frankie stay behind
and practice writing essays
with last years questions.
Walking home in the lighter evening
they talk about poetry and what might come up:
Why does everything happen at once?
I want to go ter the Youth Group
get on the scene,
but I’ve got ter catch up on course work
and do GCSEs.

Frankie man, it’s only a few more weeks of graft; then we get out freedom.

Frankie shifts his bag to the other shoulder
heavy with books, he looks at her:
And there’s still that whole Grandad thing.

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Next Week at Youth Group

all the lads are sympathetic,
Frankie sips a coffee
in between Jordan and Derek
Why me? I didn’t de a thing.
Fact of Life, my friend.
It’s tribal – you know, Us and Them
any excuse, any difference,
Gay bashing.
It hasn’t marred
your beauty. Derek smiles,
Jordan leans over,
When I had brown bread sarnies
or rice salad for lunch, the other
kids would sniff and say:
Ooh, that’s so Gay
What’s gay about rice?
It happens to the best of us
says Simon: Welcome to our world.

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Then Corinne calls round

I’ve just heard! Yer Ma said
yer were in a fight, says yer look
a real sight. Oh, does it hurt?
Only when I laugh, he grins
lopsided. Paddy rolls another one,
wafting smoke out the window.
What happened? she says and takes a drag
hands it to Frankie, who looks at Paddy,
I think they did it cause I’m gay,
Paddy protests:
But yer not, yer kna,
poofy, like on the telly;
yer act, well, normal –
well, nearly.
Corinne starts to giggle
then Paddy does too
and Frankie joins in
saying Ow, ow!

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In Frankie’s bedroom

Paddy’s got some gren,
Frankie’s resting his chin
on his knees
hugged in to his chest,
outside the sky is red and purple
as his bruised eye.
Paddy’s rolling a big one
he stops and looks real hard:

Frankie, are ye gay?
There’s just the paper’s rustle
a lighter’s click, a drawn in breath
one long moment, then Frank says Aye.
Paddy lets go his blow
in one soft sigh:
Makes sense.

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Dad’s angry

when he comes in:
Ye should be more careful!
What were ye doin?
Havin a haircut.
Dad tuts, disgusted, insists:
Yer need ter act more tough
stand up for yerself.
Paddy won’t always be there
ter pull yer outta trouble.
Mam blazes:
Mickey, for god’s sake!
Yer cannot blame the lad for this!
They’re all silent, watching
as she takes her tabs and lighter,
goes next door to Dolly’s.
Dad slams the door into the sitting room
Frank and Paddy slip upstairs.

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Paddy supports him

as he limps to the Walk In centre
at the General; an Xray
shows no broken bones.
The nurse tuts as she cleans him up:
You’re lucky, just missed your eyeball,
as she sticks on butterfly strips
It’ll hurt a bit. Don’t be alarmed
when the bruising comes out,
you’ll look quite colourful.
Use paracetamol it it gets too bad.
She sends them off with a leaflet
on concussion.
What am a gonna tell Dad?
Paddy looks at him:
What d’yer mean?
Frankie hesitates:
Well, yer kna, why I was picked on?
Paddy shrugs:
Lads are always kicking off
on match day. It’s nowt.

Oh my god!
Mam sees Frank’s face
his half-closed eye,
his taped-up brow
and bloodied nose:
What happened?
Mam turns his face gently
examining it –
Oh pet, you don’t deserve it.
Suddenly she’s sobbing
holding a tea towel up to her eyes,
Mam. Don’t.. says Frank,
he’s never seen her cry like this,
he puts an arm around her;
muffled by the tea towel she says,
The last few months. All too much.
I’m ok. Really. Nothing broken.
Why? Who did this?
Paddy cuts in:
Stupid radgies – drunk
in football strips.
Lucky I came along.

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Frankie takes a punch

smack on the nose, a fist
lands in his stomach
empties him of breath
he doubles over
an elbow
catches his neck
he falls on his knees
there’s one kick
to his head
he’s seeing spots
and spitting blood
flat out on the grit
can’t think straight
someone’s shouting
feet running
raucous laughter
the world is spinning

Frankie man, are ye ok?
through half closed eyes
he sees Paddy’s shoes

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Cuts and Blows

Saturday, Frank is sitting
in the queue at Fan Barber’s
waiting for a trim.
There’s a match on and as the door
opens, the crowd’s roar floats
from St James’ Park. When the young
barber turns to see who’s next
a thin lad in a peaked cap
stands up alongside Frank.
They both move forward,
Frank stops and looks,
the lad glares back:
I was forst, man.
Frankie knows he wasn’t
but doesn’t argue.
The lad sits in the chair
removes his cap
for the electric shaver
to do its job. Frankie’s cross
but says nowt. When the lad
is done, he throws a word
at Frankie as he walks past.
Frank’s not sure, thinks it was Hom
but the barber is waiting
and the lad has gone.
Twenty minutes later
Frank steps out into the chill
of the afternoon, looks down
Westgate Hill, thinking about Derek
and the Youth Group, when he turns
the corner there are three lads
one with the peaked cap.
Frank has to pass them to get home,
he gets the old familiar racing pulse
but can’t turn back, they all move
as one towards him. Surrounding
Frank, they start to push
they have him in an arm lock
force him down a back lane.

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Frankie rides home on the bus

He walks in the door carefully
doesn’t want to talk, be seen

he feels as if it’s written in ten foot letters
where he’s been this evening.

He looks in the mirror
as he cleans his teeth,

amazed at his face, leans close:
Derek thought you were cool

his white foamy grin
beams ear to ear.

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