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At the back
of the coal wharf
you and Fay
picked up coal pieces

that fell through
the iron railings
and put them
in an old bag from home

Fay looked
at her blackened fingers
and said
if my daddy sees

these fingers
and finds out
what I’ve been doing
he’ll spank me

for sure
you gazed at her
beside you
and said

you can wash your hands
at my place
she looked around
at the bombsite behind you

the evening sun
slowly going down
behind the railway bridge
and nearby buildings

what if someone sees you
she asked
picking up these pieces?
no one worries about this

all the kids do it
you replied
my daddy says
it is evil to steal

she said
you put a black piece
of coal in the bag
and lifted it

to feel the weight
that’s enough
you said
too much

and I won’t be able
to carry it
Fay stood up
and looked around

at the darkening sky
you held the bag
in one hand
and scanned

the area around you
let’s go
you said
and so you both

walked away
from the coal wharf
into Meadow Row
by the public house

where piano music played
and down towards
the flats
where you lived

and after climbing
the concrete stairs
to your landing
you opened the door

and put the bag
by the indoor
coal bunker
and showed Fay

where to wash her hands
turning on
the cold water tap
you both washed

your hands
with the red
Life Buoy soap
her hands near yours

her wet flesh
touching yours
the black water
running away

and another adventure
and another day.


Terry Collett

Horsham, United Kingdom

  • Artist
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