when that needed be

my first school

was downtown

& we all had the same

nothing

& plenty of that

which made us kids similar

pitching in to share

whatever we found or stole

& nobody grassed

because we knew already

how tough life was

without bringing more shit

into it

& then we moved

to find myself amongst

kids who had more than nothing

it was here I first found snobbery

& that teachers loved rich kids

over poor ones

when that needed be

the other way round

whose

caught sight of you

coming out of a

downtown supermarket

as ever

your man carrying your bags

you looked ok

considering

& I wondered idle

who he was

whose money

you were drinking on now

whose car

you were slowly wrecking

walls gateposts ditches

were always your nemesis

that & putting oil in the things

I drove away slow

thankful

you were not in my rearview

anymore

paid hard

paid hard

for the simplest things

you know

everything costs the poor more

in hard earned cold coins

scraping the edges of my tired hands

in the giving over

for each minor mistake

I felt the lash on my bent back

pushing me along

go further along steel tracks

find something there

you can’t be here amongst us

try over again make like new

no accidents here

no missspokes misunderstands

no walking it back

responsibility is only

really there for the low

& I hear them uptown singing now

justice does not apply to me

& I’m wondering why my back teeth ache

this hot anger ebbs & flows

while downtown

only the gospel choir really knows

Howard XXXXX is a fornicator

indeed

Howard was the head the principal

of the art & design college

I taught remedial maths english at

one end of a long summer term

the kids turned his office into scout camp

complete with wash line glowing fire

artfully artificially constructed of course

as knowing reference that he slept there

nights he never quite made it home

keeping a sleeping bag under his chair

one morning the sixth floor windows

spelt out one letter per panel pane

facing downtown the busiest city street

artfully completed in Baskerville old face font

spelt HOWARD XXXXX IS A FORNICATOR

by one of the design lecturers cuckolded

by his wife & Howard in nights before

we understood he had some feelings about this

& appreciated he’d put effort thought

into the project worthy of his skills

still talking

bottle of pink

rose d’anjou was all I could afford

wandering down to yours

walking slow through downtown

bricked up doors metal gridded stores

wondering just what

I was getting myself into

unaware you were thinking

much the same

& we saw each other

for just a little while

recognising we were

better friends than lovers

keeping in touch over time

to see you three months before

before you died

& y’see?

I’m still talking to you

today

suddenly I see me

waiting for the woman

outside a downtown cafe

we’re to go have coffee

& suddenly I see me

coming out of a shop

another walking down the street

those fellas sitting on benches

these chaps chatting with friends

I am everywhere

tens of me

cluttering up the place

& I could be any of these men

this one those him being around

if I had taken a different path

met other people

stayed longer there

run away sooner with her

cut my hair short

put in that sad side parting

stayed on at school

made black my colour

asked for more

settled for less

& she arrives smiling

what’cha thinking about?

oh nothing I say

just watching the world go by

as we decide on flat whites today