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Sport 16: Autumn 1996

Round the Block

page 98

Round the Block

Part 1

The child who’s been told she is a born liar
Has a solemn respect for the truth.
She knows what it is. She goes out on her scooter,
Coasts down the hill to the factory wall.

She stands on her scooter on tallest tip toes.
She grips the rough wall with her fingertips hard
Till it hurts. She can’t reach the window.
Turning around she remembers her friend.

Faith has red hair and lives with her granny.
The woman is old like the little girl’s mum.
Unlike her, she smokes, and will die soon, of cancer.
The little girls played down here one week ago.

The child took her doll in an apple-box pram.
‘This is Mum’s baby,’ she told her friend Faith.
‘You’re a liar,’ said Faith, biting her on the shoulder.
Then the child knew they would not meet again.

Mum had said Faith was ‘illegitimate’.
The child was prepared to be that word too.
Dad lifted her once to see through the window.
A grey-coated man held a pink plastic leg.

‘That’s where they make limbs for soldiers who’ve lost theirs.’
The little girl knows some good uses for lies.
If truth is a thing that’s too hard to look at
A good lie’s a comfort, a smart pair of trousers.

page 99

Part 2

She scoots down the lane past the Bowling Club.
The green is hidden by another high wall.
Bowling’s a game played by white-clothed old people.
Will she wear white clothes and play bowls when she’s old?

There are jewels that she likes by the Plastics Place,
Bright heaps the other kids haven’t seen yet.
Today she is lucky, she picks up a threepence.
Lollies will help her to climb Pirie Street.

With her pocket of treasures she passes the Parthenon,
Legendary place, and so close to home!
Greek children go there to learn Greek. The child
Speaks fake Greek because it makes Mum and Dad smile.

Pirie Street is very steep. The little girl goes slowly up.
Faith doesn’t come out of her house.
The child gasps, her sweat trickles down.
When she’s nearly done, she gets to the top.

The long, smooth cruise down Brougham Street
Is worth the difficult struggle up.
Her muscles shake. ‘Just balance and ride,
Don’t lower your foot till you get to the Flats.’

The Ionian Flats are close to home.
No Ancient Greek comes out today.
She’s into her street, and the ordinary house
Opens its mouth and swallows her down.