Equals

I thought you lived in a castle

It wasn’t just the way in which you said
you lived on the twelfth floor

as if you owned a castle: in Deptford,

the thin soles of those canvas slip-ons
four sizes too big,
second or fifth or thirty-fifth hand
and rusted about the buckles; that
cotton coat with not even mesh for lining,
those gloveless fingers and wool tights
with more holes than wool;

that breakfastless vomit you showed me.
You showed me your stomach
has another purpose

you don’t understand. You say
mother told you that.

In those canvas shoes, you spin around
all beads and dreads. You bounce higher
on that empty stomach than the others.
And then you nod off.
Suddenly.
Sat up. With those others. All of you
in that cycle: freshness. Exhaustion. Hunger.
Excitement. Luck. Poverty. Love. Abandonment.
Attention-seeking.

Attention-seeking.

I understand why and when
you do it. I don’t want to turn you away too.
The power is not mine. It rings

like a telephone
when it wants; at four, your distraction
is not linked to the financial state of you.
At eleven it is.
At fifteen, criminality welcomes.
At eighteen, they talk of inevitability.

They didn’t know you at four.
You were untouchable. Not broken.

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