and in the shop…
poetry collection –
Ben was a Belfast greengrocer’s helper with an
endearing cowlick and trusting eyes.
After school on weeknights he put tins of peas
and tuna on shelves
And swept the wooden floor at closing. Why?
For the work experience and a few bob.
He was well liked there. You could hear it in the
career shop-girls’ sighs,
And in the shopkeeper’s praise for him – praise
the girls never got themselves.
Aoife and Tara were both twenty-two, with brutish
husbands who drank and made them sob.
Ben’s world was soon to open up. His place at Queen’s
was almost assured.
Their worlds, by age eighteen, had shrunk down to
almost nothing – tiny pay packets,
Loutish men, grubby furniture, hidden bruises and
one squalling, red-faced baby each.
Ben knew he had advantages and a way out. But still,
he always had a cheery word.
The shop-girls could barely imagine his life of
lessons and tennis racquets,
Of poetry and concerts, clean linen and August
bank holiday weekends at Carnlough beach.
Aoife and Tara tried to resent him; oh, they tried
very very hard,
But something like love, though not quite, got in
the way. They just couldn’t.
After all, he stopped to admire mom ’n’ toddler selfies
on their mobiles almost every day!
Then matters took a bad turn. Late one evening,
out back, Ben dropped his guard.
Behind a stack of boxes, Aoife kissed him roughly
and touched him where she shouldn’t.
He could have pulled her hand out, but
something even less like love got in the way.
Tara told Aoife’s Bill who cracked Ben’s skull open
with a flowerpot and tore off his ear.
There were witnesses and a trial, but all Bill got
was a year.