A bedsit room above a street
I’ve known since childhood.
(This poem comes from childhood.)
The street is known for drugs
A taxi driver recently
told me about a fare he drove
to and from a crack house on that street.
(I can’t write “crack house” unsmilingly.
It’s just a funny phrase, like “batty boy”
or “government integrity”.)
An emaciated woman leant
in the doorway.
She wore a loose bathrobe,
the merest courtesy
hiding her breasts and bones.
The bedsit as I picture it
was up a flight of ratty steps
and somehow so crushingly sad
I wanted to flee.
My mother, for whom appropriate talk
was never quite a skill,
sat me on the bed and chatted about
the man next door, found dead,
his body blue. Heroin overdose.
It must have been the ‘90s because
she offered to read me Ghost Camp,
a horror novella for kids.
If I saw that book today - paperback
binding, red slime background,
cover illustration of
a girl walking to camp
behind a troop of ghost children,
invisible but for their clothes -
I’d fall backwards through memory
and be in that bedsit again.