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David Woodhead

Not That Boy


He’s not that boy, 9 years old, who dares not sleep, swims in piss, cloying, cold, strips the bed, soaked and stinking, the mattress beneath, damp to the touch, rancid to the nose / mother hits hard, you little prick, grandmother grabs by the back of the head and rubs his face in it, like one of the dogs, he’ll think twice next time / pays for washing powder with pocket money, GP prescribes drugs, goes to Boots for paper sheets, the woman in the white coat laughs at him and walks away / wants school to end, to escape his ever-dwindling friends, taunted because he smells of mushy peas, teachers tell him to change his socks, ashamed / drags his feet all the way home, fears yellow sodden bedding in a cold water sink - wash it, wring it, hope it’ll dry - scared to drink, afraid to speak / stretches the evening as long as he can, lonely in his room, crying and queer. He’s not that boy, 13 years old, who dares not sleep, swims in piss, cloying, cold