Conor McMaster

by Ray Sheridan-Warburton

Conor McMaster drags himself home,
With shoe-soles thin as packaging foam.
Ears like coalmines, nails crumbling plaster,
‘Jus’ don’t wanna, Miss’, said Conor McMaster.

Shoulders stay up until the corner shop,
Got pot noodle for tea so he doesn’t quite drop.
Back out for the wind to chase through his bones,
‘Coats ain’t cool anyways’ he had mumbled to his toes.

He’s reached the front door and with a scrawny hand knocks,
Cracked knuckles leaving blood below the door knob.
Steps back and stares up for his brother to open.
– He’s not a latchkey kid if he can’t get in often.

His mother would be there (and so would his dad)
And it’s not like their circumstance is particularly bad.
It’s just his mother’s out working, with kids like him,
A bit cleaner and taller maybe, not so frightfully slim.

‘For M(r)s. McMaster’ the envelope reads,
And already he’s brought his nails to teeth.
The letter’s out, and so are his fears:
A compulsory school trip for all upper years.

That night, as he retreats into bed,
The letter’s ashes and a lighter are hidden by his head.
He shivers as he sees all he could have been,
And what he’d have to ask for if Mum was to be in.

Conor McMaster is a bright boy at heart,
Miss Croft knows this – has from the start.
Still, there’s only so much she can do
When there are papers to mark, and her bills are due too.