We talked about you all the time.
Dan said he saw you ironing cellophane.
I said you’d let me hold a thousand pounds.
We found a hollow-soled shoe.
My cousins loved your tricks.
They’d follow the lady, search your sleeves,
blow luck into your fist. Mum called you a croupier.
At school I said you drove a cab.
Most days you were back at dawn.
I watched through a crack as you slept,
a hump of blankets in the purple light,
the smell of sweat.
I saw you once Dad, knelt over cards,
strewn on the floor, panic in your face.
For God’s sake, Chick, you said.
You couldn’t do the marks.
Then, each Tuesday, £16.30 – a paper,
tobacco, one hand of Kalooki. You sunk
into the settee like you’d been kicked there,
shouted in the bathroom, asked me for money.
At the wake, a ring of phlegmy men
with yellow eyes and meaty skin, told me
what your name meant, placed the ace of hearts
across your coffin, flowers shaped as dice.
Hannah Lowe, Chick (Bloodaxe Books, 2013)Reproduced with permission of Bloodaxe Books. www.bloodaxebooks.com