When I was five I suffered greatly from the cold,
despite wearing warm mittens on elastics.
Sometimes I’d run home to mother
with icicles hanging from my bare knees
and frozen tears on my cheeks….

…then I met Janice, an older woman
(she was six, at 4’2″ a head and shoulders above me)
and every inch an arsonist.

I immediately knew she was different.
She taught me how to play with matches,
we joined the Bryant and May Club
and subscribed to Swan Vestas Weekly.

We started with small twig bonfires by the river,
then graduated to litterbins.
Oh the joy of the colour of flame
curling round things
black bubbles
columns of soot
thick as thieves!

We thought of trying petrol tanks
but decided to wait until we were older
and could handle it properly.

Then one day we set fire to a whole cornfield.
The Fire Brigade had to come
and interview my mum…
…she skelped my bum
and sent me to bed
with no supper.

Lying there
I felt so much warmer
round the bottom
and at the bottom
of my burning heart.

Janice grew up to be 6’6″
and every inch a role model
for terrorist men.
She became an IRA trainer
but I never saw her again.






















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