am, pm by Sharon Larkin

She decides to face the wrath of her teachers

rather than try to silence the conscience

she knows will scream at her in the night.

At five to nine, Ellen turns back from school gate

to bus station, to pay her forgotten fare.

He knows she’s waiting in the rain

but he’s up to his neck, might as well

drown for sheepish grin as lame excuse.

At five to three her dad pops into Betfreds,

places his last tenner on Wet Nelly in the 3.30.

Full Body Protection by Sharon Larkin

There was always a choice:

a salvo of excuses

or retreat at the double.

Both tactics were practised

during the long years of war.


But words are fuel

and fleeing could mean

hot pursuit up the stairs

to be thrown on the bed,

hands grasping your windpipe.


A more pragmatic response –

to mimic a flower, sensitised to storms,

closing petals before the rain of ammo,

or to abandon radio silence,

take cover between piano & sofa –


a junior squaddie

anticipating annihilation,

screaming for back-up

from make-believe reserves,

imagined reinforcements


with more modern armour

against bombardment than

barbute, sallet, bevor, helm,

gorget, pixane, pauncer, vambrace,

poleyn, tasset, gousset, greave.


Sharon Larkin has an MA in Creative and Critical Writing and is Chair of Cheltenham Poetry Society. Her subjects include the natural world and ecology, all things Welsh, spiritual searching, the corporate world, asymmetric relationships and eating disorders.