The notebook fell out of the top draw of a chest cracked during last decade’s move.

I expected the leather to flop to the floorboards softly, but gravity was strong that day
and it hit hard with a thwack. Despite its age, it stayed bound together.
Contained in the creamed pages were records of cracks that had shattered whole buildings.
A school – if you could call it so when it never had enough exercise books
for children to learn their right-to-left lettering.
A lack of pages didn’t matter when the roof came off.

I turned over a rumpled corner and in a faded photograph
scared eyes confronted me from a bed,
where he lay desperate because he lacked the armour-vest that my pen allowed me to wear
with the scrub-green helmet I’d sometimes wished covered my eyes
so that I needn’t have seen the playground smothered in rubble and the light dust
that was still engrained in the paper, along with the scratched phonetics of his name.

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