Fay By The Thames

We looked down
at the Thames
from the Embankment

the river was dull
the day overcast

Fay peered down
at the water
people have drowned
in that water
she said
sometimes by accident
but mostly by choice
you know suicide

I peered
at the flowing water
one of Dickens' novels
begins on the Thames
I said
I think they used
to pull dead bodies
out of the water
and claim the booty
if there was any

I can't imagine
wanting to drown
in that dirty water
she said

I don't suppose
the water matters
if you're going
to snuff it
I said

Daddy says
that people
who are suicides
go to hell
Fay said

I guess people
who take their lives
think they're
in Hell already
I said

I pray for souls
in Purgatory
she said
the nuns at school
say we must
do you pray
at your school?
she asked

only for lessons
to be over quickly
I said

she frowned at me
I mean real prayers?

not real prayers
the boys repeat
what they're told to
but it don't
mean much
I said

I hope people
pray for me
if I go
to Purgatory
she said anxiously

what makes you think
you'll go to this
Purgatory place?
I asked

Daddy says I will
because I'm not good
she said

you're OK
you'll go to Heaven
if there is
a place like that
I said

of course there is
she said
gazing at me
don't you believe
there is?

I haven't thought
about it
but if you say
there is
I guess so
I said

she looked
at the river again
her fair hair moving
in the mild wind
her blue eyes fixed
on the water

if you go to Heaven
then I want
to be there too
I said
or Purgatory
or wherever you are
she looked at me

she asked
why with me?

how I feel
I guess ought

you to feel like that?
we're only 12 years old
and you're
a non-Catholic
and my daddy
doesn't like me
to be with that type

you're with me now
I said

but I shouldn't be
she said

why are you?
I asked

the water looks cold
she said
and so filthy too

I nodded my head
I wanted to kiss her
but didn't
and thought
what is a boy
(Catholic or not)
to do?

by Terry Collett

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