Young Girl at the Drop-in Centre

She turns up most days in ripped neon tights
loose-buttoned tops, shorts and scraped back hair,
flicks cigarette-ends at cars without a care
and laughs, teasing the boys and fuelling fights.

Today she slips through the glass door, bites
her lip, shrinks into a battered plastic chair
stares out the window as if we’re not there
and chews loose wool-ends, hair bristled as rice

straw. On one side a freshly swollen cheek
is turning purple. She shifts back and fore,
avoids eye contact. Her trainers draw a maze

in the carpet. She looks up, as if to speak,
but stops herself, turns her eyes to the floor.
Nothing to do, but throw away the days.