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'Sex Education at Boots' by John Lancaster

Updated: Nov 17



So it’s the old hydraulics then? said the pharmacist

blowing my anonymity to prescription queuers

reducing an intended whisper to a croak:


This Viagra: does it work?

Every time, sir. Never fails.

I believe you can get it over the counter?

Only if I take two, sir. He smiled


and to a choir of titterers and a woman mumbling

it disgusting in a man my age, I coloured up,

fled ashamed as if escaping again from youth club

laughter when they twigged that I knew nothing

of pulling or going all the way or muff diving

or getting slacked off or trying it on or full sex or

a good feel in the field with experienced Phoebe –

who wouldn’t let me near her with a cattle-prod. Me,


still trapped, stumbling through their maze of codes,

zig-zagging to another exit past Fetherlites and lubes

racked like those phobias I dream of curing. I mean,

what is ‘full sex’? Will I get stroking of hair and hands

and a back that quivers at my touch as I tuck in the label

of a blue summer dress like novels imagine? And

a cupped tummy rising and falling faster and faster

with a weight pressing down till it must explode?

Will there be a window spilling sun on a downy neck?

Will I not feel shame at undressing in that light?



All rights. John Lancaster.


John Lancaster has been a runner-up in the National Poetry Competition and is author of five poetry collections including The Barman (Smith/Doorstop) and Potters: A Division Of Labour which won the inaugural Arnold Bennett Book Prize in 2017. He is a jazz trombonist and lives in Totnes, Devon.








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