Archive for ‘North/South’

22/09/2013

Belfast City (Airport Lounge)

 

There’s nothing here that’s left to say.

The street sides reek of other worlds.

An emptiness envelops us:

The bars are full, the hilltops dark.

 

There’s space between the cranes and stars:

A pile of other people’s trades,

So high it greets the tourist jets

With soulful songs of loss and regret.

 

The shops are full, the eyes are down.

I’ll walk a slightly longer route.

I don’t – and never will – belong.

I left and didn’t add a word.

 

The sun’s the same: it lights the glass

Of windows up The Falls to Whiterock.

 

 

 

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30/07/2013

High Summer at the Roman Fort (Mastile’s Lane)

 

I heard the ravens calling south,

And crows and jackdaws called as loud.

They tumbled off towards the scar,

And hung on uplifts by the cliff.

 

I heard the promise of the clouds,

The tick of wheatear, buzz of wire,

The ceaseless flowing of the grass,

The voice of bees, the songs of breeze.

 

The sounds were here, were always here,

Were here when Romans piled their stones,

And here to carry off the screams

Of sacrifice to temple gods.

 

I heard the ravens call the rain,

I heard them call through time again.

 

 

14/07/2013

From Northern Ports the Empire…

 

They call this place the Last of Hope,

The quayside packed with wailing folk,

Where Stoics stand and watch the boats,

And some will fight whilst others choke.

 

Behind the docks, the red brick spreads

And fills with cotton, coal and lead.

The brick turns black on chimney stacks,

Turns black on houses, back to back.

 

It wrenched its future from the fields,

From cottage mills and common lands,

And now it faces out to sea:

Enslaved, dependent, hanging on.

 

From lands which spill their ocean blood,

Come those who walk the one way street.

 

 

20/06/2013

Jesenica – Aberdare – Iron – Coal – 1913

 

The garlands of narcissi shone,

Amongst the regiments of steel.

From orange dust, in which they coughed:

Came building’s load, and railroad.

 

Just like the metal there was coal,

Which clogged the lungs, and coated souls,

And saturated hems and hopes

Of every waiting valley girl.

 

And from the margins built the calls,

Along the tunnels, from the slag,

Around the coke and winding sheds:

They sung the gallows, whispered war.

 

The patterns of despair were set

Across a Europe drowned in sweat.

 

 

20/05/2013

Where “L.A. Woman” Played

 

The black-walled flat – as damp as dark –

Where smoke and carpet merged and flowed,

And promise drained, and talent flayed

Its beauty with a knife of song.

 

And through the liquid of my eyes

I sensed the air begin its ebb,

It sucked another day to death:

A Hammond swirled, a poet curled.

 

The concrete stairwell, soaked in gold,

Was echoing a dusk or dawn,

As rain began corralling drains,

And woke that sleeper from its pains.

 

Out there a dog lay writhed in bones:

In dereliction, howled alone.

 

 

Remembering hearing LA Woman by The Doors in a squat in Blackburn, Lancashire, 1987.

02/04/2013

The Harrowing

 

1.

From sky to sky the furrows blew

Away untended in the wind,

And scattered, like the absent birds,

Accusing hoards of shattered bones.

 

And from those salted furrows spread

A desolation thick with ash,

Which cursed the earth and sun and stars:

It settled on the crops like rain.

 

The memories stopped, the histories stopped,

In lines of charred remains they stopped,

The furrows piled with families stopped,

The lines of generations cut.

 

The sky above was blue and cold,

As empty as this land was old.

 

2.

The breeze has blown the needles clean.

Along the ridgeways, through the parks,

Across the waste ground and the plains:

For some the stories never end.

 

The needles clean, the branches blown,

The avenues of memory quake.

The yew and cypress tremble through

The death of air, the fear of rain.

 

They bow before the emptiness,

They shiver with each final breath.

Each tale is one more silenced year.

The scars are needle sharp and old.

 

The echoes shake these moors and dales.

The trees are rattling day and might.

 

3.

To cleanse and wash away the stain

To put an end to all the pain

To purify and nullify

To simplify the tales to tell

 

To wipe the village, burn the land,

Erase the stories, strip the bones,

To hack and waste and salt the earth,

To foul the water, flame the corn.

 

To nail the poor inside their graves,

To open graves and hang the poor,

To starve and strip and flay the poor,

To throw the cannibals the poor.

 

The harrowing has turned the breeze,

The harrowing is shaking leaves .

 

 

27/03/2013

The Southern Pole

 

The reptile river winds its banks

Through stories deep as nightjar’s eyes,

Where crickets sing the moon its hymns,

And life comes writhing from the soil.

 

Each leaf has grown a thousand tongues,

And darkness glows with hummingbirds.

The air is water, steam and cloud,

The snake skin stream is hot to touch.

 

The frogs have tales of human feet,

Which ventured here and left no trace.

They smoothed the wriggling earth a while,

Then turned to rock, then back they turned.

 

Beneath these countless births and change,

The scream, the cry, the song remains.

 

 

27/03/2013

Exhibit

 

 

They dragged me from the peat at night.

Untied my hands, my feet, my soul.

They washed me, cleaned me, dried my eyes.

They took my braiding, took my sword.

 

I’d lain between the worlds untouched,

I’d spoken with the dead and proud,

I’d walked the path and swum the lake,

I’d soaked my blood in veins of earth.

 

They wrenched my body from its ghost,

They stripped it, left it hanging on,

Awoke it from its spirit sleep,

Displayed it as a trophy scalp.

 

I reach to try to catch your mind.

You stare, repulsed, but don’t respond.

 

 

27/03/2013

The Southern Way

 

We stand and watch the setting sun

Drag lines of brent geese to the marsh.

The hedges, fences, ditches, walls,

We’ll break them when the darkness falls.

 

Across the counties of the south,

We’ll rise as one to till the earth.

Communion held amongst the fields,

On common land, feed common mouths.

 

Across the span of time and space,

We reach to plant and cultivate.

With digging pamphlets, hoe and word,

We’ll turn the furrows in our land.

 

In battles for those Surrey hills,

We’ll fill the dark with freedom’s seeds.

 

 

27/03/2013

Beyond the Overland

 

They walked the ocean bed and leapt

The current springs and waves of kelp.

They drove their herds through bass and shad.

They camped beyond the lowering cliffs.

 

They wore the fronds of ocean tides,

The moon pulled threads of silken light.

The phosphorescent foam of waves,

Tied strings of pearls and amber beads.

 

Their songs would echo through  the streets,

Around the harbour walls and boats,

And those who heard were caught for life,

In nets or pots or harpoon wire.

 

Some say they came from further south,

From lands they sought but never found.

 

 

26/03/2013

The Long Man of Wilmington

 

The scratch of flint and skin of turf,

The chalk of lines wiped clean of birth,

Of suns, of inner lands and fire.

The bitter white of giant’s lives.

 

Emerging from the thinnest times,

The butterflies are etching tales.

Their ways beyond the track of man:

And man it was, and man they made.

 

They scraped the turf, they turned the turf,

They symbolised his wreck of turf,

A mastery of their eyes within:

Deluded sense of distant earth.

 

And there the yellowhammers sing,

And there the lark has taken wing.

 

 

26/03/2013

Fox on Pendle

 

How far? The shadows on the sea:

The pools of Irish light and rain,

The Dales, the Fells, the Lakes, the sky,

And heaven burning through those eyes.

 

The sodden feet where dotterel land,

The pounding heart where plover call,

The simple path, the vision scraped,

The buzzard circling overhead.

 

How far? From Israel to the mill,

From handloom to the broken hand,

And further still, the trees and hills:

He saw them, feared them, felled them, climbed.

 

How far? Beyond the passions’ reach:

As far as words and mysteries teach.

 

 

26/03/2013

A Half-Forgotten Hymn

 

Beyond our acid moors and smoke,

Where crags and limestone tooth the sky,

An empty hearted oak grew old

In downland forest, inward grown.

 

We stalk our moors and cough and choke,

Parade our bitterness and pride.

Puffed up with scars and open sores,

We gather all our people round.

 

We hear the oak may topple soon,

Its rotten roots are losing grip.

Its age once countless now counts down.

It stands alone, it stands forlorn.

 

Together we begin to sing

Our tuneless, half-forgotten hymn.

 

 

26/03/2013

Roman Fort (Mastiles Lane)

 

The winter nights had scarred the grass,

So daylight owls could scatter voles

By drifting up before the sun

And lazing on the barrack poles.

 

They came from many different worlds:

We saw them, heard them, speak in tongues.

They walked the land on rigid lines.

They sacrificed to moonless gods.

 

They came and raised their camp in view:

We’d smell the roasting fires at night.

They washed and burned the heavy rocks,

They drew their water from the spring.

 

The owl brings panic with its flight,

The Romans keep their torches bright.

 

 

24/03/2013

Questions on a Homeless Night

 

I wonder

 

Have you ever been alone?

Just you, a cliff, an empty sea,

A past and future lost for words,

A pallid memory of the sun.

 

To feel the swell of night’s updraft,

The pull of moon towards the tide,

The drag of skeletons in chalk,

The thought you never had the time.

 

And have you ever found the strength

In silence, stars and drifting gulls?

And knowing there is only you:

Just you, a cliff, an empty sea.

 

The silver waves and shingle roar:

I wonder, has your life meant more?

 

(Brighton, 1989)

 

24/03/2013

Rylstone

 

Up on the moor, beneath the crag,

A ruin rots its walls in rain,

The bracken shoots break through the rust

Of last years’ growth and crumbling rock.

 

The curlew’s call, reclaim the sky,

Await the screams of summer’s swifts.

This point round which disaster whirls,

Is still and calm and sorrow deep

 

They left the shell and took the heart.

From hanging hopes the stories drip,

From dropping ropes and sheering axe.

A ruin stands its speechless ground.

 

And every spring those curlews call,

There’s freedom here to question all.

 

 

24/03/2013

Second Hand Clothes

 

Across the car park cobbles shone,

Inverted haloes, drizzle formed,

Before I crossed the road I’d smell

The resin smoke and naptha rags.

 

Cravats and faded patterned shirts,

Cut off from history, cast adrift:

The gladioli, hearing aids,

The ancient fabrics, damp and cold.

 

Above a tape of Mark E. Smith,

Of Morrissey, The Doors and Cud,

The doorbell rang, the clothes rails scratched,

The northern rain kept up its beat.

 

It could have been a thousand years:

How many hands, how many tears?

 

 

(Blackburn, 1987)

 

24/03/2013

Degrees North

 

Beyond the north: a second north.

Beyond that north the memories fade,

And tales take hold of dark and ice,

Of endless nights, of swans in flight,

 

Of dead who walk with mirror step,

Of land where rock will crack and burn,

Of skies that burn, of snows that burn,

Of seas that swell with monster’s bones.

 

Beyond that north, there’s nothing more,

There are no dead, there’s nothing born:

The formless still, the waveless sea,

A void as deep as space is cold.

 

It’s in us all, that silent space.

It’s in our blood, it’s in our graves.