Tuesday, 10 May 2011


The Hoppings Comes to Town Moor

We set off straight after school:
four aunts, mam and a tank of a woman
who called herself Aunty Mary. I preferred
to stay close to Aunt Edie, unmarried and working
at the Co-op. A razzmatazz of lightbulbs flashed
around the moor like a painfree migraine. 
As the music grew louder we could see masses
of Lowry people all heading for the rides.
Chart-topping records invited us to join the party: 
Del Shannon, Brenda Lee and Elvis - Aunt Edie loved Elvis. 
As if battery-operated, two aunts began to bop.
Overcome by a warm cowpat, they stopped
and nipped their noses like synchronised swimmers. 
Scarier than the Ghost Train, the sight of Aunty Mary
in the Hall of Mirrors was - bewildering. Of course,
I wasn't allowed to ride anything dangerous
but the excitement of prize-bingo was infectious.
Aunt Martha hooked a duck; mam complained
about the lack of decent coconuts and we all took a shine
to the goldfish with black spots. We called it Billy
after Billy the Fish, da's best pal at the Black Bull. 
Emerging from the fortune-teller's moonlit caravan, 
Aunt Edie suggested it was time to leave -
Rosa Lee had obviously read the wrong script. 
All the way home, Aunt Edie hummed that song from G.I. Blues.
I could have told her, marrying Elvis was never on the cards.

Crossing Northumbria

i.m. William Brown, Netherton Colliery

Some people follow haunted steps 
to ancient castles
while others leave fleeting prints

on glorious beaches.
Cyclists pedal 
into a seagull sky as the road rises up

to meet the harbour,
where fishing boats wait
with bated breath, their reflections

dancing on the water.
Collier lads call 
from grassed-over graves:

Remember us, we clawed out a living
bare knuckled 
where children now play.

Yellow and greens pleat the open fields
as if a mother's hand has pressed waves.
The question 

on every poet's lips:
Where do I begin
to capture her spirit, her timeless beauty?