Sunday, 25 September 2011

Grainger Market 1970

Cold red meat laid to rest
on white marble slabs.

Stinking cheeses
and farm fresh eggs.

Flowers for all occasions:
Red roses, white lillies.

Naval oranges
and golden delicious.

Mouth-watering music
from the records stand.

Catherine Graham

Friday, 23 September 2011


this is life
the gloss and the flesh
weigh-house of passion and flame

you can get lost in this market’s amazement
but you can never lose yourself

a sleep-walk in these grazing crowds
can feel like a stroll through your brain

Keith Armstrong

A city
within a city

light cage

bazaar and blind
these swollen alleys

flow with a teeming life’s blood

Geordie !

Swim for your life !

Keith Armstrong


You, Grainger Market, aged Patriarch,
Quaint backdrop of our childhhod’s crazy dawn.
Edwardian giantess; stiff, grounded Angel.
From Nun Street, still, your steel-webbed dentures gleam.
Uplifted shop-flanked avenue, curved arches,
Our fathers and grandfathers here were green.
The cool, invidious housewife with crooked elbows
Takes pleasure home in bags. Years melt between.

Butchers, optician, chemist, haberdashers;
The cleaver’s clang, the swish of brush or broom;
The General Weigh-house – favourite of grandmothers,
The flower’s faint breath, the laurel’s undying gloom.
The scent of amorous bouquets, vague Death’s pungent smell,
Tropical fruits, leather, split carcasses;
The musty smell of bodies and old books
Mingling with odours rank and chemical.

The sound of clanging voices, shuffling feet,
Clamour and movement, taut, mechanical;
The thrust and press of bodies, sweat and heat;
Excitement, lifting, falling, like a church bell.
The present and the past; authentic life
Moving out of estrangement and blank streets
Into white wishes and Epiphany
A near event, cancelling death and pain.

Insouciant childhood hours, swift adolescent years
Are spectral here, rustling fusty leaves
In secondhand book-shops, fingering with more
I light this candled Altar’s eulogy to You
Heart of the dreaming city; mine and yours.
Knowing that in you halts the great encounter
That though all else may change: you will be ours.
You, Grainger Market, aged Patriarch
Across the desert of the years are gazing
Like Abram from his tent, while Angels come,
And in the cool evening – you remember.

What bones in city graveyards are forgetting,
What stiff-necked statues can no longer praise,
Life’s natural fulfilment, love’s tender joyous giving
You, place of meeting, from oblivious raise.

Faint Memory’s penumbra echoing
Through wrought-iron gates of shuttered evening:
Your Great Heart almost motionless, unheard, unseen
Is waiting yet the days axed by no planner’s
Bald and concrete dream.

Alan C. Brown


In the light of winter they shovelled your snow,
And banged their hands in the lantern’s glow,
Now, as then, from village and town
To the city they tumble in suit and gown.
And the mice ran merry in booth and rafter,
Top-hatted the street-cabs’ careless laughter,
From ox and fen and chicken pen
They took their tally and bartered like men.
Now the muddy ways are back again
And the town reshapes round the planner’s pen;
New things for old, black stones buy gold,
One by one sooty buildings come into the fold.
Who’ll by my town ? Who’ll buy my town ?

A sample of water straight from the Tyne,
“Chateau de Jesmond Dene” potent as wine,
A thirty three bus complete with its crew
Has rarity value – the graffiti’s brand new !
Who’ll buy my town ? who’ll buy my town ?

Ring out the old and ring in the new –
Here’s grass from the Moor freshly chewed by a cow
And the breath in the bottle’s a love word I knew.
Buy these footsteps, these gestures, these columns of print,
Buy these births, deaths and marriages, make your eyes squint.
Here’s a two, here’s a two, your bingo card’s up
And this baby’s for you.
Thro away town ? Throw away men ?
Who’ll put my market together again ?

Here’s perfume from Africa made by a witch,
Some strikers for matches, the matches, the foreman’s got a stitch.
Three golden whippets mounted on coal,
A genuine facsimile of Robledo’s goal.
Come and buy, come and buy, put hairs on your chest,
Here’s a fossil pork-pie from the old Crow’s Nest,
An unwashed glass from the old Dun Cow for your throttle
And the whole of Sandyford Road in a bottle !

Come and buy, come and buy,
Throw away streets ! Throw away men !
Who’ll put Newcastle together again ?

Change your fancies, your fashions,
Your records, your love
Change your stones, change your rings, this is your glove;
It fits you now as it fitted you then,
Throw away town ? Throw away men ?
Who’ll put my market together again ?

Two pence off this, three pence of that,
With every new car you get a free cat,
Thousands of stamps and a free flying bat.
Throw a way garbage, throwaway streets,
Five dozen varieties, folding seats.
Come and buy, come and buy, liquorice allsorts, fine potted meats

Throwaway town ? Throwaway men ?
Who’ll put my market together again ?

Jim Greigh


bred in a market arch
a struggle
in a city’s armpit

that flower
in your time-rough hand’s
a beautiful girl in a slum alley

all that kindness in your face

and you’re right

the time are not what they were
this England’s not what it was

flowers shrink in the crumbling vase
dusk creeps in on a cart

and Maud the sun is choking

Maud this island’s sinking

and all that sleeping sea is

the silent majority


Keith Armstrong


Crucifixes of woven ferns,
haloes of blossoms, the floral
appurtenances of death
heaped in gaudy profusion
along tiers of artificial
grass; giraffe-necked vases
spitting sprays of purple
rushes into scent-crammed air.

Beneath a high roof of cloud-
mottled glass an alley of
commercial swamps glares sultry
luxuriance against grey crowds.

For blazing lovers, bunched and
be-ribboned roses glossy
with tears; brittle sheaves of
bluebells for strewing at
the feet of plaster saints;
odoriferous conglomerations
of colours guaranteed to
bring soporific bliss
to hushed terminal wards;
tribes of hot-house orchids
mauled by leprous dusts,
vivid petals tumbling
onto the backs of snoozing cats.

From musty shadows discreet
rows of memorial urns shine
their golden R.I.P.’s
upon passing immortals.

Michael Wilkin


Lanes of slit carcasses,
black blood swallowed by sawdust;
vagabond dogs loaf around
mounds of discarded entrails.

Hares and rabbits strung-up
in precise military rows,
neat bullet-holes glimmering
like medals through scorched fur,
the idiot grins of death
suspended from gleaming hooks.

Bundles of sparkling plumage,
trussed pheasants hovering
above trays of glittering guts.

Venison for asking,
purple tongues loll
from crushed mouths,
city children gaze
into eyes brimful
with the quietude
of ghostly forests.

Apprentices swab scarred
chopping-blocks, weals
of caked reds
streak their aprons;
whistling, they muscle
barrow-loads of decapitated
pigs through ambling crowds.

A Venus of the cleaver
stuns my heart, a loud rose
pinned above her jutting
breasts, she hacks
a lamb in half
with consummate ease,
an ersatz boater
tilted a la Chevalier
across her blond brow.

A goddess of silversides
Sauntering gazelle-like
Within a crimson cage,
Wrapping cutlets with lissom
Grace, scornful of my stammering
Presence, her eyes stampede
Across my slovenly smile
As she pole-axes me to a
Slaughter-house of oblivion.

Michael Wilkin