Thursday, 20 October 2011

Three Poems from the Archives of Poetry North East

Your Words

your words like echoes across an empty carpark,

torturing the trees that made us sleep,

     lost pines, scenting the evening

     falling secrets from your wet mouth.

your words like small whips against my back,

swaying in the dead music,

     a harmony of sour wine,

     shines, and stands up to boast.

your words like raindrops against cracked windows,

seeping quietly through my loud skull,

     the virgin and the widow within

     can only tell me of love.

your words like marching ghosts from their graves,

tearing hearts with invisible hands

     a clash of dark weapons beneath the sand,

     the smile vanishing quickly into space.

your words come and go like passing ships,

slotting into violent grey seascapes,

     impossible pathways, twisting back the head

     to see the last movement of lips.

your words

your words will live forever

     as soon as I see what you say.

                                        Paul Harland

Sunset In Chopwell Woods

The sun is balanced on the straight edge

Of a distant hill;

A filmed dancer in tip-toe pose

She collapses into herself

With slow serenity

Like a moving picture

Whose projection has slowed.

And last left

Is a curved lip of light

And the afterflow

When the audience flows

With delight to applaud

And the curtains close

On a perfect show.

                                        Wendy Zoula

Visitation (Leazes Park)

In the early chapter of a mid-winter’s day

only the bird-choirs erase

the stillness of trees.

Something moves and you consider.

With this existence evolves the judgement

of thought

after the acceptance of memory.

                                        Gordon Phillips

Demolition of Sunderland Town Hall

Such a building as you were

Demands an epitaph

As much as sealed copies of The Times,

Sovereigns and musty ideas of the future

They launched you with a century ago.

Your citizens won’t miss you,

Though you were their Hall,

To a stranger – well

It happens all the time.

Another hotel? What the hell,

We live in suitcases,

Who needs pillars?

The bells hanging from the end of a crane

Toll surprisingly deep, rhythmic, unnoticed.

                                        Michael Standen

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Thursday, 13 October 2011


Poems by Keith Armstrong



antique mart of memory’s remnants
glad bag of fading rags

bedraggled old flag

blowing in the wind over newcastle


we stand on street corners shivering in the winter
like birds sheltering from the wind

we do not rattle loose change in our pockets
only the nuts and bolts of poverty

we are splinters
our clothes droop on us
using our bones for hangers

we avoid mirrors and images of ourselves in shields road doorways
we do not look through windows

we draw curtains of beer across our eyes
we sleep/place bets

every week on dole day hunger prods us awake

it is instinct

it is a fear of never waking

yesterday’s records in a raby street window
yesterday’s news
revolving today

pictures of byker trapped in a camera
yesterday’s photos
developed today

yesterday’s headlines
today’s wrapping paper

yesterday’s wars are bloodless today

snot drips nose
wailing ragman drags a foot
and sniffs

any old rags
any old rags

hair like straw
snot runs
licks cracked mouth

any old rags
any old rags

as raby street

any old rags
any old rags

watson’s toffee factory
wrapped in mist
melts in the watering mouth of the dawn
another byker child is born

another byker son assumes
the dusty jacket of a byker man 

and this is the truth
the wind-ripped reality between the grave and the womb
the aimlessness
the weary broken people
shuffling through the measured lines of architects’ reports

the cripples
the dying streets
behind the brash and snatching shops
the coughing strays

this is all the small print
the drifting words
beneath the glossy covers

and this is mother byker now

a wasteland of schools
churches public houses
a frail old woman
her mouth and eyes bricked over

on her last legs

creeps like a lizard over the face of byker
dragging behind it its retinue of planners
                                                builders and

you will wake from your years of sleeping
and find what you knew to be yours being hauled away
over byker bridge on the backs of lorries
your yesterday
in clouds of dust

byker folk are living still
byker folk on byker hill
fading flowers on a window sill
byker folk

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Returning to the Sea

Lounge seems such an inappropriate word

Even though he sits there quietly,

Bolstered by cushions,

Idle hands folded casually in his lap,

Eyelids drooping.

The world outside is sliced into thin strips

By a Venetian blind

That’s probably dusty because they always are

And the dust will be him,

Slowly flaking away his four score and five.

There’s barely a sliver of him remaining.

Am I looking into a scrying mirror

Foreshadowing my own future?

I know I should be recording his history

Before he’s engulfed by it,

Making a record to give voice

To those albums of snaps I’ll be left with,

Illusions in monochrome and paling colour,

As if time

Could be developed at an optimum moment

And fixed.

Over Pendle, that whale of a hill,

An ocean of dark cloud swims before the wind,

Our present sunshine,

Colloped into long thin ingots of light pyrites,

Is too glittery to last.

Rain, when it arrives, will be unwelcome,

He’s already drowning

From internal springs which wont be staunched,

Bronchials barely coping with the flash-flood,

Bloated legs mocking emaciation,

And weeping pores.

Years must weigh heavily

To result in such weariness as this,

To press his world inwards,


To hobble him

So he shuffles between easy chair and dining chair

And bed.

Such, these days, is the geography of his life.

Just a room away a silent piano,

Old scores laid to rest,

Bass drone of the dehumidifier

Sucking the last of his fluid playing from the air.

All those composers he tended to so passionately

Are long dead

Even to him now.

Finally, all music must end in silence,

Whether the last note is emphatic

Or pianissimo,

The performance draws to a close.

He doesn’t even listen anymore,

A library of CDs

Mute in their sleeves as blanks.

Rain arrives

Pebble dashing the picture window

Bars of the blind giving an impression of security.

With stoic deliberation

He lifts his lids,

Turns to stare out,

Draws an arid breath across sandpaper

And, in a near whisper strained through a pillow, says,

“Looks bleak, doesn’t it.”

Words are feathers catching in his throat

Inducing a spasm of coughing

Which might just shake loose every bone in his body

From its flimsy fixings.

There is no freedom of speech anymore,

Not under this regime.

Newspaper still folded,

Too weighty with world events for him to lift;

It will be slipped neatly into the magazine rack

A daily countdown

No one seems able to cancel,

Not while he still occupies, however slightly,

The absence forming in his chair.

I pick up the paper and read it,

I can at least do this for him

Or myself,

Suspending my disbelief.

Also, I can look out at the slatted weather

Seeing he’s slipped into a doze again,

And, I admit,

Glance to check his thin chest still has a rhythm to it.

Cloud, shattering against unyielding glass, is running,

Via gutters and channels,

Back towards the undifferentiated sea.

There is a shallow beat to his chest

And his eyes prise themselves open

To look once again

Out into the drenching gloom.

“Yes dad,” I say nonchalantly, “It does look bleak.”


 Dave Alton