Thursday, 20 October 2011
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 will live forever
as soon as I see what you say.
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.
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
after the acceptance of memory.
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.
Thursday, 13 October 2011
Poems by Keith Armstrong
FIRST PUBLISHED BY IRD ARTS CLUB 1972
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
pictures of byker trapped in a camera
today’s wrapping paper
yesterday’s wars are bloodless today
snot drips nose
wailing ragman drags a foot
any old rags
any old rags
hair like straw
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 weary broken people
shuffling through the measured lines of architects’ reports
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
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
in clouds of dust
byker folk are living still
byker folk on byker hill
fading flowers on a window sill
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Lounge seems such an inappropriate word
Even though he sits there quietly,
Bolstered by cushions,
Idle hands folded casually in his lap,
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
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
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
The performance draws to a close.
He doesn’t even listen anymore,
A library of CDs
Mute in their sleeves as blanks.
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
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.”