Tuesday, 24 April 2012


(for Jenny)

These rough stones,
carried for miles to build
such a Castle,
mounted on fields
of bittersweet slopes.

Stoned lions,
countrified gargoyles
hunch, unpouncing;
their stiff glares fixed
on us fee-paying visitors,
taking a stroll through
the dusty chapters,
the library dungeons.

And I would suppose
this afternoon to be,
for us, some piece of history,
both strolling through
crisis after crisis,
hearts beating heart beats
and blood warm, flowing
through us as we walk between
such cold walls,
older than a Duke,
but never as wise as this love of mine
nor as fragile as
that historic moment inside the Castle
when once you smiled at me
so wonderfully.


Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Northern Vowels

Northern vowels are hewn from millstone grit,

Weather well in abrasive atmospheres,

Build ugly words that’re intended to serve

Their purpose and then become nothing more

Than travesties whenever they’re converted

With southern consonants. Every one weighed

With precision in fear something extra

Might be given away; for all they are

Roughly dressed, each is chosen carefully

And slotted into place with precision,

Nothing wasted through mere casual use.

Being quarried from deep pits of silences

By short tongues with mutual histories

Of quiet co-operation, northern vowels

Tell blunt tales of this world as it is, not

Fanciful notions of how it might be.

While those who’ve convinced themselves their hearing

Is far too sophisticated to hear

Such low-pitched voices are also deaf to

Leaden base speech becoming transmuted

Through the true alchemy of poetry

Into that pure gold of a heritage

Rich enough to invest in the future,

Speaking plainly, in tongues, to everyone.

Northern vowels, flat as weathered gravestones

On which monumentalists have engraved

Stanzas as old ballads, new blank verses,

Promising, not matter how bleak the scene,

Sure and certain hope of resurrection.

                                                          Dave Alton