Saturday, 30 June 2012

Saturday, 23 June 2012


There was a time when this bar was busy
Even at two on a Tuesday afternoon,
Tongues bloating with beer, talk nicotine stained
And perhaps rather louder than needs be.
Racing on the telly, of course, sound down,
No one watching apparently, except
A snort and the careless, but accurate,
Toss of a scrunched slip into an ashtray.
In the backroom, just passed the pungent bogs,
Over pints of scotch and shared roll ups, young
Republicans plotted revolution
Or their latest schism into factions
Over whose turn it was to get the next round.

At that very table in the corner,
Fancy that still here after all these years,
Sat the bloke, brown ale and schooner, reading
Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus,
In Latin. Always wore a tweed sports jacket,
Pockets torn from being the side saddles
Of his second hand library, and that
Ridiculous comb-over, but not from
Vanity, more disdain. He never smoked.

Then the Tuesday he wasn’t there, nor the next
And never again. For many a week
His chair stayed empty, no one would sit there
No matter how busy the bar, until
The lassie who, nearly paralytic,
Flopped down into it one Friday evening
And slept the night away across the table.
A few days later council workmen came
And daubed double yellow lines all along
By the kerb just outside. From then, it seems,
The sun never again managed to shine
Directly through the Victorian stained glass
That is still, nonetheless, quite a feature
Of the upper casement of the front window. 

                                                  Dave Alton

Monday, 18 June 2012

Fathers’ Day

Curlews have a little recognised competence
For rendering themselves invisible
All the while soaring to warble
From the full height of the sky. While
Along the old earth laid wagonway,
Where mountain bikes now pass
Where once laden kibbles of coal
Trundled on behind labouring locos,
Through cuttings between Japanese knotweed,
Cow parsley and unscented wild roses
I pursue my constitutional, lost
In thought in familiar surroundings.
Those roses I recently heeled in were
Deep yellow, Hybrid Teas, pungent,
Almost ostentatious as memory
Needs be, not to be forgotten,
With this being the very first Father’s Day
I could not send a card.

                                          Dave Alton

Saturday, 16 June 2012


I kicked out in Half Moon Yard,
bucked a rotten system.
Fell out with fools in All Hallows Lane
and grew up feeling loved.
She dragged my hand down Rabbit Banks Road,
there seemed nowhere else to take it.
We mucked about in Plummer Chare,
soaked up the painful rain.
I wanted to control my life,
shout songs on Amen Corner.
I’d carry bags of modern ballads,
hawk pamphlets on Dog Bank.
Wild girls who blazed through Pipewell Gate
taught my veins to thrill.
I caught her heart on Pandon Bank,
my eyes filled up with fear.
Wanted to carve out a poem,
inspire the Garth Heads dreamers.
A lad grew up to dance along 
the length of Pilgrim Street.
I take my wild hopes now to chance
the slope of Dog Leap Stairs.
Follow the pulse of my Tyneside days,
burn passion down The Side. 

'A beautifully crafted  piece.'

Darren Carlaw,
Stepaway Magazine

Friday, 15 June 2012


Grey –
this man and his brain’s conception,
clasped in stone.
Disdainful figure
on a firm dry finger;
above a time-bent avenue of dwindling lights.

The Earl’s pale forehead is cool and cloudy;
he views us all (as we view him)
in the same old, cold, way –
through the wrong end of a battered telescope,
through the dusty lens of history.

Strip away the tinsel
And this city’s heart is stone.

Keith Armstrong

Tuesday, 12 June 2012



Their back four have kick-off nerves,
Their back four haven’t played for awhile;
Their back four have no tank reserves -
Too many nights spent on the tiles.
Their back four must keep it tight,
Their back four must hold their patch;
They’ll get stuck in and battle all right,
They’ll curse and swear all through the match.

Their back four look tired and lazy
Their back four must watch for threats
Like CY AWOMM-BA he went crazy
The ball hit him and went in their net.
Their back four are not pursuing
An eager forward who’s well offside;
Their back four have gum for chewing,
A stack their sponsors have supplied.

Their back four are big and tall,
Their back four are tough as bricks;
Their back four have nerves of steel,
Their back four know all the tricks
For all of them they fear that fumble,
But MICK Mc GOVERN knows his stuff;
He fakes a push, he stays down, grumbles,
So long as the ref doesn’t call his bluff.

Their back four have wives and girlfriends,
And big AL CHAPMAN likes it hot
That now he has to make amends
With Baines’ girl he does a swap.
Then RONNIE BAINES is much aggrieved,
His number’s up, given the boot;
And from the cut-up pitch he leaves
Now the spare has his fling our substitute.

G.F. Phillips


‘Pab is the man – he’s fab.’

PABLO LORENZO he loves to turn solo,
He thinks the play revolves around him;
I don’t have to mention he loves the attention,
It’s a centre forward’s old thing.
He’s the one they most cheer when he’s called to appear
For the number 9 shirt claims respect,
And to lead from the front and be a great hunk,
It’s everything the fans expect.
And him they will flatter, buy the one shirt that matters
And the kudos he’ll get from it,
For he loves all this fuss and he can’t get enough
And his goals are all riding on it.

And then on occasions comes the art of persuasion
In close season, whenever he can;
He’s the number one pet for an ad man’s choice set
For this booked in Adonis man’s man.
So whatever he’s selling he’s utter compelling,
Which he sells from his head to his toes,
Like he takes a big swig of a sugar-free fib
From a health drink his fans buy in droves;
And he’ll open his armpits the bad smell he sprays it,
And the tin he must leave on parade.
So his earning potential is something quite special
Meaning twice that he’s got it made.

But no one will quibble so long as his dribbles
Are most un-mistakenly sound;
But the training regime is not just the team
For it’s all built round him so they’ve found.
Now he’s the Messiah you cannot get higher;
But then when he’s gone to ground
There’s a chance there’s a sniff there’s no but or if
His trajectory must go at least goal-bound.
But under his charge things are often enlarged
Much more than reality;
And though he works wonders there’s many a blunder
That’s forgotten with the ecstasy.

G. F. Phillips


Johnny Spry’s between the sticks, his second name’s The Lynx,
He’ll prowl around the six-yard box then stares out like The Sphinx.
He’s great at making hefty kicks the ball he belts quite far
And when there’s nothing doing he’ll swing along the bar
Until he’s out to grab the ball that’s spinning through the air,
The way he leaps and soars is more than high jumpers would dare.

Oh, Johnny Spry! Oh, Johnny Spry!  He mustn’t let the ball pass by.
He loves to roll in all the mud; he loves to do it on the sly;
And how his fingertips they stretch beating a ballet dancer’s
While everyone agrees that his knee blocking’s the answer.
He may have clumsy legs; his bald head hard as plaster –
Whatever else he may be there’s no one brave or dafter.

He’s last to hear his players cheer, the first to take the flak
When things go wrong he’s put upon what’s said it gets passed back.
So out of spite, try as he might, he’ll do what they hate most,
That easy ball slips from his grasp to push it round the post.
Yet everyone has need of him, they’re shouting one and all,
But then he’ll keep them waiting as he juggles with the ball.

So when his wall is lining up, the free kick’s taking ages,
He’d like to count the kicker’s time and dock it off his wages.
But, hey, he does no better as his kick goes into touch;
Though it frees him from those corners where he’s crowded in so much,
He’s our big stopper our big he - he needs a rest does he -
And when the trainer sprays his foot he’ll plan his scrumptious tea.

Oh, Johnny Spry!  Oh, Johnny Spry!  There’s no one here who now denies
He looks the part; he does excel.  But soon the ending of his spell
When he retires or quits the game they’ll put him in the Hall of Fame
Along with others plied in wax who died and stashed away their tax,
The first in town who has been set for keeping balls out of a net
For here he’s treated like a God a saviour from the firing squad.

(from Mr Footer’s Footloose Wanderers Verses)

G.F. Phillips


This winger is schizoid, but only in name,
He’s Olaf and Finnegan, half Celt and half Dane;
He’s blonde and his blue-eyed and he knows about rain.
And he’s nimble and speedy, he goes like the wind
And he’s known to most fans as The Flying Finn.
He’s a man on a mission when the ball comes to him,

And then
                It’s RUN and CROSS, RUN and CROSS
                When he can:  if he can.

How he loves open spaces and all that fresh air,
And that’s how he stands out, on his own, the fans stare
For his foot’s on the ball; he’ll hold his head in the air.
Now he’ll cheer all the hacks on the Daily Depress
When he takes on the full back, he’s out to impress
And leaves the man sitting on his bottom, at rest,
And the mud on his shorts is a mark of the test.
And now he has started he can’t seem to end
For he’s giving a lesson in how not to defend
As he takes on that full back and does it again.

And then
                 It’s RUN and CROSS, RUN and CROSS,
                 When he can:  if he can.

Now he’s on the back pages, it brings fans to the ground,
He’s mighty superior; his position’s safe and sound;
He’s young and he’s restless, but there’s things he can do
For the girls dig his looks and they dig for gold too.
So it’s all a bit hectic; Olaf’s contract is up,
And that’s why this agent will spice it all up;
For he’ll do a good job and the girls bring him luck -
So he says - and now Olaf’s wanted on both flanks and set
Where they’re shooting his looks in some new fangled specs -
How he loves all the extras; he’s an extra himself;
And they’ll pay him each word he spouts from his mouth.
And at Christmas he’s booked in for Babes in the Wood
When he’ll step on the stage in his strip, he’ll look good;
He’ll go round (I’m sure, in a faultless display),
As if trees were the players who stood in his way
And he’ll do it for real when it comes to match day.

And then
                It’s RUN and CROSS, RUN and CROSS.
               Or he’ll do it on his own.
And here is the clue – when he jinks to the left,
He’s gone past their sweeper; his path has been swept;
There’s a good chance The Flying Finn will have the ball kept
A little while longer at his big happy feet,
It’s all one way traffic; it’s his one way street.
And two players behind him were both easy meat.
And the men at the front they have all gone tongue-tied
He won’t give them the ball; well, it’s no big surprise
Till he’s tripped it’s a free kick and also his demise.

And now in conclusion he must pass the ball
But not the one desperate who’s shouting who calls;
Now he’s back on the left flank and free of disgrace
For the free kick he took was him saving face.

(from Mr Footer’s Footloose Wanderers Verses)

G.F. Phillips

Sunday, 3 June 2012

More from 'Poetry North East'

From 1979: 

'Since its foundation in 1973, the Tyneside Poets has stayed together as a group with a clear commitment to encouraging hitherto unknown writers in the region and in developing a wider interest in literature. 

Performances have been staged in many of the less usual places e.g. Haltwhistle, Hexham, Newburn, Morpeth, Ashington, Cramlington, Wallsend, Scotswood, in schools, in colleges, pubs, car parks and town centres. 

Members have visited Sweden, Germany, Austria, Denmark and Iceland; shows have been presented on a number of local themes. This and more.

Where most literary organisations have simply featured readings by established names to largely student audiences, the Tyneside Poets have tried to go beyond this, including our open workshops on varied themes from the local translators' forum to an evening of Indian poetry, well attended by poets and other members of the local Indian community.'


"Kiss of the sun for pardon
and birds for mirth."


Coming in from wind and bright light, into
         another sort of space,  to listen....
To the rustle of feet on floors,
        echoed in stone with the dust of centuries past.

How many churches like this one?

With bright light diffused into blue-yellow, soft against black plaques.
Wan Saints against artificial poppies and the remembrance of Rectors.

Yet this is different in spirit.
Arced in tree and overawed by a castle,
        sun-drenched and bird-hung, no simple rise of
stones, filled with the smell of grass and dead flowers -
But vibrant with rough stone and polished wood.

Calling a solace and quiet comfort to those
          still seeking peace.
Now steadied in a pattern of living, it remains,
       unchanged for centuries.

Demelza Marrack


Nine hours of boredom in the darkness,
humming the only Hebrew song we know as the
crippled express rocks us into Austria. In
the thick fog of our carriage, shabby families
doze; the children fight and scuffle down
crowded corridors or listen to the bristles
sprouting on their father's chins.
Nora's dream is a blurred travelogue of tattered
maps and orange groves, summer rotting the bright
globes of fruit.
We travel lighter than the rest, rolling to the
monotonous pant of steam as the engine strains
towards Bernau.
I strech out wet fingers to touch her lips,
stifling a groan; blood has caked on this steamy
pane/brown against the blinding glare of frost.
I ask one guard our time of arrival, he looks up
from his grimy clockface of playing cards and
stamps 'Who needs to know?' on the back of my wrist.
In all the confusion we've forgotten the name of
our destination.
Nora still sleeps under my grey trenchcoat,
her skirt is melting against her thigh.

Vince Morrison