Monday, 24 August 2015


photo: peter dixon

Should I know you from somewhere?
Your eye brows raised in thick liquorice black.
You and your hairline gone bald as plaster.

Or your puffed face, was that the cherub I knew?
Separate, alone, stuck in time’s stiff relief,
all-round solid, middle-aged spread, that’s you.

But do I detect a grin? What’s comical?
If I’m right, you never were the private man
enjoying lingering here among market souls.

Being statuesque has made you look so calm,
that dickey bow, tight waistcoat, long green apron,
the red towel hung rigid over your arm,

ever your big hands grip on that shiny plate;
And to think you used to like a flutter
from equine tips to extras of your trade.

Nameless, ghost-looker in perpetual gaze.
The same man? Could it be? I don’t know – what hope?
My pockets jingle with loose change, and yes,

I’d like to put something on your plate but don’t.

G. F. Phillips

percy street 1931

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Brass ‘n’ Silver, Red ‘n’ Gold

(For the Big Meeting)

Brass ‘n’ silver! Brass to blow away muck
From dusty throats, polished brass with silver
Notes played to perfection. Keep in step, mark
Time and count, everyone counts, so each note
Achieves full value through labour-power
Of lungs, working lungs, workers’ lungs, with skill
Always at their fingertips. According
To ability, according to need
For harmony.

Some of the seniors
Recall playing banners on the long march
Back to the pitheads, banners high, banners
Proud, banners truncheons could not batter down,
Red banners emblazoned by golden words:
And SOCIALISM of course, inscribed round
Likenesses of militant advocates,
Working class standards upheld.

This bold
Confluence of solidarity ebbs
And flows, wheels and winds along venerable
Galleries of Durham’s thoroughfares.
Silver ‘n’ brass. A silver bullet to
Blow away those monsters that devour
Lives with too much relish, without conscience.
Brass tacks required for nailing down the truth,
Brass necks needed to demand sum total
Of silver and gold that’s the common weal.
And still the bands play on, and still banners
Billow with the breeze blowing in across
Salted coalfields, and still there’s a hundred
Thousand, more, gathering around the Big
Meeting in defiance of those whose minds
Are closed as the mines they’ve shut, whose cold hearts
Are as black as the coal they’ve sealed away
From posterity.

Beat the bass drum, boys,
Let the horns blare, steady with the banner,
As Gresford echoes from the city’s stones
And along the commercial facades while
Shop workers desert their counters and tills
To stand and clap and cheer. Keep marching girls
Having taken your full place in the ranks,
Draw down Durham air and swell the music,
Keep marching onwards all, don’t step aside,
For history has not done with you yet.

Dave Alton