Monday, 2 December 2019

I WILL SING OF MY OWN NEWCASTLE


































I WILL SING OF MY OWN NEWCASTLE


sing of my home city
sing of a true geordie heart
sing of a river swell in me
sing of a sea of the canny
sing of the newcastle day

sing of a history of poetry
sing of the pudding chare rain
sing of the puddles and clarts
sing of the bodies of sailors
sing of the golden sea

sing of our childrens’ laughter
sing of the boats in our eyes
sing of the bridges in sunshine
sing of the fish in the tyne
sing of the lost yards and the pits

sing of the high level railway
sing of the love in my face
sing of the garths and the castle
sing of the screaming lasses
sing of the sad on the side

sing of the battles’ remains
sing of the walls round our dreams
sing of the scribblers and dribblers
sing of the scratchers of livings
sing of the quayside night
 
sing of the kicks and the kisses
sing of the strays and the chancers
sing of the swiggers of ale
sing of the hammer of memory
sing of the welders’ revenge

sing of a battered townscape
sing of a song underground
sing of a powerless wasteland
sing of a buried bard
sing of the bones of tom spence

sing of the cocky bastards
sing of a black and white tide
sing of the ferry boat leaving
sing of cathedral bells crying
sing of the tyneside skies

sing of my mother and father
sing of my sister’s kindness
sing of the hope in my stride
sing of a people’s passion
sing of the strength of the wind


KEITH ARMSTRONG

(as featured on BBC Radio 4)




Tuesday, 19 November 2019

AFTER THE UK














































AFTER THE UK




Shreds of the UK

flapping in the downturn,

decayed Britain

broken into smithereens.

No Kingdom now,

no United State.

We are

citizens

with no obligation

to genuflect

in front of an overstuffed Queen.



Get the UK out of your system,

no going back.

We take the power

to rule ourselves,

make community,

build our own spaces.

Break

the hegemony

of dead parties,

lifeless institutions,

let debate flower,

conflicting views rage.



We want to breathe

and strip away

executive power,

share

the beauty and culture

of these islands

around.

Make good things,

good love.

Empower ourselves

with an autonomous freedom

in a new England,

in a new Europe,

in a New World

of real ownership

and delicate emotion.









KEITH ARMSTRONG

Monday, 11 November 2019

A PRAYER FOR THE LONERS


 




























 

The dejected men,

the lone voices,

slip away

in this seaside rain.

Their words shudder to a standstill

in dismal corners.

Frightened to shout, 

they cower

behind quivering faces.

No one listens

to their memories crying.

There seems no point

in this democratic deficit.

For years, they just shuffle along,

hopeless

in their financial innocence.

They do have names

that no lovers pronounce.

They flit between stools,

miss out on gales of laughter.

Who cares for them?

Nobody in Whitley Bay

or canny Shields,

that’s for sure.

These wayside fellows

might as well be in a saddos’ heaven

for all it matters

in the grey world’s backwaters.

Life has bruised them,

dashed them.

Bones flake into the night.

I feel like handing them all loud hailers

to release  

their oppressed passion,

to move them

to scream 

red murder at their leaders -

those they never voted for;

those who think they’re something,

some thing special,

grand.

For, in the end,

I am on the side of these stooped lamenters,

the lonely old boys with a grievance

about caring 

and the uncaring;

about power,

and how switched off

this government is

from the isolated,

from the agitated,

from the trembling,

the disenfranchised 

drinkers of sadness.



 
KEITH ARMSTRONG

Kenny Jobson absolutely excellent



Davide Trame This is a great, powerful poem



Libby Wattis Brilliant poem x



Gracie Gray Very evocative Keith. x



Sue Hubbard Very strong


Mo Shevis Another powerful poem Keith! The photograph is heartbreaking too! Sad for the victims , angry about the system!



David Henry Fantastic! A powerful and very moving poem 



Strider Marcus Jones A great poem full of so many truths.
 

Dominic Windram Great stuff Keith... always a vociferous voice for the voiceless! 
 

Siobhan Coogan Beautiful Keith you give a voice to the lonely

Sunday, 20 October 2019

WILLIAM BLAKE IN THE BRIDGE HOTEL







































A few pints of Deuchars and my spirit is soaring.
The child dances out of me,
goes running down to the Tyne,
while the little man in me wrestles with a lass
and William Blake beams all his innocence in my glass.
And the old experience sweats from a castle’s bricks
as another local prophet takes a jump off the bridge.

It’s the spirit of Pat Foley and the ancient brigade
on the loose down the Quayside stairs
in a futile search,
just a step in the past,
for one last revolutionary song.

All the jars we have supped
in the hope of a change;
all the flirting and courting and chancing downstream;
all the words in the air and the luck pissed away.
It seems we oldies are running back
screaming to the Bewick days,
when a man could down a politicised quip
and craft a civilised chat
before he fed the birds
in the Churchyard.

The cultural ships are fair steaming in
but it’s all stripped of meaning -
the Councillors wade
in the shallow end.

O Blake! buy me a pint in the Bridge again,
let it shiver with sunlight
through all the stained windows,
make my wit sparkle
and my knees buckle.

Set me free of this stifling age
when the bland are back in charge.
Let us grow our golden hair wild once more
and roar like Tygers
down Dog Leap Stairs.

 



KEITH ARMSTRONG

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

ASSEMBLAGE: PERSONS AND LOCATION








































POEM FOR PETE


The lines on our faces
show us testing times
we survived,
scrbbling poems and drawings
often against brick walls,
pleading for the funds
to make our crazy dreams happen.
Down the back lanes of home,
in Spencean Holborn,
tacky Amsterdam
and surreal Den Bosch,
we have trudged
with our artistic gifts;
on to the ancient boulevards of Prague,
inside the boozy nooks of Tuebingen,
on Isle of Man steam trains,
we fearfully hawked our pamphlets
hoping that they’d make
someone’s little life a little better.
Now, catching a moment of oral history
in the sunshine of our days,
we drink for the moment
to be done with pain,
brief as a kiss
in a sudden poem
or life-sketch.
Expressing ourselves endlessly
in a way that lights up others’ lives
we carry on planting
bolts of joy
on the banks of the sloshing Tyne.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

Saturday, 21 September 2019

CARRY ON TWINNING!


TUEBINGEN/DURHAM LITERARY/ARTS TWINNING

The partnership with County Durham and the City of Tuebingen in South Germany was established in 1969. 
Poet Doctor Keith Armstrong, who gained his doctorate at the University on Durham in 2007, following on from Bachelor's and Master's degrees there, first visited Tuebingen in November 1987 to give readings and talks for a period of three weeks. Since then he has travelled to the city over 40 times and helped arrange for Durham and North East poets, musicians and artists and their counterparts in Tuebingen to visit their respective cultural twins.

TO HELP CELEBRATE THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE OFFICIAL TWINNING, KEITH RETURNED TO TUEBINGEN FROM JULY 3RD TO 7TH 2019 AT THE INVITATION OF THE CULTURAL OFFICE IN TUEBINGEN WHEN HE APPEARED AT THE BOOK FESTIVAL TO READ FROM HIS LATEST TUEBINGEN POETRY AND FROM THE  TUEBINGEN/DURHAM LITERARY ANTHOLOGY ‘WORD SHARING’.
HE TRAVELLED WITH NORTHUMBRIAN PIPER CHRIS ORMSTON AND WAS JOINED BY TUEBINGEN PERFORMERS AND FRIENDS FOR THE OCCASION.

WITH 2020 IN MIND, KEITH'S NOW WORKING ON A COLLABORATION WITH TUEBINGEN PHOTOGRAPHER ULRICH METZ
AND DON'T FORGET HIS UPDATED COLLECTION OF TUEBINGEN POEMS (1987 TO DATE), HERMANN HESSE IN THE GUTTER, IS NOW AVAILABLE AT £5 FROM NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS.

THE STORY SO FAR:

Keith returned to Tuebingen in September 2016 for readings of his poems inspired by his visits to Tuebingen over the years, including a literary promenade around the old town and along the Neckar accompanied by accordionist Peter Weiss.
He was also there in November 2017 with fellow poet Paul Summers and folk musician Gary Miller to attend the launch of a new anthology, Word Sharing, published by the Cultural Office in Tuebingen and edited by Carolyn Murphey Melchers and Michael Raffel in Tuebingen and Keith Armstrong in Durham to mark 30 years of the literary twinning between Tuebingen and Durham and featuring a selection of poetry by some 22 writers from Tuebingen and Durham.
The anthology had its Durham launch as part of a World Book Day event on Monday 23rd April 2018 at the University of Durham. Special guests at the event were writers Andrea Mittag and Matthias Kaiser from Tuebingen who read alongside Durham poets Jackie Litherland, Katrina Porteous, Paul Summers, Rob Walton and Keith Armstrong, with Durham folk music from Gary Miller and Mick Tyas - all in all, a memorable occasion with wine, poetry and song! Andrea and Matthias also appeared at specially arrranged seminars in the English and German Departments of the University of Durham.

Before this, Tuebingen poets Anna Fedorova and Yannick Lengkeek came to Durham in November 2015 for readings and discussions, with Manuela Schmidt and Florian Neuner following suit in April 2017, and Eva Christina Zeller returned to Durham in November 2017 as part of the exchange programme for readings and workshops at the University.

Looking further back, a special celebration of the literary/arts links between the cultural partners was held on May 17th 2015 at Tuebingen’s Club Voltaire as part of the Tuebingen Buecherfest.  This was arranged by poet Tibor Schneider, Michael Raffel of the Buecherfest and Doctor Armstrong. Those featured included Gary Miller, singer/songwriter from Durham band ‘The Whisky Priests’, poets Carolyn Murphey Melchers, Sara Hauser, Anna Fedorova, Yannick Lengkeek and Tibor Schneider and rock musician Juergen Sturm with Mary Jane.

Keith Armstrong was also in Tuebingen from Tuesday 11th November 2014 to Saturday 15th when he performed his poetry in the legendary Heckenhauer’s Bookshop, one of his favourite bars The Boulanger, at the Carlo-Schmid-Gymnasium (school) and at Weinhaus Beck for a poetry breakfast. He was joined by Tibor Schneider, Sara Hauser, Yannick Lengkeek and Anna Fedorova with Peter Weiss on accordion and Juergen Sturm on rock guitar and vocals.

Before this, he was in Tuebingen from Wednesday 2nd to Saturday 5th April 2014 with artist/photographer Peter Dixon for readings with Tuebingen writers Eva Christina Zeller, Sara Hauser, Tibor Schneider and Florian Neuner at Weinhaus Beck, a school visit and other networking initiatives. This followed on from his visit from Monday 4th November to Thursday 7th 2013 when he took part in a major symposium on the theme of writer Hermann Hesse who lived and worked in Tuebingen from 1895-1899. As well as joining in with the discussions and giving a reading from his poems on Hesse and Tuebingen, Keith met with poets, academics, teachers, musicians, cultural and media workers. 

Sara Hauser visited Durham from Monday 12th to Thursday 15th May 2014 for sessions at the University's English and German Departments  and meetings with local writers, artists and musicians.
So the twinning continues to go from strength to strength. Looking back on things, Armstrong and folk rock musician Gary Miller, lead singer of Durham band the Whisky Priests, travelled to Tuebingen at the end of March 2012 for performances in pubs, cabaret venues and schools where they performed with Tuebingen poet Tibor Schneider who visited Durham in October of that year as part of the ongoing exchange.
Tibor joined his Durham counterparts for readings at Durham University and at the Half Moon Inn. He was also interviewed on BBC Radio Tees concerning his Durham visit.

Keith Armstrong and Gary Miller returned the compliment with a trip to Tuebingen in March 2013 where they performed again in bars, cafes and schools with poets Tibor Schneider, Sara Hauser and Tuebingen musicians.
In 2011, Tuebingen rock musician Juergen Sturm jetted in with his music partner Mary Jane at the end of October for pub gigs, including a twinning event in Durham on Monday 31st October featuring Juergen and Mary Jane with Durham folk musicians and poets. That followed on from a visit to Tuebingen in South Germany in early April 2011 by Keith Armstrong and photographer/artist Peter Dixon. The intrepid pair worked together on a touring display featuring Armstrong's poems and Dixon's photographs documenting the unique link between Tuebingen and Durham which was staged initially in the Durham Room at County Hall, Durham in November. Armstrong performed his poetry in cafes, bars and schools and met up with Tuebingen friends, old and new, with the multi-talented Dixon capturing all of it on film.

This trip reciprocated a visit to Durham in November 2010 by Tuebingen poets Henning Ziebritzki and Carolyn Murphey Melchers, when Juergen Stuerm also took part in a series of pub performances. There was a special event at Clayport Library, Durham City on Monday November 1st with the Tuebingen poets and special guests from Durham, followed by a rousing session in the Dun Cow when Juergen, with Mary Jane, and his Durham counterparts, Gary Miller and Marie Little belted out their lively songs.
Armstrong was also in Tuebingen in May 2010 with Gary Miller for performances in his favourite Tuebingen bar ‘The Boulanger’ and at a local school. This followed a special guest appearance in 2009 at the biannual Book Festival, a reading with Tuebingen counterpart Eva Christina Zeller and a visit to local schools. Eva visited Durham for readings in schools and at a special event on May 13th 2009 at Clayport Library which also featured poets Katrina Porteous, Jackie Litherland, Cynthia Fuller, and William Martin, as well as Doctor Armstrong and music from the Durham Scratch Choir and Andy Jackson.

A highly successful series of events were held in 2007 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the literary/arts twinning established by Keith Armstrong when he first visited Tuebingen in 1987 for a month’s residency, supported by Durham County Council and Tuebingen’s Kulturamt. Since then, there have been readings and performances in pubs, universities and castles, schools, libraries, book festivals, jazz and cabaret clubs, even in Hermann Hesse’s old apartment, involving poets, writers, teachers and musicians from the twin partnerships of Durham and Tuebingen.
Tuebingen’s music duo Acoustic Storm, poet/translator Carolyn Murphey Melchers and Cultural Officer visited Durham and the North East in October/November 2007. The musicians performed in Durham schools and pubs and there was a special evening in Durham’s Clayport Library to celebrate the twinning, with Keith Armstrong launching his new Tuebingen poetry booklet and performances by poets Carolyn Murphey Melchers, Katrina Porteous, William Martin, Michael Standen, Ian Horn, Cynthia Fuller, Hugh Doyle and musicians Acoustic Storm, Marie Little and Gary Miller. Margit Aldinger of the Kulturamt in Tuebingen and Brian Stobie of the International Department, Durham County Council, also addressed the audience.

For the record, here's a list of those who have made it happen so far:

Tuebingen visitors to Durham since 1987:

Carolyn Murphey Melchers, Karin Miedler, Gerhard Oberlin, Uwe Kolbe, Johannes Bauer, Eva Christina Zeller, Simone Mittmann, Florian Werner, Juergen Sturm, Mary Jane, Wolf Abromeit, Christopher Harvie, Eberhard Bort, Marcus Hammerschmitt, Henning Ziebritzki, Andy and Alessandra Fazion Marx, Otto Buchegger, Tibor Schneider, Sara Hauser, Anna Fedorova, Yannick Lengkeek, Manuela Schmidt, Florian Neuner, Andrea Mittag, Matthias Kaiser.

Durham visitors to Tuebingen since 1987:

Keith Armstrong, the late Michael Standen (Colpitts Poetry), the late Julia Darling, Andy Jackson, Fiona MacPherson, Katrina Porteous, Marie Little, Ian Horn (Colpitts Poetry), the late Alan C. Brown, Linda France, Jackie Litherland (Colpitts Poetry), Cynthia Fuller, Margaret Wilkinson, Jez Lowe, the late Jack Routledge, Gary Miller, Matthew Burge, David Stead, Hugh Doyle, Peter Dixon, Paul Summers, Chris Ormston.




FURTHER INFORMATION: NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS TEL. 0191 2529531.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

BYKER HILL
































Poems by Keith Armstrong




FIRST PUBLISHED BY INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT CO. LTD.  (NEWCASTLE) ARTS CLUB 1972


byker


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

ill-shaven

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

homespun

snot runs

licks cracked mouth



any old rags

any old rags


as raby street

                declines

          into

water



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

tilting


on her last legs






change

creeps like a lizard over the face of byker

dragging behind it its retinue of planners

                                                    wreckers

                                                    builders and

                                                    visionaries


tomorrow

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

                 hang

                          on




 

*As an industrial librarian at I.R.D., from 1968-72,  
Keith was christened 'Arts & Darts', organising 
an events programme in the firm incuding poetry 
readings, theatrical productions, and art exhibitions by 
his fellow workers, as well as launching Ostrich poetry
magazine using the firm's copying facilities and
arranging darts matches between departments!
He also organised a Byker Festival in 1972 whilst 
working at I.R.D..

Monday, 26 August 2019

HEXHAM RIOT 1761







































In 1761 a new Militia Act came into force. Strangely it managed to arouse strong negative feelings in both ordinary working people and the ruling class: the former because a ballot system of recruitment - essentially conscription - was resented; the latter as training the masses to use weapons was felt to be dangerous for the future, priming them for revolution.
On March 9th 1761 a large crowd gathered in Hexham Market Place to protest about the ballot system, some putting the numbers as high as 5000, though a few hundred is more likely. For several hours the leaders of the protest talked with the magistrates, remonstrating about the imposition. Those magistrates feared violence, and brought in a force of the North Yorks Militia as protection against a mob attack. Their presence, however, probably further enflamed tempers.
Eventually the magistrates lost patience, and the Riot Act was read. As the crowd turned uglier, the soldiers fixed bayonets. The mob, by now its fierier members armed with tools and staves, charged. Two soldiers were killed with guns grabbed from them or their comrades, then a volley or far more probably a series of volleys was fired into the rioters. When the smoke cleared at least 50 were dead, including the two soldiers. Another 300 or more were injured, some of them dying later of their wounds. Among the dead were two pregnant women.
A hunt went on over the next few weeks for anyone known to have participated in the riot, taking in not just Hexham but the settlements around it, the list of casualties showing people from Corbridge, Slayley, Stamfordham and Ryall among many others had been involved. Unsurprisingly the North Yorks Militia earned the sobriquet The Hexham Butchers after the event.





TUESDAY MARCH 10TH 1761


‘The Market Place was a tragic sight. Bodies of the dead and wounded lay scattered. The ground was stained with blood and the cries of the wounded were pitiful. The following day it rained, washing away the traces.’


Wash away the day,
wash the pain away,
sweep the remains of yesterday
into the racing river.
Beat the Dead March,
bang the old drum,
heal Hexham’s bust bones
and cry me a river,
cry the Water of Tyne.
Wash away the day
and wash this pain away.


 

A PITMAN DEAD


With blood gushing out of his boot tops,
a well-dressed man
leaves town
along Priestpopple.
Thirteen men lie inside the Abbey,
not owned.
Numbers are found dead upon the roads.
Big with child, Sarah Carter shot,
the musket ball found in the child’s belly.
Thrice into a man’s body
lying at James Charlton’s shop door
it’s said they ran theIr bayonets;
and a pitman dead,
a weaver:
all those broken days of history,
all the slain hours in our diaries.
Sound the Abbey’s bells!
Let them toll the severed minutes.
Let them celebrate
the end of torture.
Let them gush
with rejoicing
for more peaceful times.



THERE’S A RIOT


These streets,
in this Heart of All England,
are swept clean of blood.
But the stains still soak our books.
Death upon death,
we turn the pages;
in between the lines,
we read about the screams,
time’s bullets
tearing flesh away.
There is terror lurking in this Market Place,
just scrape away the skin
and, deep down,
there’s a Riot:
a commotion boiling
a terrible turbulence,
a throbbing pain.
It is a Riot of gore,
a torrential downpour
of weeping:
a seeping sore
that is Hexham’s History.




KEITH ARMSTRONG

Thursday, 8 August 2019

LIMERICK DAYS - ARMSTRONG AND DIXON WILL BE BACK THERE ON OCTOBER 3RD!












SHANNON

(dedicated to Richard St. John Harris and the roaring boys of Charlie St. George’s bar)


My heart is bursting its banks
with the songs of the Shannon.
My girl friend wells up with the beauty of daybreak,
her breasts swell with the glory of sunshine,
her eyes are glowing with wisdom.
Swim with me to the Atlantic surge,
we can watch the mighty birds take flight,
we can feel the urge of history in our bones
and ride on the aching backs of workers.
Shannon, you are our breath aglow
with the salmon of knowledge.
You are the spray in our faces,
full of bubbles of inspiration
welling up in our surging veins.
Wise one,
lift me up in your flow,
leave me in awe of your wonder.
Let me sparkle with the birth of new ideas,
reach out for the touch of a sensational moon,
dance in a festival of stars
and drown in the arms of a glorious goddess.

"There will be another song for me
for I will sing it.
There will be another dream for me,
someone will bring it.
I will drink the wine while it is warm
and never let you catch me looking at the sun
and after all the loves of my life,
after all the loves of my life,
you will still be the one.
I will take my life into my hands and I will use it,
I will win the worship in their eyes and I will lose it.
I will have the things that I desire
and my passion flow like rivers through the sky
and after all the loves of my life,
after all the loves of my life,
I will be thinking of you
and wondering why."



(last 2 verses are from 'Macarthur Park' as sung by RIchard Harris who was born in Limerick)





ROOKS AT BUNRATTY CASTLE



We’re Macnamara’s crows,
rooting for sticks and twigs in Limerick days.
We peck the flesh from Lord Gort’s arse,
from the hangers-on to his rich pickings.
We sweep our turbulent wings across the Shannon,
swimming in the Atlantic winds,
flailing over the airport.
We’re building our own
branches of castles,
screaming rebel rants at you below.
Us rooks
have seen the Vikings and the Stoddarts
rave and die.
We are a black brood
swarming though history,
watching you feckless humans
scrap over misery.
See how our wings beat
with the moment’s surf.
How dark our hearts grow
with suffering.


LIMERICK DAYS
(for Barney)


The greyhounds lash along the track,
as fists bash on the windows of Limerick Gaol.
I am staggering in the darkness of White Wine Lane,
and my path lies lost in the rain.
Let the horses run wildly out of control,
like my brain on too much whiskey and gin.
Let them throw my heart off the broad Shannon Bridge,
I have to die somewhere and this night will do.
I shout my poems out to the odd few who’ll listen,
be it Wolfe Tone or O’Dwyer or Davitt or Griffin.
I am lying dead drunk in the People’s Park,
I am knocked out with girls on poor Punch’s Row.
O Limerick Days you are haunting my soul,
my songs cry out for your old Summer Street.
Make love when I pour you a glass of my verse,
with hope may it set your ancient soul free.


CHE GUEVARA IN HANRATTY’S HOTEL



All the beer mats turned red in Limerick
the night that rebel Doctor Che Lynch took a wander
along Glentworth Street,
pouring
the jingling city
down his throat
on this island of his ancestors.
With a beard
as dark as the comforting Guinness,
he slaked his ruggerman’s thirst,
his well-shaken mix of Irish and Galician roots,
by the night-soaked Shannon.
Thirty months later, he was dead in Bolivia;
smashed bones,
splintered beads
of a revolutionary’s sweat
rolling down the guttter.
Now, I am sending this green poem
to your own heaven, old Che;
for your spirited lapel,
a singing sprig of shamrock
to light up the culture shock
of your long wild hair.
You chanced it in Hanratty’s ‘Gluepot’ bar,
you plunged from the leaden sky
to chat up all this local talent
in the eloquent lilt of a roaring evening.
Mighty ‘Red Bird’,
icon at the bar,
no better or worse
than the barman
who served you
a pint or two of Irish love,
to make your heart
grow even bigger;
to set you up
for your flight
from Limerick,
‘three sheets to the wind’,
rocking across the mighty expanse
of the rolling drunk Atlantic to Havana,
to a certain
martyr’s death.
And, amid the glorious beauty
of trees,
in the murderous jungle
of brutal dreams,
we soaks
will remember you
and celebrate the night
you fell in with us.





(Che Guevara visited Limerick fleetingly whilst his plane was delayed at Shannon Airport)


POEM FOR A LOCAL HISTORIAN
(in memory of Jim Kemmy 1936 -1997)


‘Old people mumbling
low in the night of change and of ageing
when they think you asleep and not listening -
and we wide awake in the dark,
as when we were children.’
(Desmond O’Grady)
'It was poignant,
when walking away from the graveyard
that very warm midday,
that the only sound which could be heard
after he was buried
was that of a member of his trade, a stonemason,
simply chipping away
at a monument.'
(Mary Jackman)

In this city, in every town, in every village,
there is this man
dusty with archives
and old snapshots;
this deep fellow
who digs out truths from scraps,
who drinks from a bowl of swirling voices
and makes sense of things,
makes sense
when all else
lies in chaos.
In his dreams,
wars are not dead.
They scream
from his books.
He will not let
the suffering go -
he owes the children that.
There is something noble
in his calling,
in his bearing.
His work is beautiful.
In this particular place,
you can call him 'Jim'.
You can see his face forever
in the autumn leaves,
the leaves of books,
and the dance of history,
a local historian
and carver of tales
so memorable
that every street must value his love:
the love of our people though the ages,
the love of learning,
the search for dignity
that underpins these lanes.
In Limerick,
Jim's imagination still blossoms
and keeps us rooted
in the drift of memory.
He teaches us lessons.
Listen to his spirit breathe
deep as the Shannon.
His voice forever flies
with the power of knowledge.
'Beautiful dreamer wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for Thee.'



KEITH ARMSTRONG



(Jim Kemmy was a well known Limerick politician and local historian)