Monday, 19 December 2016



I dreamt I glimpsed Jack Common on a train.
He had his nose stuck in a book;
the Newcastle rain seeped from his eyes.
Jack looked sad
and I dreamt he sleepwalked across the station bridge
and staggered down The Side;
he’d had a drink,
and couldn’t believe
the things he saw.
He bowled along the corridors through Milburn House
and stalked the nightmare of his past;
all around him fell bulldozed history
and his suit shook with soot.
He sensed a shallowness in the air,
a city with its guts ripped out.
He blinked at the scale of the new Law Courts
and thought of battles the workers lost:
Sons of the Battleaxe,
bands of brass.

The Tyne slid by him
and his big heart
swelled with the agony of years;
a great history swilling in his veins
and the banks of the river cleansed
for millionaires.
We live in hope I would suppose
but how many games must we Geordies lose?
Jack looked down at his shredded roots
and felt his home city shudder with pain.
It was the ache of the starving in an age of plenty,
the shudder of a rudderless future:
the Johnny Riddle trickle of the lonely Ouseburn
down the drain.


Keith Armstrong

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