I am more inclined
to prowl the Jules Verne lanes of Amiens
or the backstreets of a Brecht Berlin
than shank the Black Mountains
of the massive States.
My nose points dripping cold
from Shields to Scandinavia;
my battered cheeks reek of North Sea cod.
Instincts lead me to Munch and to Courbet,
to Hasek and De Nerval.
This Geordie’s inspiration comes alive
in translations of teeming Oslo streets
or dark Prenzlauer Berg cobbles
not from the vomit of the sprawling Bowery.
Baltic folk tunes still whistle in my ears.
I get the ghettoblaster belt of Smetena
clearer than the wail of Dylan.
The sexy accordions of Montmartre are in my blood.
I face this way:
my poetry sings with euro-balladry;
my feet itch with traditional rhymes:
border ballads in The Blink Bonny,
fiddles leaping in Sandy Bell’s.
I am no modernist.
I see my footprints in the snowy past
on the Old Tyne Bridge,
or outside a bar in Reykjavik
or on an icy lake of vodka.
Pushkin floats in my dreams,
Verlaine is on my lips,
and Rimbaud hammers knives inside my brain.
I cannot swim in Atlantic water,
only the German Sea will do.
I think my father built me Northern ships,
a Swan Hunter Viking
raiding the flooded dictionary of my soul.
I happily drift across the square in wintery Groningen,
smoke myself silly on Prinsengracht
and leap with light at Oeteldonk.
I once skipped school with boys in Heaton
and licked the breasts of Ipswich Jenny.
At home I am always
dabbling my naked feet in lovely sand,
my fingers wet with new poems.
Think on Northumbrian bards,
my fellow country gents,
I tell you now
that I would rather die dead drunk
in a pool of Swinburne’s wine
than in a frozen field
Posted by keith armstrong at 6:38 pm