POEM FOR GORDON (1949-2017)

Across a Fenham avenue,
through the pools of stars in your eyes,
the seering light of your vision,
I saw your finely hewed words running towards me,
a crystal stream
tearing along these Newcastle lanes.
We tripped along together
in huddled poetry readings,
throbbing public houses
and ancient mansions,
searching for images
to make our days
longing for a folk song
to drink with
in the approaching darkness.
always searching,
for the right words
to sing to our loved ones,
we crossed the sea
to fulfil our dreams
from the flat land of East Anglia
into the arms of Scandinavia,
returning with that smile of yours
still intact,
beaming with the sun
breaking up the clouds
on any dogged northern day
in your adopted home,
lending a sparkle to Grainger Street,
a twinkle to our beer;
the joy of a lasting friend,
the spilt dreams
forever flowing with us.


This is a special man
who spends his life entirely
searching for clues to all of it
outside the teeming box.
He rants from the obscure corners
where no one else dares,
rummages down lanes
where most folk fear
to walk,
looking for a special meaning,
a hint of a jewel
in the pervasive rubbish.
A walk with him
will lead you
into beautiful gardens,
alternative libraries
and abstract galleries.
His voice
is his own
unique instrument,
dulcit in the sun
of blooming vineyards
and birdsong.
His thoughts
the universe
with their original
Listen to him,
to the deepness
in his soul,
to the reverence
in his wise and searching eyes.


was the word I was looking for
down the lanes of Temple Bar
between the tourist spots
and the poetry slots of all Ireland.
And at last I found it
in Charlie St George’s bar
clashing glasses of Guinness with you
Robert my good friend,
blessing the magical days
when we were born
to share our dribbling verses,
our hard-earned lines,
between ourselves
but above all with others
of our gentle persuasion
whether here in Limerick’s rain-soaked lanes
with Richard Harris
or in Newcastle’s Bridge Hotel
with William Blake
over the cobbles of our dreams
to airport lounges
and soaring planes,
just anywhere at all
to fly our poems.
For this I thank you Robert,
for staying with me,
for offering strong friendship
when all the world is falling apart around us.
Let us celebrate love again
in a pint of plain
and poetry in our memorable smiles
this day by the glorious Shannon
and in the sunlight of the River Tyne.


Many’s the time
I have rested
my weary mind
on a chair
in the Beacon pub corners,
ready to drown recent sorrow
with the flow of alcohol
down an anxious throat.
And the sun on those days
not only in my glass of Stella
but in Mary’s twinkling eyes
when I saw her there
alive with wit
and sparkle,
her infectious smiles
mischievous to the last.
So from now on,
whenever the sun goes down,
I will remember her,
those cheerful emails she sent me
and the graceful way
she bore her lovely self.


I saw you
round Baudelaire’s grave.
You were on a pilgrimage from Blyth.
I saw your face in Montparnasse,
blending with a swarm of irises.
You needed to get away from the grime,
to bathe in flowers of evil,
to wash your pale white body
in the Paris crowds,
broaden your worried brow.
Your young poems already rot
in the cemetery of poets
and yet you still churn out the stuff
as if your little voice meant something.
There is no going back
to that fateful day
when our eyes met by chance,
neighbours brought together by France
and the great mind of Charles.
He lay there,
pecked at by the grip of time,
in agony,
drugged by a quickfire nib,
injected with the poison of love
and the wit of drunkenness;
and I saw you,
before I even met you,
and I knew that one day we would fly
to a liberated Prague together,
to taste the freedom of the streets
and the lightning lash of fate.


Is it the optimist in me
that remembers you for your smile?
Out there in a cruel Northumberland
there is a sun
behind the Army tanks at Otterburn
if you strain your eyes
to face it.
Often it seems
so pointless;
our pathetic scribblings
amongst all the sordid agony
of this poisoned world.
But you made me think
that my little trembling efforts
were so much worthwhile.
For that, I humbly thank you
and, when I am down again,
your well remembered smile
will touch me
from the heavens
and make me want to sing.


Your thoughts ran deep by the Wear.
You were the only one
who brought Franz Kafka to the writers’ group meeting.
The Durham mines were your veins
and you took your genuine heritage onto the Horden bus.
Many’s the drink we poured over
our thoughts and dreams of Socialism.
In lots of ways, our hopes were cruelly dashed
but you strode on
with that serious chuckle of yours,
nobly bearing your ideals
for all the passengers to see
on your daring journey
through this dangerous life.
You took your reading abroad
to share with others
in worlds as far apart
as Poland, Oman and Kurdistan.
Teaching was your calling
and you had divine patience for it,
a love of times of being together
like those golden days I remember with you
listening to Dollar Brand in a Bremen concert,
washing down the day with apfelkorn,
talking cricket with you in Chester-le-Street
and laughing at NewcastleGateshead on a tourist bus
as the sun set on a New Town
and another Empire died.
Gary, I wish
I’d got to see you again
before your sweet smile left our streets and avenues.
One thing I know though:
when I googled you today,
all I found was kindness.


(in loving memory of David Waterston)

David was speedy
with his lightning wit.
His distinctive voice
lit and lifted
any lunchtime gloom.
He was a fighter
and fought the battle
until the very end game.
He became my friend
when my dearest mother died
and his wise words helped me
get through
tough days
with his strength
of sincerity,
and caring:
all the things that make a life worthwhile.
He was like me
a team player.
That’s why they called him ‘Whoosh!’,
because he was a dashing blade
on the pitch and in the pub and everywhere,
always quick
to share a laugh
at this mad world
and quick to love
as well.


(in memory of Jack Routledge, folk singer)

In ‘The Phoenix’,
you belted out
your heart again
for us,
playing on those bones,
the minutes beating on your bodrahn,
and your lungs full to bursting
with the music
of days long gone:
‘the wash house
standing in the rain,
the smell of washing
through a broken pane.’

I thought you were a brick,
safe as houses,
but you crumbled,
just like your beloved Byker Bank,

Sinking the darkness of a Guinness,
I listen to a tape of you
that night in Lauffen,
your voice filling the pub,
and I can see
the sweat dripping from you,
all those sung memories
shared with us,
like the Tyne.

We grew apart, I know,
but, friend Jack, now that you have gone,
I’ll treasure even more
the times we socked it
to 'em all
those nights merry
with my sweet poetry,
and brilliant
with your sweet songs.


(in memory of Paddy Bort)

I have lost my roaring boys and girls.
They are left behind,
fallen from Collegium stools;
the poignant moments in Lange Gasse dust.
Times and laughter shared,
dwindled to an Ammer trickle
in a bleak semester,
worn out days.

Friends are for leaving.
I’m afraid
I am too old to chase it.
These young Swabian mistresses
are too damned quick
for me to grab anymore
their lightning glances,
hints of a possible romance
boarding trains,
in frigid seminar rooms.

Tear yourself from me
as I stumble
through security.
I know I’ll miss
your touch.

Horst has gone with Hades bar
and the old man
from the Boulanger;
Mick has flown
to the heavens,
now Paddy has fallen,
with all those twinning hours.

Nothing is still.
Her eyelashes flicker,
new wounds open;
the light streams on Wilhelmstrasse,
darkness fills Hafengasse.
A special sunlight
sparkles in my beer,
shafts of it
dart on the counter.
A bird flaps
across my face,
of a former glory.

So that’s the story:
we lose it all,
we lose everything
and everyone.
It’s why I cling
to the night wind
beating against my cheeks,
to the whisper of the leaves
along this dull suburban street.

The old voices
of mates I made
through the mediocrity
of lonely petrol stations,
soul-destroying car parks.

of former joy
winking at the moon.


Allan Savage I've just been reading your excellent memory to Paddy Bort and came across your farewell to my best friend Jack Routledge. It really brought a tear to my eye. I think about Jack very often and the good times we had singing together. I can remember when Jack and you went to Germany, and how he was so excited when telling me about your trip. Thanks again Keith.

Cath Campbell Ah, Keith. Ah, Godammit. You made me cry. Beautiful poem. Brought my own memories of the gone ones roaring back.

Harry Gallagher Lovely stuff Keith.

Tom Hubbard Many thanks for your moving tribute to dear Paddy. I was recalling these days in Freudenstadt, so long ago now. All the best from us in Scotland.

the jingling geordie

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whitley bay, tyne and wear, United Kingdom
poet and raconteur