JINGLE ON MY SON!

JINGLE ON MY SON!

20.2.18

NEWCASTLE: A POETIC STROLL WITH DR KEITH ARMSTRONG


































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)







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





GRAINGER MARKET

 

(1)

A city
within a city

light cage

bazaar and blind
these swollen alleys


flow with a teeming life’s blood

Geordie  !

Swim for your life  !




(2)

this is life
the gloss and the flesh
weigh-house of passion and flame

you can get lost in this market’s amazement
but you can never lose yourself

sometimes
a sleep-walk in these grazing crowds
can feel like a stroll through your brain





 

MAUD WATSON, FLORIST





bred in a market arch

a struggle

in a city’s armpit



that flower

in your time-rough hand’s

a beautiful girl in a slum alley



all that kindness in your face



and you’re right



the time are not what they were

this England’s not what it was



flowers shrink in the crumbling vase

dusk creeps in on a cart



and Maud the sun is choking



Maud this island’s sinking



and all that sleeping sea is



the silent majority



waving









Keith Armstrong




GREY’S MONUMENT

 

Grey –
this man and his brain’s conception,
clasped in stone.
Disdainful figure
raised
on a firm dry finger;
proud-stiff
above a time-bent avenue of dwindling lights.

The Earl’s pale forehead is cool and cloudy;
unblinking,
he views us all (as we view him)
in the same old, cold, way –
through the wrong end of a battered telescope,
through the dusty lens of history.

Strip away the tinsel
and this city’s heart is stone.



Keith Armstrong





BLACK GATE


Black Gate,
an oxter of history,
reaches for me
with a stubby finger,
invites me into Old Newcastle,
its vital cast
of craggy characters,
Garth urchins,
dancing blades
and reeling lasses.
Black Gate,
I can read
the lines
on your brow,
the very grit
on your timelined walls,
the furrowed path
down the Geordie lane
where Alexander Stephenson stoops
to let me in
and the merchant Patrick Black
still trades in memories.
Once
there was a tavern
inside you,
that’s why
the bricks cackle
and the windows creak
with the crack of old ale
and the redundant patter
of publican John Pickell.
Black Gate,
you could say
my childhood is in your stones,
my mother and father figures,
my river
of drifting years,
waiting to greet me.
Hoist up your drawbridge,
in the startling chill
of a Tyne dawn,
this boy is with you
and with himself
in this home city
of old bones,
new blood
and dripping dreams.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

*The Black Gate is named after the seventeenth century merchant Patrick Black.





CASTLE KEEP


Keep,
this history by the river.
Keep,
the stairway to the past.
Keep,
the memories singing folk songs.
Keep,
the cobbles wet with blood.
Keep,
those ballads down the centuries.
Keep,
the ancient voices in your head.
Keep,
these stones alive with music.
Keep,
the wind howling in the brick.
Keep
the days that speed our lives.
Keep,
the rails to guide you there.
Keep,
the people that you meet.
Keep,
the children's faces dancing.
Keep,
the devil in your fleeting eyes.
Keep,
the bridges multiplying.
Keep,
the moon upon the Tyne.
Keep,
the flag of lovers flying.
Keep,
your feet still
Geordie hinny.


 

KEITH ARMSTRONG

THE SUN ON DANBY GARDENS


The sun on Danby Gardens
smells of roast beef,
tastes of my youth.
The flying cinders of a steam train
spark in my dreams.
Across the old field,
a miner breaks his back
and lovers roll in the ditches,
off beaten tracks.
Off Bigges Main,
my grandad taps his stick,
reaches for the braille of long-dead strikes.
The nights
fair draw in
and I recall Joyce Esthella Antoinette Giles
and her legs that reached for miles,
tripping over the stiles
in red high heels.
It was her and blonde Annie Walker
who took me in the stacks
and taught me how to read
the signs
that led inside their thighs.
Those Ravenswood girls
would dance into your life
and dance though all the snow drops
of those freezing winters,
in the playground of young scars.
And I remember freckled Pete
who taught me Jazz,
who pointed me to Charlie Parker
and the edgy bitterness of Brown Ale.
Mrs Todd next door
was forever sweeping
leaves along the garden path
her fallen husband loved to tread.
Such days:
the smoke of A4 Pacifics in the aftermath of war,
the trail of local history on the birthmarked street.
And I have loved you all my life
and will no doubt die in Danby Gardens
where all my poems were born,
just after midnight.


 

KEITH ARMSTRONG



NEWCASTLE IS PICARDY
































 





Grainger Street hums
and bakes
in the peeling sunshine;
this walled, world weary city
adopts a certain Latin glow:
car drivers swear more brilliantly,
girls giggle louder
and trap my eyes
in the flash
of their hair.
The world is simply
passing us by.
And who cares,
in this haze
of a burning Empire?
So long as
the sunbeams 
swim
in our beer
and the roses
are blooming
in Picardy.


Keith Armstrong

the jingling geordie

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