JINGLE ON MY SON!

JINGLE ON MY SON!

4.3.18

FREE THINKING POEMS


































55 DEGREES NORTH


They’re going to illuminate Scotswood,
make floral entrepreneurs in Elswick.
Someone’s set fire to our Arts reporter,
it’s another Cultural Initiative.
Sting’s buying the Civic Centre,
they’re filling the Baltic with tanks.
The Sage is changing its name to onion,
Shane’s pissed on the classical conductor.
They’re floating quangos down the Tyne,
the bonfire will be at Shields.
They’re bringing tourists to witness miracles,
the Chief Executive will strip for money.
They’re blowing up the Castle Keep
to build an installation.
They’re giving the locals more public art,
it’s something to rhyme with.
They’re taking live theatre to the cemetery,
the vicar will write an Arts Council poem.
Steve Cram’s taken up painting
to stop his nose from running.
The river will be made into an ice rink,
we can play with our boats in the bath.
Let New Labour bomb Iraq,
they’re making a museum of politics.
Stuffing glass cases with old principles,
the head hunters are out and about.
It’s cultivated jobs for the boys and the girls,
they’re putting the Arts into centres.
Drain the music from our souls,
we have to be grateful to be patronised.
Their self righteousness grins from on high,
let the bombs fly and rockets rip.
We can enjoy some more tamed Art,
say cheerio to your history.
They’ve wrapped it up in moth balls,
thank God for the boys from the south.
They’ve saved us from self government,
we’ve missed out on the Love Parade.
This City of Culture got lost in the end,
the Angel glowers over us though.
Thanks again City Fathers,
it looks uglier every day.
You’ve reinvented our culture for us,
you’ve rendered it meaningless.
Guts ripped out,
we touch our forelock to your glorious Lords.
From the orifice of the Deputy Prime Minister
leaks the corrupt emptiness of your manifestos.
The aching past of the working man
has become the death of England.
Let us hail you from NewcastleGateshead,
a city you made up for yourselves.
Let us watch your empty schemes plummet,
let us learn to dance in community again.
We are Geordies naked with a beautiful anger to burn.




KEITH ARMSTRONG








NAKED!

(for Spencer Tunick & his followers)


Naked at the conference table
naked
naked on a beer label
naked
naked in Iraq
naked
naked on the bloody rack
naked
naked as torture
naked
naked as a Baghdad butcher
naked
naked to a public school
naked
naked as a pubic fool
naked
naked in a Gateshead alley
naked
naked as a nuclear family
naked
naked as a pub dart
naked
naked as a bleeding upstart
naked
naked in the corporate office
naked
naked on the bleeding coalface
naked
naked to a stupid war
naked
naked as an arts whore
naked
naked as a councillor in hock
naked
naked as a business hack
naked
naked as I can’t be arsed
naked
naked in a uk farce
naked
naked as a Brendan Foster
naked
naked as a duty roster
naked
naked as a boomtown rat
naked
naked as a poetry brat
naked
naked in the supermarket
naked
naked as a sitting target
naked
naked as the bomb
naked
naked in a Bosnian womb
naked
naked in the Belsen darkness
naked
naked in our wilful blindness
naked
naked under manipulation
naked
naked under a brain tarpaulin
naked
naked as an artist’s prop
naked
naked in the cop shop
naked
naked at the wrong time
naked
naked at the pantomime
naked
naked in the Lottery Gallery
naked
naked as a stick of celery
naked
naked as a stripper in the club
naked
naked as a bourgeois shrub
naked
naked as a strapping Geordie
naked
naked as a gunning Saudi
naked
naked in an Utrecht gutter
naked
naked as a poor kid’s stutter
naked
naked as a star on tele
naked
naked as a starving belly
naked

naked!




KEITH ARMSTRONG




FOLK SONG FOR THOMAS SPENCE
(1750-1814)


Down by the old Quayside,
I heard a young man cry,
among the nets and ships he made his way.
As the keelboats buzzed along,
he sang a seagull’s song;
he cried out for the Rights of you and me.
Oh lads, that man was Thomas Spence,
he gave up all his life
just to be free.
Up and down the cobbled Side,
struggling on through the Broad Chare,
he shouted out his wares
for you and me.
Oh lads, you should have seen him gan,
he was a man the likes you rarely see.
With a pamphlet in his hand,
and a poem at his command,
he haunts the Quayside still
and his words sing.
His folks they both were Scots,
sold socks and fishing nets,
through the Fog on the Tyne they plied their trade.
In this theatre of life,
the crying and the strife,
they tried to be decent and be strong.
Oh lads, that man was Thomas Spence,
he gave up all his life
just to be free.
Up and down the cobbled Side,
struggling on through the Broad Chare,
he shouted out his wares
for you and me.
Oh lads, you should have seen him gan,
he was a man the likes you rarely see.
With a pamphlet in his hand,
and a poem at his command,
he haunts the Quayside still
and his words sing.


KEITH ARMSTRONG

(from the music-theatre piece ‘Pig’s Meat’ written for Bruvvers Theatre Company)






TELL ME LIES ABOUT NORTHUMBERLAND
(in honour of Adrian Mitchell)


Say this land is ours,
these pipe tunes do not cry.
The birds all sing in dialect,
old miners breathe like dukes.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

Tell me it isn’t feudal,
that castles were built for us.
We never touch the forelock,
bend to scrape up dust.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

Your pretty girls don’t stink of slaughter,
your eyes don’t blur with myth.
You’re as equal as a duchess,
saints never smell of piss.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

Your roots are in this valley,
you were never from doon south.
You never hide your birthplace,
you’re a real poet of the north.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

The churches are not crumbling,
the congregations glow with hope.
We are different from the foreigner,
our poetry rhymes with wine.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

There is no landed gentry,
no homes locals can’t afford.
There’s no army on the moors,
the Romans freed us all.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

That the hurt is in the past,
the future holds no war.
Home rule is at our fingertips,
the Coquet swims with love.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

‘The Garden’ is our children’s,
Hotspur spurs us on.
The seagulls are not soaked in oil,
the cows are not diseased.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

This Kingdom is United,
‘Culture’ is our God.
Everyone’s a Basil Bunting freak,
there’s music everywhere.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

We will have our independence,
we’ll get the Gospels back.
We live off museums and tourists,
we don’t need boats or trades.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

We’re in charge of our own futures,
we have north east citizens here.
In this autonomous republic,
we’re free as dicky birds.

So shut your eyes.

And tell me lies

about Northumberland.




KEITH ARMSTRONG
 



IN THE DEPARTMENT OF POETRY

‘Our paths may cross again, they may not. But I wish you success for the future. I don’t think you are a person who is easily defeated through life as you are by nature a peacock which shows at times its beautiful feathers.’ (Margaretha den Broeden)


In the Department of Poetry something is stirring:
it is a rare bird shitting on a heap of certificates.
He bears the beautiful plumage of a rebel,
flying through the rigid corridors,
the stifling pall of academic twaddle.
He pecks at the Masters’ eggheads,
scratches pretty patterns along the cold walls of poetic power.
He cares not a jot for their fancy Awards,
their sycophantic perambulations,
degrees of literary incest.
These trophies for nepotism
pass this peculiar bird by
as he soars
high
above the paper quadrangle,
circling over the dying Heads of Culture,
singing sweet revolutionary songs,
showing off
his brilliant wings
that fly him
into the ecstasy
of a poem.


KEITH ARMSTRONG




AN OUBLIETTE FOR KITTY
There’s a hole in this Newcastle welcome,
there’s a beggar with a broken spine.
On Gallowgate, a heart is broken
and the ships have left the Tyne.
So what becomes of this History of Pain?
What is there left to hear?
The kids pour down the Pudding Chare lane
and drown a folksong in beer.
So here is an oubliette for you, Kitty,
somewhere to hide your face.
The blood is streaming from fresh wounds in our city
and old scars are all over the place.
There’s this dirt from a history of darkness
and they’ve decked it in neon and glitz.
There are traders in penthouse apartments
on the Quayside where sailors once pissed.
So where are Hughie and Tommy, Kitty?,
the ghosts of Geordies past?
I don’t want to drown you in pity
but I saw someone fall from the past.
So here is an oubliette for you, Kitty,
somewhere to hide your face.
The blood is streaming from fresh wounds in our city
and old scars are all over the place.
While they bomb the bridges of Belgrade,
they hand us a cluster of Culture
and tame Councillors flock in on a long cavalcade
to tug open the next civic sculpture.
And who can teach you a heritage?
Who can learn you a poem?
We’re lost in a difficult, frightening, age
and no one can find what was home.
So here is an oubliette for you, Kitty,
somewhere to hide your face.
The blood is streaming from fresh wounds in our city
and old scars are all over the place.
So here is an oubliette for you, Kitty,
somewhere to hide your face.
The blood is streaming from fresh wounds in our city
and old scars are all over the place.

KEITH ARMSTRONG





FAT MAN LODGED ON DOG LEAP STAIRS

He pounded the cobbles
of the Castle Garth,
bowling along
with his brain hanging over his neck
and his belly
looming over his huge pants.
His overeducated head
weighed a ton
and bore down
on an arse
fattened on home- made pies.
He was carrying a plan
for the working classes
but forgot his heart was too small,
dwarfed by his huge mouth
and an expensive ego.
He had a board meeting to go to,
the big fart,
and he sweated grants
as he blundered along
to the narrow alley.
He was far too broad of beam really
but he was late for everything,
including his funeral,
and thrust his plates of meat
onto the slippery steps.
History closed in on him,
the Black Gate,
the Keep,
as if to tell him
it wasn’t his,
as if to say
‘get out of my town’.
He squeezed himself onto this narrow stairway
and, like his poetry,
got stuck.
He coudn’t move
for his lack of lyricism.
The Fat Man
was firmly lodged
on Dog Leap Stairs
and the crows
began to gather
to swoop
and pick
the bloated power
from his face.





KEITH ARMSTRONG


LAMENT FOR A WRITER DEAD


He died,
clinging on to his pen,
at six in the morning,
his usual stint.
He’d run out of anything to write about.
For years, he’d watched the world go by his study,
observing other people’s lives.
All he had to do was fill the page,
disengaged,
lacking in instinct,
without a history,
with no real vision of any particular community.

After all,
he knew he was
a writer,
a describer,
inscriber of someone else’s paving stones.
An expert on poetry,
with nothing much at all
to say.





KEITH ARMSTRONG 



outside your lonely window


My God,
we are
indeed lucky,
in this great and ancient city,
to have,
in our presence,
such a poet as you.
Sometimes,
it even seems
that you
are bigger than us,
with your huge dome
dominating
our history.
Such an immense
and supreme
ego,
larger than the space
in Grainger Market.
And, when it comes to writing up our story,
we, of course,
must turn to you,
with your flawless technique
and structured craft,
turn to you
in our peasant
ignorance.
Since,
though we have folk songs,
they cannot do justice
to the language,
like you
above all,
can.
Perhaps,
next time,
before we break
into song,
we should ask you
to subject our voices
to your analysis.
But then
I don’t think,
in your padded academic tower,
that you can hear us all
singing
in the trees,
outside
your lonely window.





KEITH ARMSTRONG 



the bearded wonder

(who ate all the pies?)


The Bearded Wonder
takes you down a dark alley
to teach you
to write a degree.

The Bearded Wonder,
shorn of modesty,
man of power
above all.

The Bearded Wonder,
brain wrapped
in shock of hair,
hiding love.

The Bearded Wonder,
Presidential Bard,
Committee Man
so hard to please.

The Bearded Wonder
in joyless covers,
his intellect brooding
over Wor City.

The Bearded Wonder,
arse parked in dictionaries,
barks out his verse
behind our backs.

The Bearded Wonder
wears rootless hair,
could fart in any town
and crow.

The Bearded Wonder,
so chuffed with his output,
comes to tell us
how not to sing.




KEITH ARMSTRONG





the jingling geordie

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