A doughty champion of his local culture.(Poet Tom Hubbard)Your performance at the city hall was soooooooooo good! Christoph thought it was excellent! (Carolyn)



It is raining on crocodiles,
bullet-tears on the scales.
Here, where the balance of power has changed.
These banks of hardened green-backs, spread
stoned along the water’s edge,
are caged
like old dictators,
reigns ended
as young Cuba
surrounds them.


photos: Dr Keith Armstrong



(Autor: Keith Armstrong; Traducción: Javier Aldabalde & Marcelo De Maio)

(Para K).

Las zumayas y sus aliadas

se posan en el bosque esta noche

soñando con noches salvajes,

una oportunidad de cantar en el vuelo titilante.

Y tú mi hechicera de pelo oscuro

podrías retorcerte desnuda en una cama de plumas

mientras mis manos persiguen

las cimas de tu inmensa dicha

que desborda entre los árboles trémulos.

Porque eres oscura,

de cola de seda

y blancas alas;

eres mi zumaya europea

que trina mientras te hago

brotar en escalofríos de luz de luna.

Dorada y de garganta blanca,

estrellada y de hombros negros

extiendes tus alas alrededor mío,

envuelves mi corazón en cintas de carbón,

me elevas sumiéndome en una bandada de pájaros negros

y me inundas

de canción nocturna.

©  Keith Armstrong.



(Keith Armstrong)

(For K.)

The nightjars and their allies

have their heads down in the woods today,

dreaming of wild nights,

a chance to sing on the flickering wing.

And you my dark haired songstress

could writhe naked on a bed of their feathers

as I touch with my aching fingertips

the tips of your sprawling bliss

in all that lushness between the trembling trees.

For you are dusky,

silky-tailed and


you are my European Nightjar

churring as I make you

spring to life in shivers of moonlight.

White-throated and golden,

star-spotted and black shouldered,

you straddle your strapping limbs around me,

wrap my leaping heart in charcoal ribbons,

fly me screaming in a flock of black birds

and drench me

with jars of night song.

© Keith Armstrong.




Tuebingen (and a trace of coffee)
invades the edges of my agitated tongue
as I glide through the empty stools
of the moments gone
and the sensational waitress
picks at the tips
of those forgotten days,
the wasted breath
of political song.
I have lost something
that poems can’t define:
the warmth of my mother’s smile in the shivering moonlight,
the love of a lifetime
and the ways my young feet
ran along in the summer breezes.
But my friends (those who stand by me) I tell you
I shall rise,
I shall rise again at Newcastle Airport
and greet the runways of Europe
with kisses fresh
with longing
for the ache of adventure,
an air hostess’s hand in mine
as I cling to the sunshine in her eyes
and the golden memories
to force me to laugh again.




My father worked on ships.
They spelked his hands,
dusted his eyes, his face, his lungs.

Those eyes that watered by the Tyne
stared out to sea
to see the world
in a tear of water, at the drop
of an old cloth cap.

For thirty weary winters
he grafted
through the snow and the wild winds
of loose change.

He was proud of those ships he built,
he was proud of the men he built with,
his dreams sailed with them:
the hull was his skull,
the cargo his brains.

His hopes rose and sunk
in the shipwrecked streets
of Wallsend
and I look at him now
this father of mine who worked on ships
and I feel proud
of his skeletal frame, this coastline
that moulded me
and my own sweet dreams.

He sits in his retiring chair,
dozing into the night.
There are storms in his head
and I wish him more love yet.

Sail with me,
breathe in me,
breathe that rough sea air old man,
and cough it up.

Rage, rage
against the dying
of this broken-backed town,
the spirit
of its broken-backed

Keith Armstrong

Mo Shevis: Read your 'My father worked on ships' as one of my choices at our poetry reading group last week, it went down very well!! 
Bought 'Imagined Corners' recently and was pleased to see this poem there, having read it previously online. When I read it last week at my poetry reading group it was very well received.! It is a powerful piece Keith. We are all of an age to remember the old industries, proud of our heritage and those who worked in them. Thankfully we have people like you to record such images and memories for posterity.

Derek Young: What a poem. So evocative of those days. I worked at Parsons Marine Turbine Company as an apprentice marine engineer. My girl friend was a trainee tracer at Swan Hunters.

Michael McNally: Hi Keith,Thank you for sending this wonderful piece of work in my direction. 

Joan Edler: Hello! came across your website and really enjoyed above poem. I am now living in the United States having been transplanted from Wallsend, that would be in 1949. I have wonderful memories of my childhood in Wallsend and also High Farm and your poem really piqued my interest...my dear Dad worked for Swan Hunter for many years, he was a shipwright and I remember, with great thrill and anticipation, seeing the ships that he helped build being launched. Thanks for the memories! Hawa the lads!

Allan Dennis Brockbank:  I always did like your poetry, how you doing?




Sensational Rock,
swimming in light.
Bird cries clinging to ancient ledges,
Kittiwakes smashing against time.
What tales you could tell.

Your face is so moody,
flickers with breezes,
crumbles in a hot afternoon.

Climbing your powdery steps,
we look down on the sea
thrashing at you.

We join a choir of birds at your peak,
cry out to the sky
in good spirits.

Nesting for the sake of it,
our lyrics are remnants on the shore.

We keep chipping away,
do we not?

We slip
through the pebbles,
with babies.

We leave our mark,
a grain
on the ancient landscape.

We go.

We dance like the sunlight
on your scarred body:





FRIENDS OF THE GRAVES (for the Birtley Belgians)

‘Never forget that you are a Birtley Belgian.’
(Ida ‘Anderland’ Dergent)

This is the story of the Birtley Belgians,
the shellers from hell,
the wandering men
and the women they wed.
You can say goodbye to your friends.

These are the remnants of Elisabethville,
the shattered relics of battered soldiers,
the shards of savagery,
the empty shells of discarded folk.

This is what’s left of the carnage,
the last of the war effort,
the smiles of the children
and the severed limbs.
This is the story of the Birtley Belgians.

From Flanders and Wallonia they came
leaving beloved roots behind
to do their bit for the ritual slaughter,
to bring up well their sons and daughters
to dance and sing
under the hails of bullets.

Fishing for sunshine in the Ijzer brook,
kicking stones on the Rue de Charleroi,
the Birtley Belgians
planted their seed on Durham ground
and made do
and made explosive dreams.
What more can we tell?
‘Home is made for coming from,
for dreams of going to
which with any luck
will never come true.’

Sweating in uniform
on assembly lines,
pulverising their brains
to keep the powers that be in power,
they were strong
and at the same time weak
and screamed and cried
like anyone.
This is the story of the Birtley Belgians.

They’re gone now,
blown to dust
in the festering fields,
memories strewn over the way
to fertilise another day
with the same weary mistakes
and thrusts of love.

I can see the boys in the Villa de Bruges
slaking their frustrated fantasies
to drown the horror
and the girls
seductive behind the huts
in between
the grind of daily production.

Let me take you
up the Boulevard Queen Mary,
along the Rue de Louvain,
knock on the door of number D2
and blood will pour
and the ground will open up,
‘mud will take you prisoner’
and devour all those years.
This is the story of the Birtley Belgians.

You can hear their singing on the North Sea wind,
hear them in Chester le Street and Liege,
the brass band and orchestra
drowning out the distant pounding.
In and out of trouble,
we will always dance.

An accordion wails across the little streets,
the Three Tuns welcomes the living.
And at the crack of dawn
and in the battlefields of evening clouds
we will remember them,
in the words of the Walloon poet Camille Fabry proclaim:
‘Our thoughts fly like arrows back to the land of our birth.’

This is the story of the loss of lives
for causes we scarcely understand
but for love and grandeur too
and for the little Belgian children
and the joyous games they play.
This is the story of the Birtley Belgians.


The Birtley Belgians emigrated from Belgium to Birtley, County Durham during World War 1 to build an armaments factory and lived in their own specially created village.  
Named after the Queen of the Belgians, Elisabethville itself became Little Belgium - a colony of 6,000 people, of boules and of boulevards.

It had its own hospital, cemetery, school, church, nunnery and Co-op; only Flemish and Walloon were spoken.

The Birtley factory was to the north of the town, British built but entirely Belgian run. By 1916 it gave work to 3,500 men, 85 per cent disabled in some way, with 2,500 family members also housed in the adjacent iron fenced village. 

The poem was commissioned by the Birtley Belgians Euro-Network in 2015 in association with Borsolino and Berline Belgian Drama Groups.

What a good job you've made of it!  Like you, I find these nooks and crannies of the 20th century totally fascinating. (John Mapplebeck, Bewick Films).




We turned its global head as babies,

traced its edges onto paper,

scarcely scratched

the surface

of that old familiar spotted face

shaped up, boiling for a fight.

Hung on walls,

it looked so static

but in its latitudes and longitudes we knew

that people moved,

homes grew,

cities drowned

and cliffs broke.

Later, travelling,

we stepped out

across the sheet,

skipped the Channel,


new squares.

Then creeping back

at dusk,

we folded up this map,

packed away the ice

and sunny beach,

stuck it all in a small back pocket

and shrunk back

into our own world’s frontiers.

That tiny territory

of our scars.


the jingling geordie

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