Black Country poetry: a selection by the Coachhouse Writers, Stourbridge

 

Not Forgotten

 

No-one cared to count the years of raindrops
falling on the spoil – a man-made mountain –
a dark picture of patient malevolence
looming over evidence of the living.

And when fate announced its intentions
the nightmare scooped years from a careless past,
sending death on its journey to the valley below,
sliding and slipping, with a roar that
chilled blood, bringing terror to the innocents.

And when the devil’s thunder fell silent,
screams filled the damp morning air;
extinguished lights swung lazy, overhead,
the sodden, viscous muck, below,
filled the classrooms deep enough to kill.

Smothered, crushed, a generation lay buried –
few carried alive from the school, while the village
searched for its kin in the ink-black mud.
And it all grew quiet, save the scraping of shovels,
painting grief in the sordid dirt.

Each feared-for discovery silenced the valley,
an intuitive awareness of tragedy obvious
to the grown numbers digging against hope,
as limp rag-dolls were taken, one-by-one,
from the clinging, corrupt ground.

To begin with, they dug for life,
then they dug to find the dead,
eventually, they dug the trench
where friends would be with friends,

covered in flowers and tears,

forever.

First Flight – Last Flight

 

Where I first saw the flash
of a kingfisher’s flight,
explosion of colours
through the air;
where I heard the sounds
of the scrabbling brook,
over polished stones,
full flowing somewhere.

Where I first knew fulfilment,
aware of life’s treasures,
discovered this haven
of beauty and peace;
where a boy began dreaming
of knights and of rainbows
and smiles of contentment –
freedom, release.

So, please,

when my wings have grown weary,
my eyes have grown dim –
when I’ve said my goodbyes to you all,
take my soul in your thoughts –
take my love in your hearts –
take my life, let it be, let it fall

in that stream, where boys played,
in that life, overlaid
with wonder and laughter and fun;
where love of a family
overcame the harsh days,
every minute a walk in the sun.

 

Michael Alma

 

Dollops and Glue

 

My Aunty and I, affixed forever
in the pages of my childhood cookbook.
Unrecognisable smears and substances,
hard and soft, share our past.
Ever expanding chocolate cookies,
a smatter of hundreds and thousands
on page and tongue,
Hallowe’en spiders, orange eyes and liquorice legs,
fraternal disputes over cracking eggs,
the naughty step!
Choosing, messing, making, eating.
A plethora of unrecognisable offerings
stacked in sandwich boxes,
their destination home.
The door closed on a kitchen chaos.
Sifting through photographs of perfect products,
pondering next week’s challenge.
Dollops….. and glue!

 

Anne Hodnette

 

The Signal

 

Men;
if I sit beside you,
that is not a signal
if I speak to you,
that is not a signal
if I smile pleasantly,
that is not a signal
that you can touch my body.
How hard is it to understand
you do not have the right to
stroke or hold me
without my express permission?
If I do not react,
that is not agreement
If I don’t rebuff you
I may still be young
or shocked
or frozen to the spot
So do not laugh it off-
I am your
daughter,
sister,
mother
and I will give the signal.

 

Two-Spirit

 

Ikwekaazo
I am woman
let me sit here
and weave the
pattern emerging from my deft fingers
pick wild rice and berries
or sing to soothe
my children-
songs of the river

 

Ininiikaazo
I am also man
tomorrow
my male spirit
will take me over prairie
and plain
bare-chested
riding swiftly
leading my tribe
to defend our land

Ikwekaazo,
two spirits in my one body
my people know and honour me
consider me strong
their teacher,
medicine maker
they revere and respect me
for I am doubly blessed
gifted with two spirits.

 

(The Odjibwe culture of North America includes a third gender, those who wish to live as both man and woman.)

Moira McNulty

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