“We spent our lives down in the blackness… those birds brought us up to the light.”
(Jim Showell – Tumbling Pigeons and the Black Country)
Wench, yowm the colour of ower town:
concrete, steel, oily rainbow of the cut.
Ower streets am in yer wings,
ower factory chimdeys plumes on yer chest,
yer heart’s the china ower owd girls dust
in their tranklement cabinets.
Bred to dazzlin in backyards by men
whose onds grew soft as feathers
just to touch you, cradle you from egg
through each jeth-defying tumble.
Little acrobat of the terraces,
we’m winged when we gaze at you
jimmucking the breeze, somersaulting through
the white breathed prayer of January
and rolling back up like a babby’s yo-yo
caught by the open donny of the clouds.
wench/affectionate name for a female
yowm/ you are
tranklement/bits & bobs or ornaments
babby/ little child
The Patron Saint of School Girls
Agnes had her lamb and her black curls;
Bernadette, her nun’s frock;
but I was just a school girl,
glimpsed the holy spirit in the blue flare
of a Bunsen burner, saw a skeleton
weep in a biology lesson.
My miracles were revelations.
I saved seventeen girls from a fire that rose
like a serpent behind the bike sheds,
cured the scoliosis of a teacher
who hadn’t lifted her head to sing a hymn
in years. I fed the dinner hall
on one small cake and a carton of milk.
A cult developed. The Head Girl
kissed my cheek in the dark-room,
first years wrote my name
on the flyleaf of their hymn books,
letters appeared in my school bag,
a bracelet woven from a blonde plait.
My faith grew strong.
All night I lay awake hearing prayers
from girls as far as Leeds and Oxford,
comprehensives in Nottingham.
I granted supplications for A-levels,
pleas for the cooling of unrequited love,
led a sixth form in Glasgow to unforeseen triumph
in the hockey cup final.
Love flowed out of me like honey
from a hive, I was sweet with holiness,
riding home on the school bus,
imparting my blessings.
I was ready for wings,
to be lifted upwards like sun streaming
through the top deck windows;
to wave goodbye to school and disappear
in an astonishing ring of brightness.