Alan Morrison

Two Gloucestershire Mauves

1. Twigworth Yews
i.m. Ivor Bertie Gurney (b. Gloucestershire, 1890 – d. London, 1937)

Impact of mustard gas, “no worse than catarrh” –from a gurney’s
Vantage, Nurse Drummond drew his heart’s triage –invalided love,
Over in advance –then over the nervous verge; wires strung too
Rigid –Boing! Resurgent urge’s suicidal leitmotiv…

Brancepeth Castle ‘basket case’: tinkling wonky ivories
Echoing on an old piano’s ‘boiler factory in full swing’;
Rev. Cheeseman, sisters Hunt and Marion Scott nurtured his
Tuneful gifts, grown to songs of sprung green ranges rising
In glissandos –from rag traders’ son to composer of the five
Elizas; wounded-shouldered, shell-shocked Housman settings –this

Gloucester lad flung Severn and Somme by howitzer mood-swings;
‘Unteachable’ but could have been the ‘biggest’ of Stanford’s four:
R.V.W., Ireland, Bridge brought up the rear… Poems’ embers
Numbed asylum years –a bloodied cough unhinged the creaking
Escritoire of his chest… Buried humbly by puttied Twigworth
Yews: no stripes for Privates of verse, no chevrons for severed nerves...

2. Little Giant
i.m. Isaac Rosenberg (b. Gloucestershire, 1890 – d. Arras, 1918)

Immigrant to imagination’s melting regions, parentage
Salvaged from pogroms of Dvinsk, saved by the “Mauve Decade”;
Anglicised identities: Hacha and Dovber changed to Anna
And Barnett, but Isaac’s remained –a sickly boy, brought up on
Cable Street, in a poor district, schooled at St. Paul’s Whitechapel

Round the corner from Wellclose Square; then Baker Street, Stepney –
Out at fourteen, apprenticed to an engraver; then Slade’s
Studios, dovetailed talents, like David Jones, mortised between
Easel –alongside Marsh, Bomberg, Carrington, Binyon, Nash– and
Nib; but it was verse which carved his visage –along with chronic
Bronchitis– to a whittled gnome; though his shadow, once thrown,
Eclipsed the other Jewish ‘Whitechapel Boys’ –Gertler, Leftwich,
Rodker… Attached to a ‘bantam’ battalion, giants at five foot two,
Goat of a Suffolk Folk Ranker, dropped by a sniper at Fampoux…

[Both poems are from Morrison's forthcoming collection Shadows Waltz Haltingly]

Alan Morrison © 2014