Keith Armstrong

The Golden Room

‘Was it for nothing that the little room,
All golden in the lamplight, thrilled with golden
Laughter from hearts of friends that summer night?’ (Wilfrid Gibson)

I’m as happy as a daffodil
this day;
sunshine flows around me
over fences,
leaping
with the joy of my poetry.

I am Lord Pretty Field,
a tipsy aristocrat of verse,
become full of myself
and country booze
in the Beauchamp Arms.

Under branches frothy with blossom,
I carry a torch from Northumberland
for Wilfrid Gibson
and his old mates;
for Geraldine
I bear
my Cheviot heart
in Gloucester ciderlight.

We can only catch
a petal from the slaughter,
a bloom
to ease the melancholy
of a Dymock dusk;
hear laughter
over the gloomy murmurs
of distant wars.

A swirling rook cries out
across St Mary’s spire
in dialect
as I climb
back to my White House room
to dream of an England gone,
and a flash of whisky
with Abercrombie.

For Wilfrid you are still
‘a singing star’,
drenched in balladry;
and this I know:
I will keep your little songs alive
in this Golden Room in my heart
and, in my Hexham’s market place,
rant for you
and cover
all our love
with streaming daffodils.

Gloucestershire 2003
Keith Armstrong © 2018

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.

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

Keith Armstrong © 2018