Alan Morrison

 

Four acrostics from

A Tapestry of Absent Sitters

(Waterloo Press, 2009)

ISBN 978-1-906742-04-1

www.waterloopresshove.co.uk 

 

 

 

Light Shining in Lanarkshire

i.m. Keir Hardie (1856–1915)

 

 

Knock, knock! The baker’s boy, sharp as clocks back,

Ear to the pithead’s cogs – upturned prams spun

In puddles. By ten, melts in with clogged ranks’

Resurfacing day-shadows scrubbing home to tubs.

 

His pit-lamp halos pin-scratched Pitman in lit

Anticlines. Cage-clattered up strata on a carbon

Ribbon to paper and Party.  –– In the after-

Damp of Parliament’s scalds, he signs off under

Inked portcullis; packs up his kit, books and cough;

Ebbs back to shadow. But his shadow casts a light.

 

 

 

 

[Mining terminology: anticlines arches or folds in

layers of rock shaped like crests of waves; cage

conveyance used to transport men and

equipment in a shaft; afterdamp a toxic mixture

of gasses left in a mine following an explosion].

 

 

 

 

Jack of the Bean-Straw

i.m. John ‘Free Born’ Lilburne (1615-1657)

 

 

Jack-in-the-Pulpit of political cloth, pumped

Out Puritan agitprop – lashed at a cart-tail:

He’d know the allegations in his mother tongue,

No trumpery in pope-speak for Free Born John.

 

Labelled agitator by parliaments of owls;

Inflammatory tracts and pamphlets, pettifogged.

Levellers, so-called, petitioned in his name;

Bonny Besses in sea-green dresses slinging hail-shot

Under Roundheads’ squibs. Root and branch ripped out.

Radicals dispatched at churchyards. Ribbons banned.

Nothing for it but a trade, burn of kelp and bean-straw:

England’s Birthright scrubbed by a soap-boiler’s hands.

 

 

 

[pettifogged: an old word for quibbling or chicanery.

Note: last line alludes to Lilburne turning to the

trade of soap-boiling (making soap), though he

later resumed his radical pamphleteering, ending

his days in and out of prison].

 

 

Alan Morrison © 2009 A Tapestry of Absent Sitters

Ragged Rob

i.m. Robert (Noonan) Tressell (1870–1911)

author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (1914)

 

 

Robert who? Croker? Noonan? Tressell? Alter-ego

Owen? Journeyman between midstairs and

    downstairs.

Blacklisted decorator of camouflaged class. Self-

Evicted from kin-in-kind to a landlord’s absent

    shadow.

Rough tobacco and adulterated tea: his tub-

    thumped

Turps-tin epithets. –– O for a Sholes & Gidden:

 

Tortuous long-hand manuscripts rejected,

    unread.

Ragged trails of scribbled drafts trousering his    

    bed to

Edited ends. Mugsborough mug, tached and

    trilby’d in

Sixpence ha’penny suit, bannered on tubercular

    red.

Shabby genteel, rung-skidder anti-Kipps-wise,

    but

Earned a dying: signwriter turned writer of the

    times.

Labour’s landslide, ’45: owed to his bold novel?

Laid to rest, not the less, with twelve tramps, in    

    Liverpool.

 

 

 

[Note: Tressell lived for a time in South Africa, where he had a manservant of whom he was very fond, whom he called ‘Sixpence’. Turps:

abbreviation for turpentine. Sholes & Gidden was an early make of typewriter.]

 

 

 

 

Trampler in the Patchwork

i.m. Gerrard Winstanley (1609-76)

 

 

Grown from the common soil, crop-haired, green

Egalitarian, made of clod and light,  

Rainbow-sown. A trampler in the patchwork:

Raking the scrublands only God the One True

Absentee Landlord could snatch from our hearts.

Recalcitrant in tracts, your flat-crowned, felt-

    shaded

Diggers set to work to till the natural law.

 

Withstanding the dirt of labour’s nagged brow,

Impeachments of coin-palmed Parliaments,

Nettling barbs of vigilantes’ abuse – your

Spade-handed disciples disbanded,

Threw down their shovels on a chapter versed

Against the grain of transplanted times:

New tyrannies travelled on trade winds. True

Leveller, tripping your ungrounded age,

Elevated above the hedges, those berries

You reached for are ripening on the page.

 

 

[Rainbow is also an allusion to radical Thomas Rainborow, or Rainsborough, whose name varied in spelling.]

 

 

Alan Morrison © 2009 A Tapestry of Absent Sitters