Andy Croft

Extracts from Sticky

Not So

in memoriam Julia Darling

The rules are fixed. We can’t compete with you.

Before we start we know the final score.

Of course you win. The powerful always do.

You are the offside goal, the final straw.

No doubt you like to think you’re really hard,

Tooled up with cluster bomb and DU shell;

All we possess is mortal love and art

While you with poison, war and sickness dwell.

But look at you – old morgue-faced charnel-breath,

Still trying to play the vampire when we know

You’re just a hammy Hammer-horror show.

Poor you. It’s living that is hard, not death.

And Julia’s art and love will both survive

Her being dead, by being so alive.

Faith: Southwell Minster

When the Ironsides stabled their horses in here

They were acting upon the belief

That the cry of the Lord could be heard more clear

In straw than in scriptured gold leaf.

Though a temple is built

Of stained-glass and gilt

Its foundations are laid in the levelling fear

That all faiths, in the end, come to grief.

Hope: Southwell Races

In the anapaest thunder of sinew and nerve,

There’s a magic more strong than the bet

That will earn us a fortune if only we serve

At the altar of muscle and sweat.

But though everyone wants

To imagine just once

That our fortune is earned, that it’s what we deserve,

We all know we deserve what we get.

Charity: Southwell Workhouse

If you follow this straight, narrow pathway it leads

To a mansion with only one door.

Here Love profited greatly by meeting the needs

Of Society, Money and Law.

Though it beareth all things

True charity springs

From the knowledge that nobody ever succeeds

In escaping the house of the poor.

Andy Croft © 2009

Flambard Press © 2009


The woman lights another tapered prayer,

Whose weeping wax now gutters in the gloom,

A ritual task which only can illume

A world of superstition and despair.

Above us, in the bright empyrean blue,

The frieze of flaky prophets on the ceiling

Is laced with holes, as if the heaves were peeling

To let the pagan night beneath show through.

Behind each fading fresco lies the next,

Precise as tree-rings, measuring the ages

Of human hope and terror, like a text

Still legible beneath the parchment pages’

Faint palimpsest. As if such monkish art

Could ever warm this heartless world’s cold heart.

Red Ellen

‘Middlesbrough is a book of illustrations to Karl Marx’ - Ellen Wilkinson, 1924

She stares out from the pages of New Dawn

As though the future needs to be out-faced,

Her flaming red-flag tresses to her waist

Among the endless fields of unripe corn.

They christened her Red Ellen, Little Nell,

Miss Perky, Fiery Atom, Little Minx,

As if to say this cold, old world still thinks

All fiery reds are burning brands from hell.

In Jarrow and in Middlesbrough today

The flames of change are embers in the grate,

Cold fires of ash and dust that illustrate

How much we all prefer the colour grey,

Still too distracted by the colour red

To see the fire that’s waiting to be fed.

A Question of History

The Lambton Worm is stirring in the mud,

In Stanhope fairies dance in mushroom rings,

The Brancepeth Brawn’s been sighted in the wood,

The A1 Angel flaps its rusty wings,

Peg Powler wakes beneath the River Trees,

The tide is coming in at Morpeth town,

The Monkey’s swinging through the Headland


The Cauld Lad’s turned the whole world upside


At Stainmore, Eric Bloodaxe swings his axe,

In Stanwick, Cartimandua still reigns,

The ghosts of pits and docks and railway tracks,

Of furnaces and shipyards shake their chains.

It’s said that History’s stirring in the North.

What kind it is, we’ll see November Fourth.

Andy Croft © 2009

Flambard Press © 2009