John Quicke


You may need to crawl here,

keep your head down,

send in the armoured men with wands,

to break the spell of daisy chains in the sand,

as gritty under foot as on the beach

where you once built a fragile fort

bent down like gods

to fix it with decorative shells

the walls soon tumbling in the wash

of creeping waters. Now, approach with care

the hidden links. This is their land,

and you the dog-tagged interlopers

working your way with sweat

dripping in heavy vests.

Above Beauchief Abbey

To find this, here, above the Abbey,

a buried box, antenna rusty but intact,

behind a nettle screen, locked in by hawthorn,

its concrete outcrops painted one coat white,

the vents and entrance blocked, is to stumble

upon an old fear, to shiver at the thought

-  a ‘warning sequence’, identification

and assessment, the blast, height and angle

of the flash, the zone, the measurement of fallout;

then to emerge after the all clear, to stare

across the flaming meadow, across the last

joke of the ha ha, the fallen Hall and its estate,

the spread of lethal snow on fairways, towards

the Abbey finally dissolved. And though

this fear has passed is there still sense enough

to heed what might be other warning signs

- self-scourging in the chapter-house, yellow

fever death reminder on a gravestone,

Hall logo for electronic data processing,

chemical treatments on fine cut grass near

wind-smacked conifers, and to the north,

hoots for the tunnel, preparation for dark moments,

last sight of the light on the river, the absence

of echo amongst thin oaks in steep woods?

John Quicke © 2014

The Citadel

In red lavatorial brick with the buddleia sprouting

from the turrets and a basement full of pigeon bones…

is that the retail opp, you said, think coffee shop?

Will you then distress me with your sepia photos,

‘before-and-after restoration display’, ‘retained features’

– like tiers of the old theatrical space in ‘original colours,’

sage green, maroon, yellow, red and blue in walls

and pillars;  the mosaic floor; the dado…..

What else? Cymbals, tambourines, blurts

from trumpets on a disc?

But what of the derelict days, and its last use

– the babies of the faithful in their own ‘cry room’

with a battered wall with ‘WALL’ written on it vertically

and on the horizontal WE ALL LOVE THE LORD?

And what they saw from windows – the banners of a troop

of ‘others’ sporting head scarves, pink, black and blue,

claiming ‘Terrorism is Not Religion’and, further down,

a fleet of marriages with brides stretched out in Limos,

and in Waterstones a hooded man thumbing through

a book on euthanasia?

You, me - we go back a way, to the last trump,

you might say, of the unlaudable hyperboles.

We now have different doubts in different bands

- you worry if fumbling for the right note in an age

of dissonance would sour a good coffee experience;

I think of the sharps and flats, the blues and blacks

of working on an unfinished song of songs.

From either view it was not their banging

of the drum which gave us this heaven sent

‘opportunity for development’.

John Quicke © 2014