Keith Armstrong

A Prayer for the Loners

The dejected men,

the lone voices,

slip away

in this seaside rain.

Their words shudder to a standstill

in dismal corners.

Frightened to shout,

they cower

behind quivering faces.

No one listens

to their memories crying.

There seems no point

in this democratic deficit.

For years, they just shuffle along,

hopeless

in their financial innocence.

They do have names

that no lovers pronounce.

They flit between stools,

miss out on gales of laughter.

Who cares for them?

Nobody in Whitley Bay

or canny Shields,

that’s for sure.

These wayside fellows

might as well be in a saddos’ heaven

for all it matters

in the grey world’s backwaters.

Life has bruised them,

dashed them.

Bones flake into the night.

I feel like handing them all loud hailers

to release

their oppressed passion,

to move them

to scream

red murder at their leaders -

those they never voted for;

those who think they’re something,

some thing special,

grand.

For, in the end,

I am on the side of these stooped lamenters,

the lonely old boys with a grievance

about caring

and the uncaring;

about power,

and how switched off

this government is

from the isolated,

from the agitated,

from the trembling,

the disenfranchised

drinkers of sadness.



Keith Armstrong © 2015

For Edward Elliot of Earsdon (1800-1867)


(Stonemason and poet responsible for the Hartley Pit Disaster memorial in Earsdon churchyard)


“IN THE MIDST OF LIFE WE ARE IN DEATH.”


Chip chip chip,

the rain sinks

into Ned Elliot’s shoulders

as his hands

carve the dead names

into the slab.

The tragedy

weighs down his spirit,

renders him thirsty

for the light.

Chip chip chip,

you breathe the name of Thomas Coal

aged thirty seven,

recite the deaths of boys

as young as ten.

You chisel

through the disastrous list,

the litany of lost dreams.

It is such a burden,

the flood of widows’ tears

gushing through

the village,

rendering the churchyard

a swamp of hurt.


This is true

community spirit,

a man who lived

to mark the dead

in stone,

making a living

by honouring others.

Your own name

is ingrained in Earsdon,

ringing

down the years

a sacrifice

from the quarry

of suffering,

one of your

dialect poems

still coursing

in us.


“FOR WHATSOEVER A MAN SOWETH,

THAT SHALL HE ALSO REAP.”



Keith Armstrong © 2015


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