Poem for Barry Hines (and all working class writers)

Writing the song of it              (For Barry Hines)

 

Via Heaney, Hughes and Harrison, Yeats and Joyce

I circumnavigate my muse’s voice

 

Like Barry Hines transposing Oscar Wilde

I reconcile what won’t be reconciled

 

My dad used to sing all the time around the house

Countless songs of promiscuous pedigree

Hymns and ballads, Caruso, Lanza, Locke

Big-throated tenors with saucy reputations

McCormac, Robeson, then t’ Clancy brothers, Tommy

Makem, t’ Dubliners, t’ Wolf Tones, Christy Moore

 

Tongues warbling forever in my ears, my bones

 

Only in my later teens would pennies drop

A falling away of scales from stony eyes

Courtesy of rock and roll, and pop

T’ McGarrigles, Dostoyevsky, James and Joni

 

That every bit of music, note and word

Augmenting phrase, consummative syllable

 

Was coaxed, cajoled and wheedled into being

By some poor magical innocent like me

 

No god, no pope, no henry the syphilitic

No otherworldly genius, clerk of Oxbridge

Oracle or shepherd; some lass or lad

Only, some human being, with mucky hands

Perhaps, and accent, like mine and those around me

 

Listeners and learners, if lazier often than good

 

So many Billies thwarted by some Jud

 

Apprentices, by pattern and paradigm

To temperaments of worked craftworthiness

 

Donkeying mundane byways across the reliable

 

Diagonals over tired old expectations

 

Distillers of the commonplace’s ichor

Into the beautiful and intricate

Melodies borrowed, tailed and topped, absorbed

Re-used, re-vitalised from age to age

Alchemical stories’ golden re-tellings; stories

Of love and laughter, lamenting, emigration

Hunger, anger, yearning, yearning, yearning

 

The dark well of my own life and history

Brimming with at least two buckets full

 

My Yorkshire words and tongue, my Irish airs

A tuning fork between whose prongs I’ve dithered

 

Desperate for harmonies, surfing the hum

Of my own echo’s resonant continuum

 

Those pulsing waves, unstoppable choruses

Of affirmation oozing the song of UZ

 

That’s what drives me, outing that inward schism’s

Undiminishing rhythm, making it rhyme

 

I circumnavigate my muse’s voice

Via Heaney, Hughes and Harrison, Yeats and Joyce

 

Like Barry Hines transposing Oscar Wilde

I’ll reconcile what won’t be reconciled

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