Poem for Barry Hines (and all working class writers)

Writing the song of it              (For Barry Hines)


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

To reconcile what won’t be reconciled

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