by Andy Croft
for Chris Searle
When I woke in this city one fine May Day morning
I saw a small crowd, like a gathering stream,
And though they were only a few hundred strong,
They were singing old songs I’d not heard for so long
That it seemed I was still in a dream.
‘O where are you going this fine May Day morning?
And what are these flags that you carry so bright?’
‘We are marching,’ they said, ‘in the steps of the dead,
Of all those who have marched under banners of red,
So that we may continue their fight’.
‘But why are you angry this fine May Day morning,
When the Summer is wearing its holiday hat?’
‘We are angry,’ they said, ‘that the people must pay
With their jobs and their homes for the world’s disarray
While the rich and the powerful grow fat.’
‘But what can you do on this fine May Day morning?
When their lies are so many and you are so few?’
‘Our strength’ they replied, ‘is not measured in numbers,
For our songs have awoken the dead from their slumbers.’
And I listened and knew it was true.
For I heard in the crowd on this fine May Day morning
The voices of those who had marched here before:
In the fight for the Charter, for Land and for Bread,
For the Eight-Hour Day, for the Haymarket dead,
For the victims of hunger and war;
They were marching from Sedgemoor, from Newport and Burford,
They came from Soweto and Moscow and Spain,
And they carried their flags from Hanoi and Havana
Till it seemed that the city was one scarlet banner
And it shone like a glittering plain.
And I watched as they marched on this fine May Day morning,
Like a field full of folk by the banks of the Tyne,
As strong as a river that reaches the sea,
As old as the rings in a blossoming tree,
And I saw that their banners were mine.
from The Sailors of Ulm (Shoestring, 2020)
Andy Croft has written and edited over 80 books, including poetry, biography, teenage non-fiction and novels for children. He writes a regular poetry column for the Morning Star, curates the T-junction international poetry festival on Teesside and runs Smokestack Books. He lives in North Yorkshire.