William Hershaw

William Hershaw

William Hershaw is a poet, playwright and folk musician. He is the founder and leader of the Bowhill Players, a group who perform the poems and songs of Cardenden miner writer Joe Corrie (1894 - 1968).

STRIKE by Sarah Wimbush
Saturday, 16 March 2024 10:52

STRIKE by Sarah Wimbush

Published in Poetry

While in the belly of England
the strike to end all strikes erupts.

Whether Churchill or Göring said it first, the adage goes that history is written by the victors. And yet certain dates that denote calamitous defeat remain and will not go gently, even though what actually took place and the reasons for it happening are contested and chewed over for ever after. 1819, 1916, and 1926 are examples – and the Miners’ Strike of 1984/5 is another.

At the time, it was difficult to get a truthful and accurate handle on day-to-day events. There was no internet or social media. News of what was taking place across the UK was tightly controlled. Coming from a coal mining community in Fife, I heard firsthand from family on the picket line what was happening and which wasn’t being reported nationally.

The instigator of it all, Thatcher, was not about to reveal publicly her true fanatical intent – to obliterate the coal mining industry and the NUM, sacrificing jobs and communities in the process to serve her class hatred and a selfish, ideologically-driven political goal. The extent to which the various police forces, the judiciary, the right-wing media, were in on the planning of the jamboree was debatable but in a sense irrelevant. This was about who would control Britain in the future – and the “enemy within” had to be silenced, whatever the price.

The BBC’s manipulation of the truth

Back then most folk got their news from BBC/ITV. A constant argument that continually misses the point is whether the BBC is biased toward the right or the left. The BBC, as it has been since the days of its first director, John Reith, is committed heart and soul to upholding the British Union. It was formed under royal charter to be an arm of an undivided, one nation state, a dumbed-down One Show imposing from the capital an establishment myth from Land’s End to John o’ Groats, from Jarrow to Derry, that recognized no diversity of ethnicity, religion, culture, social class or nationality. As is still the case, some in the BBC believed arrogantly that in any national identity crisis they could simply ignore facts and set a fictitious agenda, rather than report what was actually going on. Thus footage was reversed, and Orgreave became a story of nasty football hooligans knocking off policemen’s helmets.

As in 1926, among the ranks of left-wing politicians there was division and shoe-gazing. Kinnock, the Labour Party leader, behaved throughout like a shifty cross between Pontius Pilate and Judas Iscariot. Many miners themselves were unsure about what to do in the face of Thatcher’s intensifying provocation. Arthur Scargill, the NUM leader, although a rousing and crowd-carrying speaker, did not enjoy full support across all the regional coalfields, and many questioned his tactical nous and sudden rise to leadership. But how best to save an industry, the jobs, the communities, in the face of disunity, implacable media bias and the might and resources of the British state?

Miners picketing

Photographer: © Ken Wilkinson, image courtesy of the National Coal Mining Museum, England

40 years after Orgreave, the Miners’ Strike has been rewritten, altered, edited, twisted, deleted and lied about in a continual process of often fake recollection and interpretation. That is why successive Tory governments have denied the opportunity for an independent inquiry into Orgreave – they, out of all involved, have the most to hide. To its credit, the Scottish government initiated an independent review of policing in Scotland during the Miners’ Strike. As a result, some truth was allowed to surface, and wrongly convicted miners were pardoned. All sides were given their say, but the important thing was that those victims who had been marginalized and kept silent for almost 40 years could finally tell their story. I sat through some of these meetings and the outpouring of joy, grief and sheer released frustration was something to behold.

At the time the conflict was taking place the deliberately murky and misconstrued reporting enabled some to be equivocal in their support of the miners, while others were diverted by it from comprehending the enormity of what was at stake. In Alan Hull’s words: a line of freedom or a line of kings. The wrong side won, and we’ve had to pay dearly for that ever since.

Poems and photographs combined

STRIKE by Sarah Wimbush is an important published piece of testimony – an accurate witness account providing evidence from pen and camera, a scrupulous forensic inquiry and work of art, put together through the lens of hindsight and poetry. 

The photographs from the time are an immediate shock. This is what it really looked like! It all comes back – the horrible eighties fashions, the poverty, the vandalized streets, the surprise of seeing booted, helmeted police bullying and strutting in a supposedly democratic country. A frozen second of the zeitgeist, a visual trigger.  As soon as I saw these images I was taken right back to ’84 and was forced to reconsider all that had changed in our society since and to realize why the Miners' Strike was such a tipping point. Accompanying each photograph is a poem; an interpretation of the meaning and significance of the adjacent image.

Easington under occupation resized

Easington Village under occupation. 1984. © Keith Pattison

The photographs have been collated from various sources that include: The National Coal Mining Museum England; Amgu Cymrueddfa – Museum Wales; the National Mining Museum Scotland; Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, the Guardian and many other sources. A broad body of evidence that when put together confront us as a stark reminder of all that was done in malice and spite against a helpless section of British society, a scattered underground tribe with its unique language and culture. Miners, wives and bairns were targeted for who they were by a vengeful state. Individually the photographs function like stills from a black and white film, with each providing a backstory, an insight into defiance, endurance, betrayal, bewilderment, hunger, violence, laughter, solidarity, recrimination, resentment.

Sarah Wimbush is a poet of intelligence and insight but with an understanding of how poetry works and with the technical skills, the hawk-like eye for detail, the brevity and compression to back it all up. Her words and images are incisive, precise, concise, vivid and telling. They go deep and resonate with meaning, allusion and association. She makes a seemingly off the cuff metaphor do the work of an entire back shift of words. She takes an oft-shouted slogan and reveals its irony.

This works very effectively with photographs of the protagonists. You are taken from the image into minds and thoughts, you go further into the DNA that shapes the personalities and their decisions:

Here’s Kinnock:

Some say he is a funeral mute: a man compressed
between left and left.
Some shall say he was father to Blair.

Here’s Scargill:

The dictionary is his Bible. Full stop.
He points at the dole-not- coal paddy train,
it will arrive shortly at the Platform Do-or-dinosaur.

SW resized rev

Gwent Food Fund poster 1984/5. By permission of Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales.

Here’s Thatcher:

No milk monitor here; eyes sapphire
and Caligula,
Hoarder of bituminous and DSS payments.

There is no sentimental bias here either. The poet gives it straight to us, from every side. This is something more than literal description: it gets into the emotional truth of things. As does BASTARD NACODS SCABS, accompanied by a picture of graffiti daubed on an outbuilding at The Lady Windsor/Abercynon pit:

The pal who leaves a bus ticket
on the collection plate

says he’ll see his kids Friday
then dumps them for a date,

roars like a lion
but acts like a mouse,

bald as a brick
and part of the house.

On one level this can be construed as an unfair, loaded, unobjective portrayal yet it perfectly expresses the visceral feelings of betrayal that many miners and their families felt when isolated by those around them who had taken their trust.

In This is the BBC we are given a sense of what it is like to be victimized and ambushed while all the while being presented as the one to blame:

Record. Rewind. Reverse.
We walk through open gates,
A thud of hooves behind us.

Or The NUM:

I am here
In your breast pocket,

The size of a bus pass
And the Magna Carta -

been sacked for
been starved for.

Humour and resilience are demonstrated in Our Lady of the Pit Canteen, and throughout the collection there is a grim, reductive and ironic gallows humour in the banter-like word play that anyone brought up in a coal mining community would recognize – the stoic attitude and familiarity with everyday struggle, danger, and tragedy, all turned into a cryptic observation:

You may have jacked and packed pit props
on the roadways to hell,
and raised 14,000 tons week on week
ruled by the bell,
and rode a ghost train through the muck
a fun fair would be proud of….
and thanked the Mother Mary
every time the pit cage docked.
but I’ll ’ave tha guts for garters
If them dishes aren’t brought back!

The colloquial tone – honest, funny, no bullshit – sums up a unique community who instead of being valued and included in our society were hunted down, victimized, kettled, and left on reservations of cultural and material poverty that are still there. The poet captures all this in her words without condescension. The values and spirit have been maintained in the face of all that was inflicted, as in Miners Leaning Forwards:

Mortal. Men cropped and cast
Into grey corners

There is no sentiment or pretense that coal mining was a glamorous occupation and the miners themselves were all working-class heroes. One of the finest poems is the elegiac and intensely sad Markham Main:

Afternoons they meet up
on street corners
like old youths planning revolution.

Gaffers, fathers, brothers -
an hour at the club with a pint.
Go over the end again, and again.

How they were the last by three days
To stay out in Yorkshire.
How they’d ‘gu back tomorra’.

After school, they take the grand-kids
to the Pit Top Playground, look forward
to the night shift at Ikea. Together.

This poem is the answer to those who have forgotten or never knew – who say glib and stupid things like “coal mining would have died out anyway”, “it wasn’t a green industry” or “we needed someone like Thatcher.” These hypocritical, ill-informed mantras can still be heard.

Like a baton on the back of your head

Yet quoting piecemeal in this way does not do justice to the cumulative effect of the poems and pictures together. As photograph and poem are linked symbiotically, the inexorable gravitas of poem on poem and image on image hits you with the weight of a ton of imported coal or even a policeman’s baton on the back of the head. By the end, even though I knew what the tragic conclusion was, I was moved to anger, sorrow, pity, and yes, recrimination. A spontaneous overflow of emotions that Wordsworth would have been delighted to conjure.

I began this review with a cliche, so here’s another: L.P. Hartley wrote that “the past is a foreign country”. I thank Sarah Wimbush for providing me with a passport and a means of transport even if the destination I arrived at was depressingly similar to the one I live in now.  40 years down the depressing line Britain is like a rudderless boat in the North Sea. A country of inequality and disunity, of foodbanks, homelessness, drugs, anti-union/freedom legislation. If this is what Thatcher meant by “trickle-down economics” then well done…

In a frightening, collapsing world of conflicts, wars and genocide in Gazza, Ukraine, Yemen, Myanmar, and the Sudan, it is easy to feel powerless and unable to change things. It is also possible to stick your head in the sand and believe that we are, in the big scheme, fortunate that we live in Britain. STRIKE reminds us of two things.

Firstly, that the British state has never been averse to ruthlessly stamping out, by illegal and forceful means if needed, anything it perceives to be a domestic threat or challenge to its corrupt Westminster hegemony. It was Thatcher and her allies who did the striking – at individual and collective freedoms, at the very folk they were charged to protect.

Secondly, there was a time forty years ago when it was possible to take a side and change things for a positive future. Back then, most of us failed abjectly, against The Enemy:

Enemy waving tenners
Enemy raking it in
Enemy living next door
Enemy as kin
Enemy ditch their epaulettes
Enemy waits for dawn
Enemy cries
casus belli
Enemy bends every law

As the anniversary documentaries appear on our screens, the memoirs are published, the justifications, denials and excuses are aired, we desperately need books like STRIKE that are able to realign us with the objective truth of history. In STRIKE the combination of contemporary photography with metaphor and word imagery provides the reader with the big sociological picture. The enormity and significance and causes of the last Miners’ Strike are revealed vividly. We shouldn’t forget again. History cannot be changed but the future can. What the book proves is that “Our language still exists” if nothing else.

I'll end with some verses from Death by Strike:

Strike is a black lily
falling through the air
like a broken house brick.

Strike is the pressure
of a coal wagon
on a picket line at Ferrybridge.

Strike is a caber
tossed onto a Ford Cortina
inside a concrete block.

STRIKE by Sarah Wimbush, Stairwell Books, ISBN 978-1-913432-80-5, £15. Available here or a signed copy by request on X @SarahWimbush 

The Future of the Scots Language
Thursday, 24 February 2022 10:57

The Future of the Scots Language

Published in Cultural Commentary

2022 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Scots Language Society, set up to encourage and promote the use of Scots Language. In 2021 a Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group was reconvened in order to advise the Scottish Government on ways of taking Scots forward. It is worth considering not only how this might be achieved, but to look at attitudes toward Scots and how they have changed during the last fifty years.

Re-reading David Purves “A Scots Grammar - Scots Grammar and Usage’, published by The Saltire Society in 1997, though full of facts, knowledge and examples of Scots as it is, I was struck by how much it has dated in less than three decades. Purvis was a notable spokesman and advocate for Scots. Though I was impressed at the time I feel now that “A Scots Grammar” represents a miss-step in terms of the way we think about Scots Language and languages in general. David Purves was a hard-working editor of Lallans, the magazine of the Scots Language Society, who put in much time and effort on behalf of the auld leid. It may seem harsh to criticize his book when he is no longer around to defend himself but now is a good time to take stock.

In “A Scots Grammar” Purves tries to establish a case for a form of “correct” or “pure” Scots that he can base his system of grammatical rules on. This is an unhelpful inversion but one that is typical of an academic approach. He argues that the grammars of all languages are based on their national literatures – the language, he claims, represented in its highest form. He is, in effect, implying that languages derive their identity from their literature. This is not the case. They derive it from their speakers, the people.

In the book, Purves suggests that following the Union of the Crowns and then the Parliaments, Scots lost its status as a national language. This has been oft repeated, along with other historical explanations such as the effect of the Reformation and the unionist-supporting Uncle Tams of the Enlightenment.  It is true to an extent of course, but more so if you place greater credence in crowns, parliaments, philosophers and kirks. The fact that Scots has survived as a spoken and written medium since 1707 is because it has continued to enjoy the support (or authority, for want of a better word) of the majority of the folk who have never let it go.

This is not wishful thinking. As far as the establishment has been concerned, Scots has been dying out now for over three hundred years, even though members of that very same establishment who attack it have continued to use it. Burns believed this to be the case and it motivated him, not only to preserve, but to create a completely new body of folksong. Burns actually came on the scene at the end of a renaissance rather than a decline. But in the everyday context of the factories, fields, shops, playgrounds, pubs and homes, Scots has aye been thrang.

Hamish Henderson got this, but MacDiarmid didn’t.  Purves doesn’t really get it either. For him, it is about the restoration of an older tongue back to its former days of courtly prestige and royal patronage. But such authority tends to take little notice of the list of places I mentioned in the above paragraph. “Establishment” is a vague and pejorative term to use in itself but it includes all “the Gaffers”: the gentry, landowners, academics, educationalists, and all those in authority charged with running the North British reservation. And Scots is often not spoken when the Gaffers are around so naturally, they have assumed that it is the tongue of a shrinking, cap-doffing minority.

Ironically, in providing examples of ways in which Scots differs from English, Purves gives many examples taken from his own Borders dialect area, but he is less generous in his comments toward other regional dialects of Scots, inferring that they exist only as corrupted survivals from pre 1600 (excluding Kelso!). Anything that is newer and urban he classes as demotic. He is particularly dismissive of the working-class speech of Glasgow which he quotes examples from and highlights as not being Scots and also labels as ‘bad” English.

None of this makes sense, however it is easy to see why he is doing it. In order to justify and defend Scots as being a language in its own right, especially against the perceived threat of extinction from English, he feels obliged to “fix” it as a kind of unchanging model with lots of rules that can be learned and taught by rote. Doing this proves not only that it exists but it makes it much easier to prescribe and own. His grammar of Scots is predicated on the notion that the Scots grammar rules are different from the English grammar rules, but he is still in thrall to the English model in his approach. The demonstrative pronouns are different and the verbs more irregular from English so Scots must be a language like English is, he tells us. 

This lack of linguistic self-confidence and hang up with English holds back the development of Scots to this day. Endless arguments about “correct” spellings and attempts to make each and every syllable look as different as possible from an English equivalent not only deter those interested in taking Scots up but take us far away from the bruckle beauty o the leid. A further aspect of this academic approach and emphasis has resulted in far too much importance being placed on owersetting or importing other literatures into Scots. Not a harmful or bad thing in itself but something that is far easier to do than attempting to be genuinely creative in your own language with the aim of producing new work that stands with the best internationally.

As the late Tom Leonard put it in his put-down poster poem “Makar’s Society”:

Gran meetin’
The nicht
Tae decide the
O’ this poster
And the admission price is thritty pee (a heid).

Purves is attempting to take possession of Scots, to put a fence around it. But as Tom Leonard also wrote, all living language is sacred, it carries a heavy responsibility to communicate truth and therefore must not be twisted or appropriated in this way. Especially so in our contemporary world of “alternative facts”, fake news and internet conspiracy theories.

A better way of thinking about it might have been to try to demonstrate how our language, our syntax, our word choices reflect the way we perceive ourselves and our existence within our environment – our culture, history, people, landscape. A kind of psychic or karmic grammar if you like. A much harder thing to do. All languages right down to idiolects are unique. They represent who we are. To mock or seek to undermine linguistic expression is to deny identity. Orwell knew this.

Languages die out in time. Their survival depends on whether they are used or not. We know that all language is organic and in a continual state of flux. Languages wane and wax. As I write, dialects are becoming languages and vice versa. You can say that a language is a dialect with an army and navy. You can say what you like. People usually think that the medium they use to fill in their tax forms in is the “official” language.

Some of this is based on geo-political influences. To give one example, Norwegian (Norsk) has become stronger and more widely used over the last hundred years since the country gained its independence. But there are no such things as “rules”, only conventions of speech and writing that are perpetually changing, morphing, adapting.  Of all people, authors and poets are continually tinkering, bending and breaking convention in order to create new forms. So to try to fix a centralized model derived from a literature, especially an older one divorced from common speech, is plain daft. Nor can it be forced retrospectively against the will of people. But the fact that Scots has retained a strong and living identity over a number of centuries, against constant attempts to marginalize it and belittle it, tells you that it has something of a powerful hold in our heads and hearts.

We may not speak in the iambic pentameters of Drummond of Hawthornden when we meet wi our drouthy neebors at the pub. And neither do our English neighbours speak in the language of the sonnets of Shakespeare in theirs. But colloquial Scots is used every day by hundreds of thousands and in millions of social contexts.

David Purves was wrong because he suggested that there was good Scots and bad Scots. It is all good Scots. And as usual in these cases he was the self-appointed judge and jury. The usual cultural elitism prevailed. But he was also a man of his time – by now, some of his views may have changed. For over three centuries, Scots has been in an unusual but not unique situation for a language under threat from a colonialist education system and social conditioning. Today, we could either be at the end o an auld sang or the stert o a new reel. I believe much depends on how we approach it and how external factors effect it but I am hopeful.

Coal Monologues
Monday, 02 November 2020 10:43

Coal Monologues

Published in Poetry

Coal Monologues

by Willie Hershaw

1) Brother James

I received the Abbot’s orders
inby the big pink house:
“Yoke Joseph and Mary,
to an oxen cart - take shovels, creels.
Wrap up - it’s wet and marshy with few paths.
Go roughly east for around six miles,
keep to the right of the hills.
You’ll see there’s previous pits dug out,
shallow indentations like plague graves.
The treasure’s beneath the turf.
The shiny black stones await, not deep,
that will warm us through the winter,
bake our bread, brew our beer.
Four days should do it.
Take Brother Peter too,
he is simple but could pull up an oak…

…no, there is hardly a soul to be seen
out in that woebegone moss:
A bedraggled wolf, a penitent pilgrim,
hirpling leper, thief or bedlam runner.
Watch that Brother Peter
does not drown himself.
Multa beneficia…

2) Lord Minto’s Surveyor, William Logan

The clotted mud was still on my boots,
nevertheless my client was insistent,
Eydent to hear my initial report
In his reception room in Charlotte Square.

“Ironstone to feed blast furnaces
Is only a poor second prize -
like sheep farming in the North.
The seam’s the Gold Cup, the Lochgelly Splint.
Six, seven foot, twisting through the earth.
A thick black vein to be bled,
outcropping in places, easily reachable…

Enough to pay off outstanding debt?
Enough to keep an empire on the boil.
Enough to secure a lineage of wealth…
And if we dig deeper, who knows?

The people are poor as a pisspot.
Consumptive weavers, gypsies, slow-witted farmhands
Indistinguishable in their rank and appearance
From their down at heel Lairds and Factors.
We can buy up extraneous land for bawbees…
May I say, “Well done, Sir”?

His Lordship smiled and poured himself a brandy.

 3) Ann Ceres, Servant Lass at Colqually Farm

“This is no as it seems, Sir, I sweir tae Goad.
I beg ye no tae puit me oot and me wi bairn.
The cranreugh puits a bane intil the groun yet.

I was takkin a basket o eggs ower the field
tae Cartmore, as the Mistress had bidden me.
It was a bonnie day and the sun bleezed doun.
The smaa buirds were singan in the buirks.
I taen this for a blessing. A swaw caught the corn.
It flawed like a gowden sea, pirlan in waves,
waist high. “Come ben me, Lassie”,
I jaloused it was souchan tae me.
Lichtsome and blyth I walked
intil it like Moses tae win a shortcut ower.
I sang oot “Daintie Davie”like a lintie.
Ma hert was as gleg as a laverock.

The deil maist hae been rooting like a sow
in some foul sty o hell no fuar ablaw.
He heard ma sang, and follaed the soun,
ma bare feet tappin abuin him.
Syne a neive brak through the airth
and grabbit ma cooties. Whit a fricht, sir!
I heard it lauch, speik a gey coorse aith,
syne the cratur himsel sliddert through.
He heezed me doun wi strang swack airms
whaur we were derned ablaw the sheaves.
He was a deil richt eneuch -
As Meinister Thompson had tellt us in the Kirk,
His skin bleck as sin, his teeth like white pairls,
His een like het coals. He was nakit forby.
Shameless and gallus. He wasnae uncomely
but his manners wi me were roch.
He was glisteran wi sweit and gey clarty
and kissed me ower and ower again
and shortly had his baistly wey - I couldnae stap him.
I was feart for ma life and scraighan for help.
I thoucht I micht be killt.
He forced his haun ower ma mooth,
tae smour me. I couldnae breith.
I heard shouting, fuitfaas -
aa o a sudden he was gaun back doun,
like a brock intil his set.

It was the Greive that had foun me.
“Hae you been wi a man?” he speirt.
I ettled tae shaw him the hole in the groun
but he wadnae hear me and dragged me awaa…
I sweir this tae be true Sir, on the Guid Buik
I am honest - no wanton whure.
I canna read or write but I will
puit ma cross tae this.

4) The Music Lover

Five hours we hung over the abyss
like rats in a cage.
Silent at first after Rattray fell out,
unbalanced by the initial jolt.
He screamed all the way down,
bouncing off the sides.
For a while we held our breaths,
not wanting to disturb the fragile balance,
waiting on the pulley rope to snap
and send the whole thing crashing.
Later when it looked like we were
stuck there for good
Wee Geordie produced his moothie.
As a cornet player I hated that, once dropped
a hundred weight coal deliberately
to flatten its witless cheerful key.

That day I appreciated the gesture.
It turned into quite a concert party
with only Rattray’s ghost for audience.
Bob Paterson gave us Tam O Shanter,
MacDonald, The Charge of The Light Brigade.
We wept down in the Salley Gardens,
joined in Scots Wha Hae and The Red Flag
most heartily.

We nearly lost Big Wull
when finally they got it shifted from above:
He was half way out the cage
when Peter Leslie pulled him in.
That shaft had always been unlucky from the start.
Subsidence bevelled it and the sides weren’t true.
Mind you, that was some fright, sticking
half way between the bottom and the top,
rolling between the pitch and the toss,
the high notes and low.

After that I always went
down Glencraig with tight white knuckles,
was happy to hear Geordie’s tuneless
sook and blaw.

5) The Back Hander

“I see factories, I see hundreds of new jobs,”
the smug councillor told the meeting.
We were down on our luck and on the dole
after Thatcher had closed the last pit.
We were greedy to hear brighter news.
“But a safe industry this time - no more filthy pit clothes,
for the wife to scrub, or you going about crippled,
like a half-shut knife from coughing black lung.
Clean plastics from the ethylene byproduct -
I’ll not blind you with the science.
All kinds of opportunities are coming here,
engineering, computers, trades and apprenticeships
we can’t even imagine the future. I’m telling you,
That oil pipe from Cruden Bay’s a lifeline.”

We got a roaring stack
spewing out flame and black smoke,
a hellish hissing flaring its pollution through the night,
cracks in the walls of our new-bought council houses,
sleepless bairns complaining of the chemical smell.

I once met a man from our village
who said he’d been a temporary janitor there.

6) The Apprentice

I received my instructions
from the Director in the Dome,
proper old school style, non-thoughtware.
I’d never heard his voice before.

“We could use a nano speirer
And holo it in. Stormy Petrel
Is a programme good for that.
But I’m sending you in person.
There’s nothing like an experience,
real time, real smells and sounds
And there might even be a bird.
That’s a story and a half to tell
In the post digital age.

Go North of the former capital,
the Fife Zone is uninhabited,
mostly under water since the Thaw.
The muckle keekers have recorded something,
a movement, possibly a marine baistie,
among the submerged archaeology
where there were settlements.
Headlines on the Bletherwab if it’s true but
probably only a subsidence or disturbance
on the surface.

Take a hurly-ashet, Caliban and Auld Blade,
watch that Auld Blade doesn’t get droukit,
His A.I. files are questionable.
Tak tent, ma quine.”

7) Coal Speaks

I’m a lump of time,
An ornamental paperweight on your shelf.
The seed songs of a million generations
Still resonate faint in the bit of me.
Their dialects are impenetrable to your mind,
A compression of sounds far off and under water.
I will bide my time.
I will be ash and sparks,
I will be water and air again,
The rechargeable battery in the leaf.
I will be free from the prison of myself some time.

I will be starlight over a lonely forest lake.

Green Shadows
Wednesday, 15 May 2019 16:20

Green Shadows

Published in Poetry

Green Shadows

by William Hershaw

Poor old Johnny Clare!
Driven mad by Society, protected by Poetry,
Flapping like an owl, daftman on the road
Between London and The Bluebell Inn.
You’d grown up with the birds
And knew their language off pat.
Even in the asylum of age
The Corncrake and Ring Ouzel
Were bringing you news:
How Keats had ransacked the hedgerows
For symbols and metaphors,
How Byron had bird-limed the coppice.
Crazy as a king, wits fragile as eggshells by then
Yet you told them you’d guard the shrinking field edge,
Watch the turnpike for Trevithick’s sooty reek until
They could fly away into folksong.