The Chair (and The Town)

I started this blog to keep track of some of the poetry related things I’ve been doing. However, thanks to my less-than stellar organisational skills, I’ve managed to leave at least one of my more significant achievements out. About six months ago – round about October last year – my friend Alex Mcsherry (with some help from his friend John) was good enough to direct, shoot and edit a couple of short films of two of my poems – The Chair and The Town.

These two poems were the first I ever had published – in the Anthology, “Aiblins: New Scottish Political Poetry”. (You can read all about it in my blog post below.) One of the films, which was posted on YouTube ahead of publication was this one:-

And this is the full-text of the poem-

The Chair

We came to bury the chair today.

There weren’t that many of us,

a small group of friends

and a gaggle of gossipy ladies,

who sat at the back and talked happily

about funerals and the price of steak mince.

They carried the chair down the aisle,

black crepe ribbons tied to its armrests,

vinyl cushions polished to a shine.

Everyone thought it looked so nice,

with its new rubber tyres and gleaming spokes.

The priest gave a eulogy for the chair.

How it had spent its days in the service of others,

tirelessly (if you’ll excuse the pun),

ever ready to bear its load, to follow its path

towards some higher purpose, blessed by God.

After the service, they took the chair away.

We went to eat sandwiches and drink tea,

and someone mentioned, as a passing thought,

this little girl who’d sat in the chair and

gone around in it, wherever it went.

But no-one could recall her face or ,

when we thought about it, who she was

or even if she’d really been there at all.

I keep two folders of poems on the desktop of my MacBook – ‘Publish’ and ‘Works in progress’. When a poem’s finished, it gets moved from the ‘WiP’ folder into the ‘Publish’ folder. Some poems never make it, and just languish in ‘WiP purgatory’ for ever. This is how it should be – writing poetry often means killing your first-born. The Chair is one of the older poems in my ‘Publish’ folder, it was written (I think) around 2011 – though it’s actual genesis is older still. There is a story behind ‘The Chair”, but I’m not getting into that just now.

But – the point of this blog entry is to say that we did make another video, for my second poem from “Aiblins” – The Town. A video which was never uploaded to YouTube and which has been gathering metaphorical/digital dust in my DropBox folder for the last six months. This video, in fact:-

And this is the full-text of The Town:-

The Town

They closed the

town today, took

the houses down in

sections, rolled our

gardens up like

carpets, loaded

them onto lorries

and we never

saw them again.

They packed all

our things in

boxes, labelled

children like parcels,

helped us onto

railway specials

and took us all away.

Now, we lie down

in strange beds,

wearing clothes

that don’t fit,

trying to fill

the empty shoes

of all the men

who never came home.

The Town was written in 2015, initially on a bench in Manchester Piccadilly railway station, when I was on my way home to Scotland after visiting my wife, who was on a contract in Manchester at the time. It’s one of a couple of ‘war’ poems I’ve written – although neither of them are about the actual experience of war or combat – as this is something I have little interest in writing about.

What I am more interested in is the experience of the civilian population and those either caught up in war or left behind when their husbands/sons/fathers are called away to war. In my head, ‘The Town’ is set in England and it was intended to reflect the experience of some post-WWI communities, which waned away after the armistice because there weren’t enough working men left to keep the community alive. I’ve since found out that most people who read it for the first time interpret it as being about the various refugee diasporas in recent times – Bosnia/Syria etc. – which is fine. I’m not the custodian of the ‘meaning’ of my poems, they mean whatever the reader wants them to mean.

But, anyway, that’s my published output to date – 3 poems and 2 videos. As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I’m expecting to have something else in print later this month. In the meantime, I’ve also got a couple more performances coming up:- Poetry at Inn Deep on May 23, The Snap Extra Second on 1 June. I’m also planning to get along to the Loud Poets night at Broadcast on 18 May. Sure to be lots and lots of great performers at all of them.

In the meantime, more poems to write.

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