Wallington Morning by Keith Armstrong

A poet responds to George Orwell’s village home


‘But the thing I saw in your face
No power can disinherit:
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.’ (George Orwell)


Wallington Morning
by
Keith Armstrong


I stood at your door,
knocked in the English sunshine,
bowed to greet you
but could not hear
the chatter
from your typewriter
or the rain pecking
at the tin roof,
only the plummet of the leaves
brushing against my face
and the birds
falling over the fields.

Thought of you and Jack Common,
shaking hands
in open debate,
patched sleeves
damp on the bar counter,
ploughing through
tracts of history,
eyes on the horizon
looking for War
and bombs
over Datchworth’s spire.

This magic morning,
clear sky in our hearts.
No September showers,
only goats bleating,
a horse trotting
down the lane
and, in the day dream,
St Mary’s bells
glistening
with Eileen asleep
in the clouds.

What should I say?
We are weak.
I know you were awkward
but, like Jack, full of love.
Out of bullets,
flowers may grow;
out of trenches,
seeds.
The roses
and acorns of thoughts
you planted
those years ago
in Kits Lane,
nourish us now
in these brief minutes,
gifts
from your writing hand
farming for words,
the eggs of essays,
the jam on your fingers.

You were scraping a book together,
smoking the breath
out of your collapsing lungs,
taking the world
on your creaking bent shoulders,
riding across fields
for friends,
bones aching,
fighting to exist
in the cold breeze.

Still the Simpson’s Ale
was good in the Plough,
the old laughter still
flying down this Wallington lane,
with the crackling children
sparkling
on an idyllic day.

Enjoy this beauty,
it will turn to pain.
Sing your folk songs,
dig your garden,
dance in your brain.
Graft and graft
until all the breath is gone.
Leave a brave mark
in the dust
round Animal Farm.

What a good thing
to be alive
where songbirds soar
and daffodils nod.
Over the slaughter
of motorways,
we are following
your large footprints
into this bright countryside
where good people
adopt another’s children
and still
fall in love
with England.


KA_Wallington Morning

Keith Armstrong notes:

Written after visiting Orwell’s cottage in Wallington, Hertfordshire, where he lived with Eileen O’Shaughnessy, and which was  looked after for him by fellow writer Jack Common in 1938.


Keith Armstrong

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he has worked as a community worker, poet, librarian and publisher, Doctor Keith Armstrong now resides in Whitley Bay. He is coordinator of the Northern Voices Community Projects creative writing and community publishing enterprise.
He was awarded a doctorate in 2007 for his work on Newcastle writer Jack Common at the University of Durham where he received a BA Honours Degree in Sociology in 1995 and Masters Degree in 1998 for his studies on culture in the North East of England.
His poetry has been extensively published in magazines such as New Statesman and Poetry Review as well as in the collections Splinters (2011) and The Month of the Asparagus (2011) and broadcast on radio & TV.
He has performed his poetry throughout Britain and abroad.
In his youth, he travelled to Paris and he has been making international cultural pilgrimages ever since.

Keith Armstrong’s book Wallington Morning (Wild Boar Books) can be ordered here.


 

Uploaded 31 October 2017

Updated 5 November 2017


 

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