On Ilkley Moor
I parked me red
Ford Laser hatchback
and gazed to the north.
Rain and smoke stood over Wharfedale.
It was all in its appointed place:
stone houses and stone smiles in Ilkley
the wind on the bleak
I was waiting for memory
to make the scene complete:
some flat-vowelled voice out of childhood
snatches of Northern song.
For memory read TV:
Tha’ve broken tha poor Mother’s heart
It were only a bit of fun.
Bowl slower and hit bloody stumps.
Tha’ll never amount to much, lad. In cloth cap and gaiters,
car forgotten, I pedal down the hill. Hurry oop
or tha’ll be late for mill. Folk say
I’ve been seeing the young widow Cleghorn.
Well, now, fancy that.
In my invented character
I trail my falsified heritage
down the long, consoling streets.
I returned to the UK in 1989, when I was 30, and spent much of my time there in Grimsby and points north. It was hard not to wonder what my life would have been like if my family had remained “oop North”. TV shows such as Brass provided invaluable guidance.
“North” was published in my first poetry collection, Boat People (HeadworX, 2002).
Copies of Boat People are available directly from me at the cheap, cheap price of NZ $5.00 plus postage and packing. Please email me at email@example.com if you’d like one.
Check out the Tuesday Poem blog for all the Tuesday Poems.