Walsall: Etched in Bricks

This town, overlooked 

By residents of towers

Living layered lives up Hill Street on the Chuckery

Where long ago people raised poultry

This town, passed over

By the motorway

Raised on stilts above soiled fields

This town has history scored in bricks and street signs

See how rich in life

This poor town has once been

~

Walsall, valley of the Welsh

Who lived here first

A place of water for the trades

Potters on Warewell Street 

Drew water to work clay

Clothiers of Persehouse Street

These mills not just for grain

Brought in by reapers from Tasker Street

The noise of the Rollingmill

Giving metal a squeeze

~

Go to Wittimere and the canal basin

Washed black with tan

From stained saddlers’ hands

Tackle for the palfrey who grazed 

On Acres Short and Long

Since ploughed up for streets

As are the Butts

Where ‘Tavern, school and skyscraper stand

The site of men bending longbows in practice

But Time’s arrow has taken flight

~

Follow this town through these names

The route to the Marsh

Flowing into Navigation Street

Where manufactures and goods

Hauled to the Wharf

Were sent to imperial ports

By canal up through the locks

And from that empire have returned

Nurses, doctors and busmen, carers

Shopkeepers, police and railway workers

Teachers, binmen, footballers

Who filled Walsall’s gapped terraces

When jobs went and hope had gone

~

The glebe still marked, was land for priests 

Who lived off tithes

Paid by men and women of the fields

Lying beneath the cobbles, concrete and stone

But now alongside the Christian

Churches, halls and schools

Nanaksar Gurdwara and Aisha Mosque

Have made good derelict space 

For this poor town

Is not a godless place

~

Christopher Perry

6th June, 2020

~

n.b.  These are just a few of the place, street and road names I wondered about when I worked and wandered about Walsall for four months during the first half of 2019. A town rich in people and history. 

Chuckery: an area of Walsall thought to have specialised in raising poultry.

Warewell: a water source associated with making wares, usually pottery.

Persehouse: A place of clothe makers.

Tasker: A worker, labourer, often a reaper, or thresher.

Rollingmill: A machine that compresses metal to specific thickness.

Mere (as in Wittimere): lake.

Palfrey: A gentle pony for women to ride.

Long Acre / Short Acre: Roadside grazing area.

Butts: Targets for archery. Shares the source of “but” the French for goal in football.

Glebe: land reserved for priests to cultivate.

Tithes: Annual charge of 1/10th of all produce given to the clerics of Medieval England.

Nanaksar Gurdwara: One of Walsall’s Sikh temples.

Aisha Mosque: One of the Muslim mosques of Walsall.

~

This poem was my entry for a competition about Walsall, a town in the Black Country in central England. A thriving centre of industry for generations, it now features annually as one of the four most socially deprived boroughs in the England. What went wrong?

~

CLP 8th June 2020

Gyrismó

Purple bougainvillea tumbling from baskets decorated our way
In those hours without shade in the hottest heat
We found a route to that other bay soon enough
With its crumbling Crusader castle cut from a cleft in the high valley
Guarding over the café, squared-off with bleached tarpaulins
Sitting like a brig roped to the quay, its skeleton crew manning the gangway
You sheltered at a table with red chequered cloth
A lemonade to hand, listening to the dulcet whispers of cypresses
As I walked out over the heavy stones into the impossible blue
Where I heard that dolphins play at sunrise

With an eye to the Sun’s shifting, we shook off this dream
Stumbled into the bright, cicadas burring louder still 
Untrusting of time, we chose a more direct path
Though paused to squint at the white-washed chapel on the cliff 
Before we cut between concrete-terraced allotments
Their rusted-wire fencing caging yellow trumpets of flowering zucchini
Fig trees fit to drop, propped, tied up; files of leeks with folded leaves.
Bees hurried by, leading us via lemon scents through an alley
To the square, where the old man limped from his coal-black cupboard of a corner-shop
To bring chilled beer and green olives to our off-balance, plastic table
Where we could watch the porters making ready for the ferry back.

.

n.b. www.napowrimo.net 2020: Day 30 prompt: Return.

Christopher Perry

30th April, 2020

On 1st March

Vivid yellows wave

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

Except for druids

.

n.b. “Happy St. David’s Day” indeed.

The druids were outlawed by Emperor Claudius in 54AD and in 60AD the Governor Suetonius began a campaign to wipe them from the face of Britannia. Although not entirely successful, his campaign severely reduced survivors of Druidic religion, with its human sacrificial practises, to the wilder parts of north-west Wales. Druids had previously moved freely and mysteriously through Celtic Britain until 43AD when the Roman Empire took military control of the islands.

Modern druids are now considered to be more musical, poetic, herbal folklorists than the religious zealots who roamed at will in ancient times.

CLP 01/3/2020

The Englishman’s Castle

Concentrated pile

Fortified, gated, moated

Easily besieged

.

n.b. Pull up the drawbridge and await fate. Castles became obsolete once knowledge of gunpowder, originating in China, spread worldwide.

With the power that came with this knowledge so widely distributed, new ways of living had to be found that were more cooperative, more inclusive and resulted in a more equitable distribution of wealth. This was not an easy path, nor a process willingly engaged in by aristocracies.

Today other forces are pulling on the walls of economic castles; climate disruption being the main one, but fear of viral illness another. New ways of living will need to be established.

n.n.b. I wrote and posted my blog post for today then found this article in today’s Guardian newspaper.

CLP 29/02/2020