Bridge Over The Aire Book 3



The halcyon settled on the Aire of our days

Kingfisher-blue it broke my heart in two

Shall I forget you? Shall I forget you?

I am the mad poet first love

You never got over

You are my blue-eyed

Madonna virgin bride

I shall carve ‘MG loves BT’

On the bark of every

Wind-bent tree in

East End Park


The park itself will blossom

And grow in chiaroscuro

The Victorian postcard’s view

Of avenue upon avenue

With palms and pagodas

Lakes and waterfalls and

A fountain from Versailles.


You shall be my queen

In the Kingdom of Deira

Land of many rivers

Aire the greatest

Isara the strong one

Robed in stillness

Wide, deep and dark.


In Middleton Woods

Margaret and I played

Truth or dare

She bared her breasts

To the watching



“Milk, milk,

Lemonade, round

The corner

Chocolate spread”

Nancy chanted at

Ten in the binyard

Touching her tits,

Her cunt, her bum,

Margaret joined in

Chanting in unison.


The skipping rope

Turned faster

And faster, slapping

The hot pavement,

Margaret skipped

In rhythm, never

Missing a beat,

Lifting the pleat

Of her skirt

Whirling and twirling.


Giggling and red

Margaret said

In a whisper

“When we were

Playing at Nancy’s

She pushed a spill

Of paper up her


She said she’d

Let you watch

If you wanted.”


Margaret, this Saturday morning in June

There is a queue at the ‘Princess’ for

The matinйe, down the alley by the blank

Concrete of the cinema’s side I hide

With you, we are counting our picture

Money, I am counting the stars in your

Hair, bound with a cheap plastic comb.


You have no idea of my need for you

A lifetime long, every wrong decision

I made betrayed my need; forty years on

Hear my song and take my hand and move

Us to the house of love where we belong.


Margaret we sat

in the cinema dark

Warm with the promise of a secret kiss

The wall lights glowed amber on the

Crumbling plaster, we looked with longing

At the love seats empty in the circle,

Vowing we would share one.


There is shouting and echoes

Of wild splashing from York

Road baths; forty years on

It stirs my memory and

Will not be gone.


The ghosts of tramtracks

Light up lanes

To nowhere

In Leeds Ten.

Every road

Leads nowhere

In Leeds Nine.

Motorways have cut

The city’s heart

In two; Margaret,

Our home lies buried

Under sixteen feet

Of stone.


Our families moved

And we were lost

I was not there to hear

The whispered secret

Of your first period.


God is courage’s infinite ground

Tillich said; God, give me enough

To stand another week without her

Every day gets longer, every sleep

Less deep.


Why can’t I find you,

Touch you,

Bind your straw-gold hair

The colour of lank

February grass?


Under the stone canopy

Of the Grand Arcade

I pass Europa Nightclub;

In black designer glass

I watch the faces pass

But none is like your’s,

No voice, no eyes,

No smile at all

Like your’s.


From Kirkstall Lock

The rhubarb crop

To Knostrop’s forcing sheds

The roots ploughed up

Arranged in beds

Of perfect darkness

Where the buds burst

With a pip, rich pink

Stalks and yellow leaves

Hand-picked by

Candle-light to

Keep the colour right

So every night the

Rhubarb train

Could go from Leeds

To Covent Garden.


The smell of Saturday morning

Is the smell of freedom

How the bounds may grow

Slowly slowly as I go.

“Rag-bone rag-bone

White donkey stone”

Auntie Nellie scoured

Her door step, polished

The brass knocker

Till I saw my face

Bunched like a fist

Complete with goggles

Grinning like a monkey

In a mile of mirrors.


Every door step had a stop

A half-stone iron weight

To hold it back and every

Step was edged with donkey

Stone in yellow or white

From the ragman or the potman

With his covered cart jingling

Jangling as it jerked hundreds

Of cups on hooks pint and

Half pint mugs and stacks of

Willow-patterned plates

From Burmantofts.


We heard him a mile off

Nights in summer when

He trundled round the

Corner over the cobbles

Jamming the wood brake

Blocks whoaing the horses

With their gleaming brasses

And our mams were always

Waiting where he stopped.


Double summer-time made

The nights go on for ever

And no-one cared any more

How long we played what

Or where and we were left

Alone and that’s all I wanted

Then or now to be left alone

Never to be called in from

The Hollows never to be

Called from Margaret.


City of back-to-backs

From Armley Heights

Laid out in rows

Like trees or grass

I watch you pass.


The Aire is slow and almost


In the Bridgefield

The Joshua Tetley clock

Over the Atkinson Grimshaw


Is stopped at nineteen fifty


The year I left.


Grimshaw’s home was

Half a mile away

In Knostrop Hall

Margaret and I

Climbed the ruined

Walls her hair was

Blowing in the wind

Her eyes were stars

In the green night

Her hands were holding

My hands.


Half a century later

I look out over Leeds Nine

What little’s left is broken

Or changed Saturday night

Is silent and empty

The paths over the Hollows

Deserted the bell

Of St. Hilda’s still.


On a single bush

The yellow roses blush

Pink in the amber light

Night settles on the

Fewstons and the Copperfields

No mothers’ voices calling us.

Lilac and velvet clover

Grew all over the Hollows

It was all the luck

We knew and when we left

Our luck went too.


Solid black

Velvet basalt

Polished jet

Millstone grit

Leeds Town Hall

Built with it

Soaks up the fog

Is sealed with smog

Battered buttressed

Blackened plinths

White lions’ paws

Were soft their

Smiles like your’s.


Narrow lanes, steep inclines,

Steps, blank walls, tight

And secret openings’

The lanes are your hips

The inclines the lines

Of your thighs, the steps

Your breasts, blank walls

Your buttocks, tight and

Secret openings your

Taut vagina’s lips.


There is a keening and a honing

And a winnowing in the wind

I am the surge and flow

In Winwaed’s water the last breath

Of Elmete’s King.

I am Penda crossing the Aire

Camping at Killingbeck

Conquered by Aethalwald

Ruler of Deira.


Life is a bird hovering

In the Hall of the King

Between darkness and darkness flickering

The stone of Scone at last lifted

And borne on the wind, Dunedin, take it

Hold it hard and fast its light

Is leaping it is freedom’s

Touchstone and firestone.


Eir, Ayer or Aire

I’ll still be there

Your wanderings off course

Old Ea, Old Eye, Dead Eye

Make no difference to me.

Eg-an island – is Aire’s

True source, names

Not places matter

With the risings

Of a river

Ea land-by-water

I’ll make my own way

Free, going down river

To the far-off sea.


Poetry is my business, my affair.

My cri-de-coeur, jongleur

Of Mercia and Elmete, Margaret,

Open your door I am heaping

Imbroglios of stars on the floor

Meet me by the Office Lock

At midnight or by the Town Hall Clock.


Nennius nine times have I knocked

On the door of your grave, nine times

More have I made Pilgrimage to Elmete’s

Wood where long I lay by beck and bank

Waiting for your tongue to flame

With Pentecostal fire.


Margaret you rode in the hollow of my hand

In the harp of my heart, searching for you

I wandered in Kirkgate Market’s midnight

Down avenues of shuttered stalls, our secrets

Kept through all the years.

From the Imperial on Beeston Hill

I watch the city spill glass towers

Of light over the horizon’s rim.


The railyard’s straights

Are buckled plates

Red bricks for aggregate

All lost like me

Ledsham and Ledston

Both belong to Leeds

But Ledston Luck

Is where Aire leads.


Held of the Crown

By seven thanes

In Saxon times

‘In regione Loidis’

Baeda scripsit

Leeds, Leeds,

You answer

All my needs.


A horse shoe stuck for luck

Behind a basement window:

Margaret, now we’ll see

What truth there is

In dreams and poetry!

I am at one with everyone

There is poetry

Falling from the air

And you have put it there.


The sign for John Eaton Street

Is planted in the back garden

Of the transport cafй between

The strands of a wire mesh fence

Straddling the cobbles of a street

That is no more, a washing line

And an abandoned caravan.


‘This open land to let’

Is what you get on the Hollows

Thousands of half-burned tyres

The rusty barrel of a Trumix lorry

Concrete slabs, foxgloves and condoms,

The Go-Kart Arena’s signboards,

Half the wall of Ellerby Lane School.


There is a mermaid singing

On East Street on an IBM poster

Her hair is lack-lustre

Her breasts are facing the camera

Her tail is like a worn-out brush.

Chimney stacks

Blind black walls

Of factories

Grimy glass

Flickering firelight

In black-leaded grates.


Hunslet de Ledes

Hop-scotch, hide and seek,


Not one tree in Hunslet

Except in the cemetery

The lake filled in

For fifty years,

The bluebell has rung

Its last perfumed peal.


I couldn’t play out on Sunday

Mam and dad thought us a cut

Above the rest, it was another

Test I failed, keeping me and

Margaret apart was like the Aztecs

Tearing the heart from the living flesh.


Father, your office job

Didn’t save you

From the drugs

They never gave you.


Isaiah, my son,

You made it back

From Balliol to Beeston

At a run via the

Playing fields of Eton.

There is a keening and a honing

And a winnowing in the wind

Winwaed’s water with red bluid blent.

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Bridge Over The Aire Book 3