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Three Poems by Julie Egdell

Collingwood

 

Sitting at the top of Collingwood Monument, 

sea spread before me.

Black gulls screech into a grey sky.

Rain falls, uncertainly. 

 

Surrounded by empty slag heaps.

No ships are built here anymore. 

Scattered sons searched 

for a small cut of black gold. 

 

It took my father, that oil, 

to Aberdeen, Nigeria, Azerbaijan. 

All the years lost 

could not be found 

 

at the bottom of a glass.

I see as far as Souter lighthouse

but try as I might  

I cannot see Europe or the shores of Russia. 

 

A boy in a grey tracksuit 

walks a Staffy bull. 

The dog clutches his ball suspiciously, 

as though he thinks at any 

 

moment I may snatch it from him. 

Six kids drink cheap cider 

under Collingwood’s memory,

singing a ballad of dispossessed youth.

 

Can you hear them, Europe? 

Your sons and daughters laughing and crying for you. 

Nobody bothers me. 

After weeks of coffee days 

 

and wine nights I do not exist.

They do not think it is strange 

that this silent ghost appears among them.  

In a dream I saw the other me

 

standing at the shore on the other world – 

Yelagin Island, 2012, the archipelago, 

the North Sea suddenly a river 

just too wide to swim across. 

 

I watch boats come in. 

Not so many as years gone by, but a few. 

I am not an English rose

but a thistle on this bank,

 

hard and sharp. 

In the northern city,

the only place I have

to call home. 

 

 

Night walk 

 

Walking without purpose or reason,

a witness to what has been

going on for thousands of years.

 

People drinking and fighting

in ecstasy of thoughtlessness.

Fucking in Victorian alleyways

 

for money or fun. People

dying on the steps of exotic

Georgian hotels, the cruel wind

 

having left too late.

People dancing and dying

and outdoing one another

 

again and again in the glow

of impossible buildings.

In the glow of the summer dawn.

 

Spilling themselves on streets

so suddenly beautiful,

so suddenly tragic.

 

 

English rain

 

Raven-skied storms 

tap the windows 

like thousands of haunted

 

Cathy fingers

asking to be let in.

 

In a few hours 

the North Sea is brought

to our doors and under them

and we are afloat,

again.

 

Or else ash skies and soft sheets

that barely make a sound.

Days and weeks 

of familiar sprinkling

that spoil the picnics, 

 

barbecues and camping holidays. 

Yes, it’s true, you are hated. 

But in Russia, 

after nine months of blue skies, 

snow and sunshine,

 

I missed you. 

Your gentle percussion is home.

Your stinging touch shaped 

me like a well worn pebble. 

Your taste on my tongue,

 

my inheritance.

I longed for English rain 

and all the sodden rapture

of an English summer.

 

 

Julie Egdell has an MA in Creative Writing and a BA in Literature from Teesside University. She has been published in Dreamcatcher, The French Literary Review and The Cadaverine, and in Hallelujah for 50ft Women (Bloodaxe) and The Break-Out Anthology (Ek Zuban). She also features in a Dark Matter chapbook published by Black Light Engine Room Press. Her debut collection Alice in Winterland – a sequence of poems about her time living in Russia – is forthcoming from Smokestack. She has recently performed in the Between Stations Live tour and the North by North West poetry tour. Her website is theadventuresofpenelopenewcastle.weebly.com.

 

 

Image credit: Jacqui

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