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Poetry Pleases: Sounds

Sounds conjure up pictures of “yesterday’’ in Jean Cowgill’s richly nostalgic poem.

Chalk scratches blackboard dispensing knowledge.
Ink pens split and stutter across best exercise books.
Smack of slipper on bottom or swish of a cane in curving arc.
Gas lights pop and splutter on Autumn afternoons.
A regiment of arms and legs exercise mechanically in the graveyard.
Whips crack spinning tops; marbles trickle down ‘gloggy’ holes.
A raucous rag-and-bone peddles water-pistols and balloons.

Cars rest on hill summits their steaming radiators
issuing malevolence from rubber hose.
Fishing boats are launched at Flamboro.
Fresh crabs crackle and are crunched.
Feats of engineering collapse in sand.
Angry spades seek revenge on brown legs.

God rustles behind the red curtain.
‘Sunday best’ hats wave hymn tunes.
Lay preachers shout ‘Hell Fire and Damnation’.
A Christmas show is spent clutching
the letter ‘S’ and pretending to sing
‘Jesus wants me for a sunbeam’…I don’t think so.

Culture concentrates in one room round the wireless.
Programmes play recordings of Kathleen Ferrier.
Her rich contralto sits strangely in our front room.
Relatives try to cross the social barrier but gratefully revert to type.
Workers’ Playtime asks ‘How much money on the table, Mabel?’
On children’s radio ‘Uncle Mac’ exudes security.
‘The runaway train’ is never played near the news
for fear of mixing tragedy with pleasure.
Lonnie Donnegan provides an antidote to Rock n’ Roll.

We are martyrs to the demands of mangle and twin-tub.
Carpets are heaved onto washing lines and tortured.
Flat irons hiss and spit and plan revenge.
At night we listen to the murmurings of a coal fire.

Daisies cartwheel information - an advance
on the clunk, clunk, clunk whiz of the Remington.
Banda machines churn out data…reluctantly,
liable to mood changes and the destruction of ‘master’ sheets.
A drone of dictation transmogrifies into Pitman.
There is a final closure of double-entry doors.


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